Cannery Row

Cannery Row
By John Steinbeck

“Cannery Row” by John Steinbeck is a literary masterpiece that explores the lives of people living in a rundown waterfront district. Steinbeck employs various literary devices such as imagery, symbolism, and characterization to bring the vibrant community of Cannery Row to life.

Themes 📚

  1. Community: The novel explores the idea of a community of people who live and work together, despite their differences in social status and personal goals.
  2. Friendship: Steinbeck emphasizes the importance of friendship and companionship in the lives of the characters, who often find support and comfort in each other.
  3. Poverty: The novel portrays the struggles of the working-class characters who are living in poverty and are often at the mercy of their circumstances.
  4. Acceptance: The novel promotes acceptance and tolerance of others, regardless of their flaws and shortcomings.
  5. Humor: Steinbeck uses humor and irony to depict the absurdities of life and the situations his characters find themselves in.

Use of Literary Devices ✍🏽

  1. Imagery: Steinbeck uses vivid and descriptive language to create detailed images in the reader’s mind.
  2. Symbolism: The characters and objects in the novel often represent something greater than themselves, such as the canneries representing the economic struggles of the Great Depression.
  3. Foreshadowing: Steinbeck uses hints and clues to suggest events that will happen later in the novel, such as the ominous feeling surrounding Doc’s discovery of the dead seal.
  4. Irony: The novel often employs irony, such as the humorous portrayal of Mack and the boys as they attempt to do good, only to cause chaos and destruction.
  5. Satire: Steinbeck uses humor and ridicule to expose and criticize societal issues, such as the exploitation of workers in the canneries.
  6. Personification: Steinbeck gives human qualities to non-human things, such as the personification of the ocean as a “malevolent” force.
  7. Flashback: The novel often uses flashbacks to provide insight into characters’ past experiences and motivations.
  8. Allusion: Steinbeck makes references to historical and literary events, such as the biblical story of Cain and Abel.
  9. Metaphor: Steinbeck uses metaphor to create deeper meaning and connections between ideas, such as the comparison of the sardine industry to the American Dream.
  10. Simile: The novel uses simile to make comparisons between two seemingly unrelated things, such as the comparison of the sound of the sardine canning machines to a “hoarse and rasping” orchestra.

Examples of Literary Devices 📋

  1. Simile
“He has the hands of a brain surgeon and does his work with the care of a brain surgeon”This simile is used to describe Doc’s meticulousness and precision, despite his work being far removed from brain surgery.
“The vacant lot was black and glassy as a mirror”This simile sets the scene, creating a vivid image of the lot.
“The tide pool is like a lovely world, so different and so delicate and so violent”Here, Steinbeck uses simile to describe the tide pool, a central symbol in the novel.
  1. Metaphor
“Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream”This metaphor provides a sensory description of Cannery Row, comparing it to a variety of abstract and concrete things.
“He is the doctor of the Tao”Doc is metaphorically referred to as a doctor not of physical ailments, but of the Tao, or the way of the universe.
“Lee Chong’s grocery, while not a model of neatness, was a miracle of supply”The grocery store is metaphorically described as a miracle, emphasizing its importance to the community.
  1. Foreshadowing
“It has always seemed strange to me…The things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling are the concomitants of failure in our system”This quote foreshadows the struggles that many kind and generous characters will face.
“Doc would be a very good father to children and particularly to girls. He never got them”This foreshadows the lonely path Doc’s life will take, despite his paternal qualities.
“The realities of the situation were too horrible to look at long”This hints at the tragic events to come in Cannery Row.
  1. Symbolism
The tide poolThe tide pool is a symbol of the community of Cannery Row – diverse, interdependent, and constantly in flux.
Western BiologicalWestern Biological, Doc’s lab, symbolizes knowledge and understanding, as well as isolation from the rest of society.
The frog huntThe frog hunt symbolizes the row’s communal spirit, as well as the chaos that often results from their well-intentioned plans.
  1. Imagery
“The old Chinaman came out of the sea and plodded in moonlight through the cross street into Cannery Row”This imagery creates a vivid picture of the mysterious old man who seems to exist outside of the rest of the Row.
“The stars went out and the gray light of morning filled the Row”This imagery sets the scene for the transition from night to day in Cannery Row.
“The girls in the brothel opened their windows and looked out at the dark street”This imagery provides a snapshot of life on Cannery Row.

FAQs 💭

What is a literary device?

A literary device is a technique used by authors to convey meaning and create a desired effect in their writing. It can be a figure of speech, a narrative element, or a structural element.

What are some common literary devices used in “Cannery Row”?

Some common literary devices used in “Cannery Row” include simile, metaphor, personification, allusion, foreshadowing, symbolism, and imagery.

What is the role of symbolism in “Cannery Row”?

Symbolism is used to represent ideas and qualities beyond the literal meaning of objects and actions in the novel. For example, the broken-down boiler in Doc’s lab symbolizes the impermanence of life and the inevitability of death.

How does the author use imagery in “Cannery Row”?

Imagery is used to create vivid descriptions of the setting and characters in the novel, such as the smells and sounds of the cannery and the physical appearance of the characters.

What is the effect of foreshadowing in “Cannery Row”?

Foreshadowing is used to hint at future events and create tension and suspense in the narrative. For example, the description of the dead seal on the beach foreshadows the death of one of the characters later in the novel.

How does the author use allusion in “Cannery Row”?

Allusion is used to reference other works of literature or art in order to enhance the meaning of the novel. For example, the title of the novel is an allusion to John Steinbeck’s earlier work, “Sweet Thursday.”

What is the role of personification in “Cannery Row”?

Personification is used to give human qualities to non-human objects, such as the personification of the waves as they crash against the shore. This technique is used to create a sense of connection between the characters and their environment.

How does the author use metaphor in “Cannery Row”?

Metaphor is used to create comparisons between two unlike things in order to enhance the meaning of the novel. For example, the “Palace Flophouse and Grill” is a metaphor for the lives of the characters who inhabit it.

What is the effect of repetition in “Cannery Row”?

Repetition is used to create emphasis and reinforce key themes and ideas in the novel. For example, the repetition of the phrase “the hour was late” emphasizes the sense of time passing and the inevitability of change.

How does the author use irony in “Cannery Row”?

Irony is used to create a contrast between what is expected and what actually happens in the novel. For example, the fact that Doc, who is a healer, is unable to save the life of one of the characters is an example of situational irony.