What are some of the important historical events that influence this text? How are they handled in the text?
What is the function of violence in this novel? Why are there so many suicides and other deaths?
Would you characterize Steinbeck's writing as realistic? As fairy-tale-like? As abstract? As allegorical? Explain the reasons for your answer.
How does Steinbeck use the idea of place? What does it mean to be part of a neighborhood or community in this novel?
How do families and marriages function in this novel? Who are the most important people in a character's life? Why might family be a troublesome concept?
What are the financial and social issues surrounding drinking in this novel? Consider the two parties at Doc's, Dora's policies for her girls, and Lee Chong's success as a purveyor of "Old Tennis Shoes."
Doc claims that it's easier to lie than to tell the truth and that people like you better when you lie to them. Does Steinbeck "lie" in his narrative? Why or why not? If he does lie, what are his reasons?
Essay Topic 1
Describe the character of Lee Chong. How does Lee conduct his business and his life? Why is he such an important figure on Cannery Row? What does he represent to the other characters in the story?
Essay Topic 2
What is the significance of the Chinaman who runs back and forth from Cannery Row each morning and evening? Does the Chinaman represent Death? Does he represent God, or does he represent the burgeoning Asian population in this party of the country? Explain your position.
Essay Topic 3
Describe Dora Flood. What is her role on Cannery Row? Why does Steinbeck say she is loved by the intelligent, the learned, and the kind? Why is she hated by "married spinsters," whose husbands are attracted to the whore house? Is Dora the classic whore with a heart of gold?
Essay Topic 4
Frankie is an ill-fated character in the book. What...
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