60 pages 2 hours read

John Steinbeck

Cannery Row

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1945

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Symbols & Motifs


The titular street, Cannery Row, is the central symbol of the novel. In her introduction, Shillinglaw writes, “The street in Monterey came to symbolize for Steinbeck the whole thing—life, in a word” (xx). The novel attempts to convey the feel of a community, including its various human inhabitants, businesses, and homes. This is a kind of microcosm but one that is linked to a specific location, the central California coast, and a specific time, around the Great Depression.

Other streets help contextualize the Monterey community by locating it as a part of California. This develops the Sense of Place theme. Doc travels down the coast to La Jolla, stopping frequently for food. These meals, as well as the descriptions of the Pacific Ocean’s edge where Doc collects his specimens, also develop Sense of Place. In addition, Mack and his friends travel along certain streets to the Carmel River. The long discussion about Lee’s Model T Ford truck that they travel in, and the vehicle model in general, connote the role of car travel in American culture.