Cannery Row | Study Guide

John Steinbeck

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Cannery Row | Chapter 8 | Summary

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Summary

When the cannery's boiler broke down, it was moved to the vacant lot where it became the home of Mr. and Mrs. Malloy in 1935. It was safe and dry. In 1937 a glut of fish and boom at the cannery created a housing shortage. Sam Mallow turned landlord, renting large pipes in the lot to single men for a small fee. Although "Mrs. Malloy had been contented until her husband became a landlord ... she began to change," wanting more and more nice things. She told her husband she wanted lace curtains, and cried herself to sleep when he reminded her they had no windows.

Analysis

This interchapter about the Malloys relates and develops themes readers will recall from both Chapter 7 and Chapter 1. Just as Mack and the boys showed how they had adapted to their environment to use work in an efficient way to survive happily in Chapter 7, initially Mr. and Mrs. Malloy use what they find around them to survive. They respond to changes in the environment when the housing shortage arises, however, with an effort to better their circumstances. The introduction of social ambition creates a desire for consumerism and subsequent unhappiness as readers recall from the story of Horace in Chapter 1. Mrs. Malloy wants curtains as a status symbol, and she is emotionally devastated by her husband's response. A desire for affluence and social status is shown again to lead to dissatisfaction and depression.

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