Wealth In John Steinbeck's Cannery Row

1482 Words6 Pages
From earliest childhood, most parents explain concepts such as the impact of decisions, and that money can’t buy happiness; concepts which can help a young person begin to understand life. Still, many underestimate the impact that one seemingly small decision can make in changing the course of a person’s life. John Steinbeck, in his book Cannery Row, shows how such small desires can rob a person of control over his life, forcing him into an endless yet never gratifying cycle. The “trap” Steinbeck refers to is the self-destructive cycle of belief that if one only achieves certain goals such as a good job, having a family or living in a nice house, he will find true happiness and satisfaction. Mack and the boys are the focus of Cannery…show more content…
While “Doc has the hands of a brain surgeon, and a cool warm mind... (he) would listen to any kind of nonsense and change it for you to a kind of wisdom...Every one who knew him was indebted to him.” (Steinbeck 28,29). Through Doc’s actions one learns that the “trap” isn’t having a job or a house, rather it is an incessant commitment to one’s job, and by fully investing in a career one doesn’t leave room to develop relationships. Talented enough to find success in the world, Doc avoids the “trap” by showing more concern for others’ gain than his own, and by doing so makes priceless connections. Spending time developing friendships, Doc spends time with Mack and the boys, “‘Hi Doc’, said Mack. ‘Keepin’ pretty busy?’ ‘Busy as I want’, said Doc.” (Steinbeck 160). Although Doc had every opportunity to lead a life of worldly successes, he made the rare choice of pursuing a simple and rewarding lifestyle. Even though human passions encourage a materialistic lifestyle, sometimes all one wants is a day off, which is what Doc gets to do whenever he wants. Another character who balances worldly commitments is Lee Chong, whose “grocery opened at dawn and did not close until the last wandering vagrant dime had been spent or retired for the night. Not that Lee…show more content…
After they moved into the Palace Flophouse, an abandoned building, “Mack and the boys sat on the floor, played cards hunkered down, and slept on the hard boards. Perhaps, save for an accident of weather, they might have always lived that way.”(Steinbeck 40). Mack and the boys’ lack of obligations and materialistic needs allow them to keep values, childlike in their simplicity. Contrary to common belief, people do not outgrow their childlike simplicity and appreciation, but rather are forced to, in order to survive in this materialistic culture. When the boys were talking amongst themselves, Hazel said, “‘I bet Mack could of been president of the U.S. if he wanted,’ he said. ‘What could he do with it if he had it?’ Jones asked. ‘There wouldn’t be no fun in that.’”(Steinbeck 84). Ironically, those whose lives are lacking by worldly measures are often those who posses a unique sense of contentment and satisfaction, displayed in the fact that Mack could have had anything materialistic he wanted but chose a lifestyle suited to his personality. Whether they realize it or not, Steinbeck illustrates how many people bring their misery upon themselves, as they force themselves into long hours, strenuous jobs, or other situations, to achieve materialistic goals, bringing to mind the age old adage; “money can’t buy
Open Document