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Cannery Row | Study Guide

John Steinbeck

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Cannery Row | Chapter 11 | Summary



Lee Chong's old truck was once a Model T car, but through a series of owners it has been used and reduced to "little more than four wheels and an engine." Mack rouses the boys early on the day of the frog hunt to get to work on fixing the truck. Gay has a gift for fixing machines, and as such could have steady work at a cannery if he wanted. He works on the engine, and manages to get it running. After obscuring the expired license plates, the boys stop to get gas. Mack first tries to convince Red Williams, owner of the gas station, to give him five gallons of gas and money instead of the full 10 gallons of gas, but Red Williams says Doc has called and let him know what Mack might try to do. Mack tries again to get half of the 10 gallons in a can, but Williams isn't falling for it. The boys set off for Carmel on the back roads. When they reach a steep hill, they must drive the car in reverse to get up the slope. Near the top, a part of the carburetor breaks. Gay goes in search of a replacement, but a series of coincidences lands him in jail. The boys wait for him until evening. They camp beside the car, and Eddie decides to check a nearby construction camp for the part they need.


The author advances the plot line in Chapter 10. The quest for frogs begins. Mack and the boys have to first get the old truck running, avoid anyone seeing its expired plates, procure fuel, and reverse the truck backward up a hill to get to Carmel before they can hunt frogs. Just as they are almost at their destination the trucks breaks down, and their best mechanic, Gay, disappears. This comic series of obstacles and mishaps make up the beginning of the adventure of the frog expedition.

The manipulative, deceptive side of Mack's character, of which readers have been warned in earlier chapters, is developed in this chapter. Readers get a front row seat when Mack tries to manipulate Red Williams into getting some money instead of all 10 gallons of gas authorized in Doc's note. This is the type of trick Doc and Lee Chong were suspicious of earlier. Mack tries to get around Doc's instructions about the gas, but Doc anticipated and forestalls his every effort. First Mack tries to convince Williams to give him half the gas in cash. Then he asks for half in a can which presumably he could sell for cash. Doc avoids being taken advantage of in this instance by leaving Red Williams with very specific instructions and warnings. Mack's best efforts are foiled, but readers have a clearer understanding of his character.

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