Symbolism In Cannery Row

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Cannery Row criticizes the ideal American society and its elements of Christianity through the caricature of a typical American industrial town and its most distinctive citizens. In the process of describing Mack and the Boys’ attempt to throw a party for Doc, the novel introduces us to characters that seem like outcasts in Monterey but play a significant role in expressing the overall anti-establishment commentary of the novel.
Doc plays a fatherly role in the Monterey community. He seems like the ideal masculine figure: he has strength, a decent career and business and the respect of the town. Unlike some of the other townspeople like Mack and the Boys or Lee Chong, he speaks eloquently and has a proper college education, something less
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Towards the end of the novel, he even secretly prepares for the surprise party Mack and the Boys plan to throw him, even after the disastrous outcome of the previous one. However, his vulnerability contradicts his strong and stable image. He deals with loneliness and sadness even after a gathering with all the townspeople, despite being “almost supernaturally successful with a series of lady visitors” (143). The poetic structure of the book Doc reads to himself on page 180 sets a forlorn mood that further emphasizes his solitude amongst his guests. An interchapter depicting his interactions with others showed that the outside world had difficulty with understanding him. For example, he felt the need to make up excuses to explain to waitresses while trying to fulfill his curiosity and taste a beer milkshake. Doc …show more content…
The last party Mack and the Boys hold Doc consists of a gathering of the entire community to commemorate a single person, followed by a feast and Doc’s Gregorian music, much like a religious celebration. However, even though the community hails Doc as the ideal man due to his outward image of perfection, he cannot truly fulfill his perceived Christ-like role due to his underlying insecurities and struggles. The town itself, with the criminals Mack and the boys and the prostitutes at Bear Flag, has too many immoral outcasts to truly fit into the requirements of a good Christian community. However, Dora and Mack and the Boys, and not Doc or the rest of the town, have a clear understanding of what truly brings them fulfillment. Mack and the boys gain satisfaction from going on adventures and bringing people together instead of from superficial things like flagpole skaters that mesmerize the rest of the town. Although they do not conform to the image of the ideal Christian, actually seem to possess more complexity in their judgement and thought than the rest of the town. Dora, despite running a ‘sinful’ business, never scams anyone or lets go of older workers, and shows great generosity and philanthropy towards Monterey. She “paid grocery bills right and left” (17) for hungry townspeople during the Depression. While some citizens may frown upon these outliers, they show the most compassion

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