Comparing The Gopher And Doc In John Steinbeck's Cannery Row

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Near the end of Cannery Row, John Steinbeck includes a story about a gopher. Even though it seems random, this story is actually a parable about Doc and his realization that he will always feel alone despite being surrounded by the denizens of Cannery Row. The similarities between the gopher and Doc are apparent after viewing the quotes from the poem Black Marigolds in the surrounding chapters, quotes from other characters, and the descriptions of the rats and rattlesnakes at the end of the book.
Both the gopher and Doc are dissatisfied despite having perfect lives. The gopher had it all. He is described as “a beautiful gopher in the prime of his life” (Steinbeck 190) that found the perfect home where there were no gopher traps or cats could hurt him (Steinbeck 191). The gopher’s only problem is he can’t find a mate due to the lack of females in the area. Steinbeck describes Doc as “concupiscent as a rabbit and gentle as hell. Everyone who knew him was indebted to him” (Steinbeck 29). He is loved by everyone and has a
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Doc has a similar epiphany at the end of the novel. Doc’s epiphany is apparent when he recites verses from Black Marigolds, a poem about lost love, as he cleans up his lab. The last stanza, which begins with “Even now / I know that I have savored the hot taste of life” (qtd. In Steinbeck 196) resonates with Doc. Just like the main character enjoyed life for a short time through love, Doc enjoyed the party and for a moment didn’t appear lonely. Once the party was over and the guests left, Doc’s loneliness returns. The last lines of the novel “And the white rats scampered and scrambled in their cages. And behind the glass the rattlesnakes lay still and stared into space with their dusty frowning eye” (Steinbeck 196) personifies the bleakness of Doc’s situation. Just like the rats and snakes in their cages, Doc is trapped in his loneliness once
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