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John Steinbeck's novel Cannery Row - Look at them - Essay Example

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With the quote, "Look at them. There are your true philosophers,"(141) John Steinbeck examines the characterization of Doc in the novel Cannery Row. …
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John Steinbecks novel Cannery Row - Look at them
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"John Steinbeck's novel Cannery Row - Look at them"

Download file to see previous pages The novel explains the grassroots realities of life, in its positive and negative aspects, its glory and meanness and the Doc’s character is penned by the author to highlight the complexity of this philosophy. Steinbeck observes, the inhabitants are, "whores, pimps, gamblers, and sons of bitches," by which he meant everybody. Had the man looked through another peephole he might have said, "Saints and angels and martyrs and holy men," and he would have meant the same thing (1). Doc is a man of scientific approach, but at the same time, he is interested in enjoying the luxuries of day to day life. He is not the one to chase the perfect disciplines in life, but is willing to carry on happily with the available levels of discipline. The readers first see him leaving his Western Biological Laboratory for purchasing five quarts of beer. He is not interested to tread the beaten and routine tracks of life and exhibits defiance towards the vested interests that take control of the society and his approach is evident in his suggested “method for getting revenge on a bank if anyone should ever want to: `Rent a safety deposit box, then deposit in it one fresh salmon and go away for six months.” (15)Thus Doc is an individual who accepts and lauds the contradictory facets of life and his Western Biological is a kind of experimental laboratory for the living things as per their levels of progression. A true philosopher (the realized soul) knows the past, present and the future and they are one with the, the great leveler of humankind, the Time. They are unaffected by the day to day agitations, ups and downs occurring in the world outside. The author compares Mack and the boys, the ordinary folks, to such philosophers as they have the capacity to survive in this world of pluralities and pairs of opposites, like happiness and sorrow, light and darkness etc. There are others, the simple types of people, to whom ignorance is bliss and they also remain happy, like philosophers, in all circumstances. The intelligent, successful and competitive people remain upset always; their mind is full of agitations over the business and secular challenges they face and the author categorizes them as men with “ bad stomachs and bad souls”(142) but Mack and the boys are fit physically and mentally. They are carefree people, eat what they like, and do what they wish. They are free in every sense of the term. Steinbeck is a master in depicting the lives of the ordinary people and their perspective of life. Such people do not have the predefined goals in life and craze for aggrandizement of wealth; they just live life. Even though they live different types of life, their trials and miseries of life are of different categories and grades, yet there exists the common thread that binds them all. Their minds are not small, their behaviors and motives are great. Steinbeck has understanding and sympathy for the poor and the common people. His love for the lowest strata of the society, the economically poor, and his admiration for the nobility of human existence, can be observed throughout the novel. This reflection of Doc reveals the inside working of the mind of Steinbeck: “It has always seemed strange to me” said Doc. “The things we admire in men, kindness, generosity, openness, honesty, understanding, and feeling are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits that we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism, and self-interest are traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.” (143)Steinbeck is able to read the minds of his common characters well, the delineation, dialogue and situation building is ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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