60 pages 2 hours read

John Steinbeck

Cannery Row

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1945

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.

Character Analysis


While Cannery Row is an ensemble piece that focuses on community, Doc’s character is at the center of that community. According to Susan Shillinglaw’s introduction, Doc is based on Steinbeck’s friend Edward F. Ricketts, a marine biologist, to whom Steinbeck dedicated the novel. Doc appears in the Prologue, and the novel ends with him and his animals in the Western Biological Laboratory. He has a beard: “[H]is face is half Christ and half satyr and his face tells the truth” (29). Doc loves nature, music, reading, and drinking beer. He shares these pastimes with people in the community as the “fountain of philosophy and science and art” (30). The other residents of Cannery Row adore Doc because of this free dissemination of knowledge, and because he helps people with various issues. For instance, Doc cares for people during the influenza epidemic, takes in a troubled kid named Frankie, offers payment for collecting specimens, and gives rides to hitchhikers.

Doc’s travels to collect specimens support the novel’s Sense of Place theme. Doc visits “the Great Tide Pool on the tip of the Peninsula” (31) and drives down to “the boulder-strewn inter-tidal zone at La Jolla between Los Angeles and San Diego” (97).