Cannery Row

by

John Steinbeck

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Mack Character Analysis

An easy-going, wily man concerned first and foremost with living a contented life. Mack is the ringleader of a group of likeminded men who sleep in large empty pipes when it’s raining, drink heavily, and avoid steady work. When Lee Chong becomes the owner of an empty fishmeal storehouse, Mack slyly convinces the grocer to let him and his friends live in it, saying that Lee shouldn’t leave the building unattended because people might vandalize it—a subtle hint that he himself will see to the storehouse’s destruction if Lee doesn’t let him live there. When Lee relents, Mack and his gang move in, furnishing the place with stolen and found furniture and making it into a strange, mismatched home that they name the Palace Flophouse and Grill. Though Lee feels as if Mack didn’t really give him a choice, he’s happy that Mack and his friends have moved in, as they maintain the place and also make a point of patronizing Lee’s grocery store whenever they can. Indeed, everyone knows that Mack isn’t the most trustworthy person, but this doesn’t keep them from liking him. Doc, for his part, admires Mack and his friends’ easy way of moving through the world, saying, “Look at them. There are your true philosophers. I think that Mack and the boys know everything that has ever happened in the world and possibly everything that will happen.” This admiration is why he can’t remain angry with Mack for very long even after Mack and “the boys” trash his laboratory in an attempt to throw him a surprise party. As such, readers see that people cut Mack quite a lot of slack because of his charm, though it’s also worth noting that there is an abundance of goodwill beneath his clever tricks, which is most likely the real reason people put up with his shenanigans.

Mack Quotes in Cannery Row

The Cannery Row quotes below are all either spoken by Mack or refer to Mack. 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 1 Quotes

Mack was the elder, leader, mentor, and to a small extent the exploiter of a little group of men who had in common no families, no money, and no ambitions beyond food, drink, and contentment. But whereas most men in their search for contentment destroy themselves and fall wearily short of their targets, Mack and his friends approached contentment casually, quietly, and absorbed it gently.

Related Characters: Mack
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

In Mack’s eyes there was good will and good fellowship and a desire to make everyone happy. Why then did Lee Chong feel slightly surrounded? Why did his mind pick its way as delicately as a cat through cactus? It had been sweetly done, almost in a spirit of philanthropy. Lee’s mind leaped ahead at the possibilities—no, they were probabilities, and his finger tapping slowed still further. He saw himself refusing Mack’s request and he saw the broken glass from the windows. Then Mack would offer a second time to watch over and preserve Lee’s property— and at the second refusal, Lee could smell the smoke, could see the little flames creeping up the walls. Mack and his friends would try to help to put it out. Lee’s finger came to a gentle rest on the change mat. He was beaten. He knew that. There was left to him only the possibility of saving face and Mack was likely to be very generous about that. Lee said, “You like pay lent my place? You like live there same hotel?”

Related Characters: Lee Chong (speaker), Mack
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 2 Quotes

Mack and the boys, too, spinning in their orbits. They are the Virtues, the Graces, the Beauties of the hurried mangled craziness of Monterey and the cosmic Monterey where men in fear and hunger destroy their stomachs in the fight to secure certain food, where men hungering for love destroy everything lovable about them. Mack and the boys are the Beauties, the Virtues, the Graces. In the world ruled by tigers with ulcers, rutted by strictured bulls, scavenged by blind jackals, Mack and the boys dine delicately with the tigers, fondle the frantic heifers, and wrap up the crumbs to feed the sea gulls of Cannery Row. What can it profit a man to gain the whole world and to come to his property with a gastric ulcer, a blown prostate, and bifocals? Mack and the boys avoid the trap, walk around the poison, step over the noose while a generation of trapped, poisoned, and trussed-up men scream at them and call them no-goods, come-to-bad-ends, blots-on-the-town, thieves, rascals, bums.

Related Characters: Mack
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

Our Father who art in nature, who has given the gift of survival to the coyote, the common brown rat, the English sparrow, the house fly and the moth, must have a great and overwhelming love for no-goods and blots-on-the-town and bums, and Mack and the boys. Virtues and graces and laziness and zest. Our Father who art in nature.

Related Characters: Mack
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13 Quotes

We worked it out that we wanted to give Doc a party. So we come out here and have a hell of a lot of fun. Then we’ll go back and get the dough from Doc. There’s five of us, so we’ll drink five times as much liquor as he will. And I ain’t sure we’re doin’ it for Doc. I ain’t sure we ain’t doin’ it for ourselves. And Doc’s too nice a fella to do that to. Doc is the nicest fella I ever knew. I don’t want to be the kind of a guy that would take advantage of him.

Related Characters: Mack (speaker), Doc
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 17 Quotes

In spite of his friendliness and his friends Doc was a lonely and a set-apart man. Mack probably noticed it more than anybody. In a group, Doc seemed always alone. When the lights were on and the curtains drawn, and the Gregorian music played on the great phonograph, Mack used to look down on the laboratory from the Palace Flophouse. He knew Doc had a girl in there, but Mack used to get a dreadful feeling of loneliness out of it. Even in the dear close contact with a girl Mack felt that Doc would be lonely.

Related Characters: Doc, Mack
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 21 Quotes

“We’ll pay for it, Doc.”

“No you won’t, Mack,” said Doc. “You’ll think about it and it’ll worry you for quite a long time, but you won’t pay for it. There’s maybe three hundred dollars in broken museum glass. Don’t say you’ll pay for it. That will just keep you uneasy. It might be two or three years before you forgot about it and felt entirely easy again. And you wouldn’t pay it anyway.”

Related Characters: Doc (speaker), Mack (speaker)
Page Number: 121
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 23 Quotes

Look at them. There are your true philosophers. I think […] that Mack and the boys know every thing that has ever happened in the world and possibly every­ thing that will happen. I think they survive in this particular world better than other people. In a time when people tear themselves to pieces with ambition and nervousness and covetousness, they are relaxed. All of our so-called successful men are sick men, with bad stomachs, and bad souls, but Mack and the boys are healthy and curiously clean. They can do what they want. They can satisfy their appetites without calling them something else.

Related Characters: Doc (speaker), Mack
Page Number: 129
Explanation and Analysis:

“It has always seemed strange to me,” said Doc. “The things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.”

Related Characters: Doc (speaker), Mack
Page Number: 131
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 30 Quotes

Hazel was so taken by the sound of the words that he had not listened to their meaning. But a little world sadness had slipped over all of them. Every one was remembering a lost love, everyone a call.

Mack said, “Jesus, that’s pretty. Reminds me of a dame—” and he let it pass. They filled the wine glasses and became quiet. The party was slipping away in sweet sadness.

Related Characters: Mack (speaker), Doc, Hazel
Page Number: 173
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Cannery Row LitChart as a printable PDF.
Cannery Row PDF

Mack Character Timeline in Cannery Row

The timeline below shows where the character Mack appears in Cannery Row. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
...Shoes). This is his customary place in the shop because he doesn’t want people like Mack and his friends to steal the liquor. On this particular evening, he contemplates a business... (full context)
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
Loneliness, Melancholy, and Happiness Theme Icon
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
Having heard that Lee now owns the fishmeal storehouse, Mack comes into the grocery store to make a proposition regarding the building. He is “the... (full context)
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
“We’ll keep up the property,” Mack says to Lee, insisting that he and his friends won’t let anyone “break in or... (full context)
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
“And that was the way it was,” Steinbeck writes about Mack and Lee’s deal, adding that, although Lee never receives any money, he doesn’t feel as... (full context)
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
Slowly, Mack and his friends begin to turn the storehouse into a functional—albeit unconventional—home. Dubbing it “the... (full context)
Chapter 2
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Loneliness, Melancholy, and Happiness Theme Icon
Reality, Randomness, and Disorder Theme Icon
Still contemplating the nature of his characters, Steinbeck considers “Mack and the boys,” saying that they are “the Virtues, the Graces, the Beauties.” He upholds... (full context)
Chapter 3
Loneliness, Melancholy, and Happiness Theme Icon
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
...was a man named William who was “lonesome” and depressed. He often used to watch Mack and “the boys” lounging and chatting outside, so one day he tried to join them,... (full context)
Chapter 7
Loneliness, Melancholy, and Happiness Theme Icon
When Mack, Hazel, Eddie, Hughie, and Jones first move into the Palace Flophouse, they see it as... (full context)
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
One day, Mack and “the boys” are lounging and drinking a strong alcoholic mixture that Eddie concocts whenever... (full context)
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
...to collect frogs for Doc, who paid him a nickel for each one. Hearing this, Mack realizes that they could fund the party this way, assuming that Doc needs frogs. “We... (full context)
Chapter 9
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Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
When Doc returns from collecting starfish, Mack goes to Western Biological, passing Sam Malloy on his way. “You know any kind of... (full context)
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
After establishing that Doc still pays a nickel for every frog, Mack says he and “the boys” will do the job for him. He then asks if... (full context)
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
Mack goes to Lee Chong’s and asks to borrow his truck, but Lee informs him that... (full context)
Chapter 11
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
...he gets the Model T running, and the gang heads for the gas station, where Mack tells the attendant, “Doc was a little short of change. So if you’ll put five... (full context)
Reality, Randomness, and Disorder Theme Icon
...only one still trying on shoes, so they take him to jail in Salinas. Meanwhile, Mack and “the boys” wait for Gay, eventually realizing that he’s not coming back, at which... (full context)
Chapter 13
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
...carrying a carburetor he stole from another Model T. After putting in the new part, Mack and the gang zoom off once again and reach their destination that afternoon. Because “the... (full context)
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
“There’s five of us,” Mack continues, “so we’ll drink five times as much liquor as [Doc] will. And I ain’t... (full context)
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
As Mack and “the boys” discuss the best way to honor Doc, a man appears holding a... (full context)
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
“By God, that’s a fine-lookin’ bitch,” Mack says, sensing that the Captain has relaxed. “She’s lame. Tick got her right shoulder,” the... (full context)
Chapter 15
Loneliness, Melancholy, and Happiness Theme Icon
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
In the Captain’s house, Mack applies the “poultice” to the pointer and tells the Captain that the puppies should be... (full context)
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
Loneliness, Melancholy, and Happiness Theme Icon
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
“Now if I had a pup like this,” Mack says, picking up a puppy, “why I bet I’d have a real bird dog in... (full context)
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
Although Mack acts as if he doesn’t want too much to drink, he subtly encourages the Captain... (full context)
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
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Shortly thereafter, the Captain passes out, and Mack asks Eddie to confirm that the man did indeed offer him a jug of whiskey... (full context)
Chapter 17
Loneliness, Melancholy, and Happiness Theme Icon
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
Reality, Randomness, and Disorder Theme Icon
...and his friends Doc was a lonely and a set-apart man,” Steinbeck writes, suggesting that Mack is the only person who truly notices that Doc seems “always alone” even in a... (full context)
Chapter 19
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
...platform and try the stunt. Indeed, everyone is captivated by this attraction—everyone, that is, except Mack and “the boys,” who don’t see the appeal.  (full context)
Chapter 20
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When Mack and “the boys” get back to Cannery Row, they have roughly one thousand frogs. Doc... (full context)
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
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As soon as Lee agrees to accept frogs as payment, Mack and “the boys” go crazy buying items from the store. First, they purchase things they’ll... (full context)
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As the day goes on, Mack and “the boys” revel in their ability to purchase goods at Lee’s. They also lounge... (full context)
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
Reality, Randomness, and Disorder Theme Icon
Soon enough, Mack and “the boys” finish the rest of the whiskey, and people start filtering into Western... (full context)
Chapter 21
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
...record on the phonograph but finds that it, too, has been broken. Then, he sees Mack come into the lab. “Did you do this?” he demands, and before Mack finishes speaking,... (full context)
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
When Doc returns, Mack is still washing the blood off his face, and Doc pours them each a glass... (full context)
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“Doc,” Mack says, “I and the boys will clean up here—and we’ll pay for the stuff that’s... (full context)
Chapter 23
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Loneliness, Melancholy, and Happiness Theme Icon
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
In the aftermath of the disastrous party, Mack and “the boys” are ashamed of themselves. Hughie and Jones even start working at the... (full context)
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
Loneliness, Melancholy, and Happiness Theme Icon
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As Mack and “the boys” keep a low profile, Doc makes an interesting “observation” about them (for... (full context)
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Loneliness, Melancholy, and Happiness Theme Icon
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Doc’s friend says he thinks Mack and “the boys” are the same as everyone else except that they don’t have money.... (full context)
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Perhaps worst of all, Darling becomes sick, and nothing Mack and “the boys” do seems to revive her. As such, Hazel and Jones go to... (full context)
Chapter 25
Reality, Randomness, and Disorder Theme Icon
...“evil” spell has lifted, though, no one can deny their own good fortune. As such, Mack and “the boys” are optimistic about the new party they’re planning for Doc. “Last time... (full context)
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News of the party spreads through town, but Mack and “the boys” are still planning the specifics. They decide it ought to be a... (full context)
Chapter 27
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...settles on giving Doc “the connecting rod and piston from a 1916 Chalmers.” As for Mack and “the boys,” they decide that Doc would like 25 cats, and so they devise... (full context)
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...and orders steak and an assortment of other foods, in addition to whiskey, knowing that Mack and “the boys” won’t provide food or enough drink. (full context)
Chapter 29
Loneliness, Melancholy, and Happiness Theme Icon
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
...time evening comes on October 27th, Doc is ready for the party. While he waits, Mack and “the boys” prepare to walk over to the laboratory. When Hazel asks how they... (full context)
Chapter 30
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Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
After waiting for a while, Mack and “the boys” walk to the laboratory. “Being as how it’s your birthday, I and... (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
“Jesus, that’s pretty,” Mack says. “Reminds me of a dame—” but he stops short. As the guests refill their... (full context)