Cannery Row | Study Guide

John Steinbeck

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Cannery Row | Chapter 9 | Summary

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Summary

When Doc returns from gathering starfish with Hazel, Mack approaches him. Doc is wary, wondering what Mack wants. Mack explains he and the boys need money and would like to gather frogs at Carmel River for Doc to purchase. Doc is relieved and agrees to pay five cents per frog. He can't lend his car to the boys, as he needs to go to La Jolla to get octopi, and he won't advance them any money for the trip. He once fronted Gay money to collect turtles, only to find Gay had been put in jail. Doc gives Mack a note for the gas station attendant authorizing 10 gallons of gas for the trip. Doc feels a little uncertain about the venture, remembering how Mack once delivered 15 tom cats, only to have each owner come and demand their cat's return the same day. Mack shared his secret for getting so many tom cats. He simply put a trap out with a female cat inside. With the note for gas as proof of the trip, Mack asks Lee Chong to lend them his old truck. Chong says the truck isn't working but agrees to let them use it if Gay can get it running, although he knows any deal with Mack is dangerous. When Mack asks Chong to advance him "a pint of Old Tennis Shoes" liquor, the grocer flatly refuses.

Analysis

Steinbeck uses past experiences with Mack and the boys to show readers how Doc and Lee Chong approach the situation. Mack and the boys are expert manipulators who often fail to uphold their commitments. Doc recalls when he entrusted Gay with money to fund an expedition to collect turtles, only to find that Gay never went to get turtles and instead ended up in jail. As a result, Doc isn't about to give Mack any money up front to fund the trip. The background story helps readers understand Doc's motives. It also helps readers interpret Lee Chong's wariness toward Mack and the boys. Lee Chong is worried about Mack's request, but he agrees to the idea since a running truck would benefit him, too. Readers can infer Lee Chong has had bad experiences in the past giving alcohol to Mack and the boys since he doesn't hesitate to refuse Mack when he asks for Old Tennis Shoes, a local nickname for a cheap brand of whiskey.

The plot advances in Chapter 9 as preparations for the frog hunt begin in earnest. Mack persuades Doc to provide gas for the trip and Lee Chong to lend a truck. As always, Mack persuades and manipulates those around him to secure the resources he needs to get to Carmel River to collect the frogs. Mack and the boys plan, as usual, to get the biggest payout with the least effort possible.

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