Cannery Row | Study Guide

John Steinbeck

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Cannery Row | Chapter 27 | Summary



Word of Doc's party spreads throughout Cannery Row, and everyone begins to think of presents for his birthday. Mack and the boys set a trap to collect cats, and Dora and her girls make a quilt for Doc's bed. Even Sam Malloy and Henri plan special gifts for Doc. People either stop talking when Doc enters the room, or ask him about his plans on the 27th of October. Doc has forgotten all about the fake date of birth he gave Mack. He finds out about the party accidentally from a drunk who doesn't know him. While Doc is touched everyone wants to throw him a party, he can't help but be worried when he recalls the earlier one. He begins his own preparations, moving all breakable valuables into a locked back room and stocking up on food he knows the guests will fail to adequately supply. Plenty of attendees set aside bottles of alcohol for the party, however. All over Cannery Row "planning reached a crescendo" as preparations turn into "a deadly cumulative earnestness."


Chapter 27 builds the action and tension of the novel toward the climax. The entire chapter focuses on the preparations everyone in Cannery Row is undertaking for the party. Even Doc, who finds out about the party from a drunk he doesn't actually know, begins to prepare for it. Remembering the previous party, Doc rearranges things in the lab to keep valuable or fragile items out of danger. Anticipation and excitement are running high as everyone's efforts push toward the party.

The author foreshadows the results of the party in a couple of subtle ways. First, readers will note Doc is once again footing the bill for his own party. This suggests it may be more similar to the first than he might hope. Second, the author includes the fact that while guests are not planning to bring food, many of them have allocated alcohol for the occasion. This too is unsettlingly familiar.

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