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Cannery Row | Study Guide

John Steinbeck

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Cannery Row | Chapter 19 | Summary



Everyone in Cannery Row is fascinated by Holman's Department Store's flagpole skater. The man skates around a platform at the top of the pole as a special promotion. This generates excellent business for the store as people drive from surrounding towns just to see the man break the world record. One question is on everyone's mind though, and Richard Frost has an anxious few days when he can't stop thinking about it. He gets up in the middle of the night to finally ask his burning question. He wants to know how the man, who never comes down, relieves himself. The man says he has a can for this very purpose. Richard returns to bed, satisfied.


This interchapter is a light, comic break from the intensity of the previous chapter. The entire city is drawn to watching the advertising stunt of a man skating in circles at the top of a flagpole. What interests everyone is not the amount of time the man can skate, or if he will be able to break the world record. No, what is on everyone's minds is how in the world the man goes to the bathroom up there day and night. The author emphasizes the humor by showing how much the question bothers Richard Frost. He literally can't sleep until he knows. The fairly obvious answer makes all the fuss even funnier.

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