Cannery Row | Study Guide

John Steinbeck

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Cannery Row | Chapter 10 | Summary



Frankie is a neglected boy who spends most of his days at the lab. Doc asks around about the boy and gathers Frankie "couldn't learn and there was something a little wrong with his coordination." He isn't welcome at school or at home, but Doc is kind to him, giving him clothes and ridding his hair of lice. Frankie loves Doc. Although Doc tries to give Frankie small tasks around the lab, Frankie isn't even able to do simple sorting. One day during a party, Frankie hands a lady a glass of beer. He is overwhelmed and pleased when she thanks him, and Doc expresses his appreciation. Frankie hopes to repeat his success on a larger scale with a whole tray of drinks, but his coordination fails and the drinks spill. Devastated, he hides in a bin of wood shavings in the basement of the lab. Doc follows him, but realizes there is nothing he can do to comfort Frankie.


The author uses the story of Frankie in this interchapter as a contrast to an element of the plot. Whereas Frankie wants to do something for Doc out of pure love and gratitude, Mack has the idea to throw a party he will get to enjoy as well. Mack is willing to do something easy to get money out of Doc in order to pay for the party, but Frankie challenges himself to do something hard just to earn Doc's appreciation. Frankie's love for Doc serves to reveal Mack's casual admiration of Doc as selfish.

Readers learn about another side of Doc's character in his interactions with Frankie. Besides his nonjudgmental attitude and acceptance of things as they are, Doc shows in caring for Frankie that he is also compassionate and kind. He takes care of his physical needs, and provides him with a sense of belonging. Doc tries to make up for Frankie's lack of parenting and education by filling both roles, but even Doc realizes he can only do so much. Doc resigns himself to the fact he can't fix Frankie, and perhaps that too is compassionate.

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