Cannery Row

by

John Steinbeck

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The Bear Flag Restaurant Symbol Analysis

The Bear Flag Restaurant Symbol Icon

In Cannery Row, Dora Flood’s brothel—called the Bear Flag Restaurant—represents the fact that vice and virtue are often not so easy to separate. Although the Bear Flag is a house of prostitution, Steinbeck introduces it as a “virtuous club.” What’s more, he asserts that Dora has the “special gifts” of “honesty” and “charity,” adding that she is “respected by the intelligent, the learned, and the kind.” By presenting both Dora and the brothel itself in this flattering light, then, Steinbeck challenges readers to look beyond conventional notions of right and wrong, ultimately suggesting that someone whom society might generally consider to be morally corrupt can still be an honest, upstanding citizen. In turn, the Bear Flag comes to stand for the ways in which vice and virtue aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, but rather inextricably bound.

The Bear Flag Restaurant Quotes in Cannery Row

The Cannery Row quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Bear Flag Restaurant. 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:

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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The Bear Flag Restaurant Symbol Timeline in Cannery Row

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Bear Flag Restaurant 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
...number of people in town. Nevertheless, Dora “keeps an honest” establishment, which she has named the Bear Flag Restaurant. And though the inhabitants of the Bear Flag are prostitutes, many of them are... (full context)
Loneliness, Melancholy, and Happiness Theme Icon
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
Before Alfy worked as the bouncer at the Bear Flag , the bouncer was a man named William who was “lonesome” and depressed. He often... (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,”... (full context)
Chapter 8
Loneliness, Melancholy, and Happiness Theme Icon
...new one, so it was moved to the area near Lee Chong’s grocery store and the Bear Flag . When the Malloys come upon it, they decide to turn it into a home.... (full context)
Chapter 16
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
Loneliness, Melancholy, and Happiness Theme Icon
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
Steinbeck narrates the tale of the Bear Flag ’s busiest period, a time when the brothel is overrun by “a new regiment” of... (full context)
Chapter 20
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
Reality, Randomness, and Disorder Theme Icon
...much that he has to go home. At this point, a number of men at the Bear Flag think that Western Biological is a “rival house,” so they enter “whooping with joy.” “They... (full context)
Chapter 23
Loneliness, Melancholy, and Happiness Theme Icon
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
...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 the bank in order to... (full context)
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
...the next morning. “At last a crack had developed in the wall of evil,” and the Bear Flag reopens. What’s more, Lee Chong forgives Mack and “the boys,” cancels their “frog debt,” and... (full context)
Chapter 27
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
...party. Because they think it’s his birthday, they brainstorm presents. For instance, the prostitutes at the Bear Flag decide to make him a silk quilt. Lee Chong prepares “a twenty-five-foot string of firecrackers... (full context)
Chapter 29
Loneliness, Melancholy, and Happiness Theme Icon
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
...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 night so that all of... (full context)