Cannery Row

by

John Steinbeck

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William Character Analysis

The bouncer at the Bear Flag Restaurant before Alfy. Lonely and depressed, William tries desperately to reach out to the people around him, but no one bothers to pay attention to him. After a failed attempt to socialize with Mack and “the boys,” he visits Dora Flood and tells her he’s going to commit suicide. Unfortunately, though, she doesn’t take him seriously, so he eventually goes to the Greek, who also fails to give him the attention he needs. As a result, he takes the Greek’s ice pick and stabs himself in the heart.

William Quotes in Cannery Row

The Cannery Row quotes below are all either spoken by William or refer to William . 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

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:

And William saw the change, saw first how the Greek knew he could do it and then the Greek knew he would do it. As soon as he saw that in the Greek’s eyes William knew he had to do it. He was sad because now it seemed silly. His hand rose and the ice pick snapped into his heart. It was amazing how easily it went in. William was the watchman before Alfred came. Everyone liked Alfred. He could sit on the pipes with Mack and the boys any time. He could even visit up at the Palace Flophouse.

Related Characters: William , The Greek , Alfy
Related Symbols: The Bear Flag Restaurant
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:
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Cannery Row PDF

William Character Timeline in Cannery Row

The timeline below shows where the character William appears in Cannery Row. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
Loneliness, Melancholy, and Happiness Theme Icon
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
...Alfy worked as the bouncer at the Bear Flag, the bouncer was a man named William who was “lonesome” and depressed. He often used to watch Mack and “the boys” lounging... (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... (full context)
Loneliness, Melancholy, and Happiness Theme Icon
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
William seeks out the Greek—the house’s cook—and tells him he wants to kill himself. “I hear... (full context)