Cannery Row


John Steinbeck

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Frankie Character Analysis

A boy who starts coming to Western Biological because his mother and uncles are abusive and his father is dead. Before long, Frankie develops a fondness of Doc, who cares for him by buying him clothes, curing him of lice, and cutting his hair. In fact, Doc even lets Frankie help out around the laboratory, though there are certain tasks the boy struggles to complete because he is mentally disabled in some way (the nature of Frankie’s cognitive challenges are never fully articulated in Cannery Row, though Steinbeck makes it clear that the boy is at a disadvantage because his surrounding community fails to accommodate his intellectual differences). When Frankie hears about the surprise birthday party Mack and “the boys” are throwing for Doc, he tries to steal a beautiful onyx clock, which he wants to give to Doc as a token of his appreciation. Unfortunately, though, he is arrested and detained, and when Doc visits the jail, the police officers inform him that now that they have a “mental report” on the boy, they are going to put him “away.” Hearing this, Doc asks Frankie why he stole the clock, and Frankie says, “I love you”—a response that prompts Doc to run out of the jail because he understands that there’s nothing more he can do to help Frankie.
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Frankie Character Timeline in Cannery Row

The timeline below shows where the character Frankie appears in Cannery Row. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 10
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
Steinbeck introduces Frankie, a young boy who first appears in the doorway of Western Biological as an eleven-year-old.... (full context)
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
Despite Frankie’s yearning to be useful, Doc can’t deny that the boy is rather clumsy. In fact,... (full context)
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
Wanting to replicate the splendid moment in which Doc praised him, Frankie seizes his opportunity at the next party that takes place at Western Biological. Going into... (full context)
Chapter 28
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
Like everyone else, Frankie wants to give Doc a nice gift, but he has no money. Nonetheless, he finds... (full context)
Loneliness, Melancholy, and Happiness Theme Icon
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
Later, Doc comes to the police station and asks if the chief can let Frankie out on “parole.” “I don’t think the judge will do it,” the chief says. “We’ve... (full context)