Cannery Row


John Steinbeck

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An eccentric painter living in the margins of society. Henri’s real name isn’t actually Henri, but he’s obsessed with the idea of embodying the image of an avant-garde Parisian painter, so he presents himself as a cultured artist who is always changing his “medium,” using strange materials (like nutshells) to create paintings. What’s most notable about Henri is that he lives in a boat he has been building for the past ten years. The boat is on land, as he hasn’t yet finished it yet, meaning that it can’t float. However, he doesn’t want to finish it, for he’s afraid of the water. As such, he simply focuses on building the vessel, buying materials whenever he can and often redoing entire sections. Because the living quarters of his boat are so small, Henri finds it hard to maintain long-term relationships. Indeed, he has been married twice and has had many different lovers, but anyone who ever lives with him eventually leaves because they grow tired of existing in such cramped conditions and having to go to the bathroom in the woods. Whenever a lover leaves Henri, he buys wine and spends the night weeping in the boat, but Steinbeck says this is “luxurious stuff” that gives him an overall feeling of “well-being.”

Henri Quotes in Cannery Row

The Cannery Row quotes below are all either spoken by Henri or refer to Henri. 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 6 Quotes

Doc swung his heavy sack of starfish to the ground and stood panting a little. “Nuts?” he asked. “Oh, yes, I guess so. Nuts about the same amount we are, only in a different way.”

Such a thing had never occurred to Hazel. He looked upon himself as a crystal pool of clarity and on his life as a troubled glass of misunderstood virtue. Doc’s last statement had outraged him a little.

Related Characters: Doc (speaker), Hazel, Henri
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 22 Quotes

Each time he was left alone, he mourned formally for a while but actually he felt a sense of relief. He could stretch out in his little cabin. He could eat what he wanted. He was glad to be free of the endless female biologic functions for a while.

It had become his custom, each time he was deserted, to buy a gallon of wine, to stretch out on the comfortably hard bunk and get drunk. Sometimes he cried a little all by himself but it was luxurious stuff and he usually had a wonderful feel­ing of well-being from it.

Related Characters: Henri
Page Number: 124
Explanation and Analysis:
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Cannery Row PDF

Henri Character Timeline in Cannery Row

The timeline below shows where the character Henri appears in Cannery Row. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon Western Biological, where he first heard a record of English translations of Li Po. Henri the painter also often comes by and is frequently inspired to change the “medium” in... (full context)
Chapter 6
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
Loneliness, Melancholy, and Happiness Theme Icon
Reality, Randomness, and Disorder Theme Icon
Hazel and Doc talk about Henri, who is building himself a boat. “He’s got it all changed around. New kind of... (full context)
Chapter 17
Loneliness, Melancholy, and Happiness Theme Icon
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
Reality, Randomness, and Disorder Theme Icon
...couldn’t find anyone to accompany him. Mack and “the boys” are in Carmel, and even Henri is busy, since Holman’s Department Store has hired a “flag-pole skater”—a man trying to stay... (full context)
Chapter 19
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon Holman’s finds an old doctor shooting an air rifle from his office window. Meanwhile, Henri watches the skater almost religiously, deciding that he must build himself a platform and try... (full context)
Chapter 22
Loneliness, Melancholy, and Happiness Theme Icon
Steinbeck describes Henri, whose name isn’t really Henri and who has “steeped himself in stories of the Left... (full context)
Loneliness, Melancholy, and Happiness Theme Icon
Reality, Randomness, and Disorder Theme Icon
Whenever his lovers leave him, Henri likes to “buy a gallon of wine,” lie down in the boat, and drink heavily.... (full context)
Reality, Randomness, and Disorder Theme Icon
Running to the laboratory, Henri tells Doc what he’s just seen. “Is it a ghost do you think,” he asks... (full context)
Loneliness, Melancholy, and Happiness Theme Icon
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
Just then, a girl arrives to go on a date with Doc. Upon hearing Henri’s story, though, she agrees out of curiosity to accompany him back to the boat. Disappointedly,... (full context)