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Cannery Row | Study Guide

John Steinbeck

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Cannery Row | Chapter 14 | Summary



Mornings are a beautiful time on Cannery Row. As people begin to stir, everything on the row, even the corrugated tin canneries, are "suspended out of time in a silvery light." People begin their day, and on one such morning, two soldiers and two girls tumble out of La Ida somewhat disheveled, but very happy. They have "had a hell of a time and they felt good." They walk down the row to a private beach where they open beers, and the men lay with their heads in the girls' laps. A watchman tells them to clear off the property, but one of the soldiers tells him off in a kind way.


This interchapter has the same carefree, anti-authority mood as much of the rest of the novel. The soldiers, like Mack and other characters, enjoy themselves without concern about what others think. The soldier's response to the watchman's order is one of pleasant refusal. The chapter shows more people rejecting civilized society's expectations in pursuit of their own happiness. There is also a casual drifting quality to their jaunt that is reminiscent of Mack and the boys.

The author uses this chapter to highlight the beauty of Cannery Row in its purest form in the "silvery light" of dawn. It is a place many would consider ugly, with vacant lots full of castoff pipes and corrugated tin buildings, but Steinbeck uses poetic descriptions to sanctify the place. Any place where human beings can find comfort in one another and respite in general is beautiful.

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