LITERATURE: Cannery Row – Narrative Structure through Setting

122705l While there seems to be a narrative structure introduced by “In the evening, just at dusk, a curious thing happened on Cannery Row.” (p. 24) for example, the chapters appear more to be unrelated episodes from the overall lives of those characters Steinbeck has presented.

We get the basis of the setting in Lee Chong’s grocery store, then his acquisition of the warehouse which becomes the Palace Flophouse, and then by directing us around the locale we are given Dora and her Bear Flag Restaurant, a whore house she has madamed for fifty years.

This method of grounding the reader within the setting and tieing in the characters to their spaces reminds me of Cormac McCarthy’s Suttree and it is an excellent way of bringing the reader into the world of the story.  While Suttree does follow a more linear narrative structure, we are unsure of the exact passage of time in Cannery Row. Steinbeck’s establishment of setting however does give us the feel of building Cannery Row to its present state at the time of story, and allows some history to reinforce the image.

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