Cannery Row

by

John Steinbeck

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Dora Flood Character Analysis

The “madam” of the Bear Flag Restaurant, a local brothel. Although the Bear Flag is a prostitution business, Steinbeck portrays it as “virtuous,” “clean,” and “honest.” In turn, he imbues Dora herself with these qualities, upholding that she is “respected by the intelligent, the learned, and the kind.” Unfortunately, though, her position as a lawbreaker means that she must work twice as hard to maintain her reputation. This means that she donates large sums of money to local institutions, which have come to rely on her “dirty wages of sin” even as they publicly condemn her profession. Like almost everyone else in town, Dora is fond of Doc, and even offers to help him in any way she can when Cannery Row is stricken by the flu and he’s running around trying to tend to all of the sick residents. When Doc asks her to organize her “girls” to sit with ailing community members, Dora immediately makes arrangements for this to happen, dispatching her employees to the houses of sick people.

Dora Flood Quotes in Cannery Row

The Cannery Row quotes below are all either spoken by Dora Flood or refer to Dora Flood. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Books edition of Cannery Row published in 2002.
Chapter 3 Quotes

But on the left-hand boundary of the lot is the stern and stately whore house of Dora Flood; a decent, clean, honest, old-fashioned sporting house where a man can take a glass of beer among friends. This is no fly-by-night cheap clip-joint but a sturdy, virtuous club, built, maintained, and disciplined by Dora who, madam and girl for fifty years, has through the exercise of special gifts of tact and honesty, charity and a certain realism, made herself respected by the intelligent, the learned, and the kind. And by the same token she is hated by the twisted and lascivious sisterhood of married spinsters whose husbands respect the home but don’t like it very much.

Related Characters: Dora Flood
Related Symbols: The Bear Flag Restaurant
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

William thought dark and broody thoughts. No one loved him. No one cared about him. They might call him a watchman but he was a pimp—a dirty pimp, the lowest thing in the world. And then he thought how he had a right to live and be happy just like anyone else, by God he had. He walked back angrily but his anger went away when he came to the Bear Flag and climbed the steps. It was evening and the juke box was playing Harvest Moon and William remembered that the first hooker who ever gaffed for him used to like that song before she ran away and got married and disappeared. The song made him aw­fully sad. Dora was in the back parlor having a cup of tea when William came in. She said, “What’s the matter, you sick?”

“No,” said William. “But what’s the percentage? I feel lousy. I think I’ll bump myself off.”

Dora had handled plenty of neurotics in her time. Kid ’em out of it was her motto. “Well, do it on your own time and don’t mess up the rugs,” she said.

Related Characters: Dora Flood (speaker), William (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Bear Flag Restaurant
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Cannery Row LitChart as a printable PDF.
Cannery Row PDF

Dora Flood Character Timeline in Cannery Row

The timeline below shows where the character Dora Flood appears in Cannery Row. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
Along with Lee Chong’s grocery store and the Palace Flophouse, Dora Flood’s brothel is an important place in Cannery Row. This brothel is “a sturdy, virtuous... (full context)
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
Dora “must be twice as law abiding as anyone else” because she lives “against the law.”... (full context)
Loneliness, Melancholy, and Happiness Theme Icon
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
Walking into the Bear Flag, William finds Dora and says, “I feel lousy. I think I’ll bump myself off,” to which she replies,... (full context)
Chapter 5
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
...Row. Many of the locals pass the time in his laboratory, including “the girls from Dora’s,” who hang around and listen to the Gregorian records he often plays on the phonograph.... (full context)
Chapter 16
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
Loneliness, Melancholy, and Happiness Theme Icon
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
...around Cannery Row and doing his best to give people extra blankets and food. When Dora Flood sees him looking worn out in Lee Chong’s, she asks if there’s anything she... (full context)
Chapter 23
Loneliness, Melancholy, and Happiness Theme Icon
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
...the town demand that dens of vice must close to protect young American manhood,” forcing Dora to close the Bear Flag for two weeks. Meanwhile, Doc takes out a loan from... (full context)
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
...debt,” and gives them a pint of Old Tennis Shoes. With everything restored, Mack visits Dora and asks what he and his friends could do to show their appreciation for Doc,... (full context)
Chapter 29
Loneliness, Melancholy, and Happiness Theme Icon
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
...Remember how it was with the frogs. No, we’ll just tell Doc about them.” Meanwhile, Dora prepares to leave the Bear Flag, where she has instituted a rotating schedule for the... (full context)
Chapter 30
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
...notes. “One of the group from La Ida made an immoral proposal to one of Dora’s girls. She protested and Mack and the boys, outraged at this breach of propriety, threw... (full context)
Loneliness, Melancholy, and Happiness Theme Icon
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
...and better,” and when the whiskey runs out, he starts opening “gallons of wine.” “Doc,” Dora says, “play some of that nice music. I get Christ awful sick of that juke... (full context)
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
Loneliness, Melancholy, and Happiness Theme Icon
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
Reality, Randomness, and Disorder Theme Icon
...curiously happy. “Well, what’s them dames in there?” one of the men says, pointing at Dora Flood’s prostitutes. “They joined battle then,” Steinbeck writes. “Dora leaped for the kitchen and came... (full context)