Cannery Row | Study Guide

John Steinbeck

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Cannery Row | Chapter 16 | Summary



One month the Bear Flag experienced a series of events that made it the busiest on record. Dora was short-staffed, and a new regiment and fishermen flush with cash from a glut of sardines meant customers stood in line for girls. When influenza broke out in the area, Doc was exhausted from treating the ill, so he asked Dora for help caring for the sick. Although it wasn't a good time and she had no girls to spare, Dora arranged for her girls to take soup and sit with the sick as often as possible. The girls had so much business they didn't even have to wear makeup. Dora worked on her tax bill, which was a tricky thing to do as it required her to pay taxes on a business that was technically illegal.


The author shows Dora, once again, as a pillar of the community, treading a fine line between madam and trusted businesswoman. She makes sure her customers are taken care of, while also providing support to sick families in the community. She instructs her employees to care for the sick, and Doc knows he can trust her to help. She is reliable and generous, yet in reality, she is breaking the law by operating her business.

This interchapter shows how tightly interwoven the community of Cannery Row is. When members of the community are ill, others jump in to help. Doc has hardly slept, but he goes from house to house helping the sick. Dora and her girls aid their neighbors even though it is a busy time at the Bear Flag. Cannery Row is really just a big family.

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