1. When Doc discovers a deceased young girl (101) floating gently beneath the ocean when he is out collecting, how does he react? What does his reaction say about his character? Why didn’t he take the reward that he could have received for reporting the girl as dead, even though he didn’t have a lot of money? 2. How does Steinbeck use death in Cannery Row; does he treat it with respect, flippancy, or a mix of both? How does he use death in Cannery Row to ultimately expound on the fragility of life? 3. Steinbeck portrays social ostracism happening to four characters - William, Frankie, Doc, and Mack - at different points in the novel; how does William and Frankie’s endings differ from Doc and Mack’s? Why do they differ? What is Steinbeck trying to say about personal choice in the midst of uncomfortable circumstances? 4. How does Steinbeck portray truth and lies in Cannery Row? Nearly every character is hiding some kind of secret, yet they are still portrayed as essentially good people. Does this mean that Steinbeck is advocating mistruths, or that he realizes people are imperfect and it is therefore better to judge motive than action? 5. The ending of the book shows Doc on the morning after the party, living in an almost perfect moment. How does Steinbeck show that moments like this are rare, fleeting, and above all, precious? How does Steinbeck use events throughout the book to lead up to this moment?
Steinbeck explores social ostracism in unique ways in Cannery Row. There are those like Mack who live on the fringe by choice and then there are the “misunderstood” who are forced to the boundaries by an unaccepting society that demands complete conformation. Steinbeck writes, “there are two possible reactions to social ostracism - either a man emerges determined to be better, purer, and kindlier or he goes bad, challenges