60 pages 2 hours read

John Steinbeck

Cannery Row

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1945

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Prologue-Chapter 6Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Prologue Summary

Content Warning: This novel contains depictions of death by suicide, infanticide, and alcohol abuse. In addition, it contains several outdated, offensive terms for Chinese immigrants, which this guide cites only in direct quotes from the novel.

The novel begins by describing the Monterey location Cannery Row. Steinbeck highlights the smell and the feeling as well as visuals of the place. The variety of people who live and work there include sex workers, doctors, and grocery store clerks, as well as the people who work canning sardines. The event of sardines coming in from the bay represents the most action in this section, though it also includes the day-to-day activities at the Bear Flag Restaurant and at Lee Chong’s grocery store.

Chapter 1 Summary

The grocery store and its proprietor, Lee, are the focus of this chapter. It lists the items for sale, from food to clothes. Lee grants customers credit until what they owe him reaches a high limit. The narrator describes Lee’s accent, his relationship to the “tong wars” (10) in San Francisco, and his physical features. He stands at the counter behind a case of tobacco products and in front of bottles of alcohol, while his relatives work in other parts of the store.