The personal philosophy of any author cannot be excluded from his work. Although most refrain from proselytizing, a careful reading can usually reveal their ideology. John Steinbeck’s novels and short stories reflect his romantic predisposition and his belief in socialism. In his novel, Cannery Row, Steinbeck considers the negative effects of our capitalistic system and celebrates the integrity of the common man. Cannery Row focuses on groups of people who live in a working-class community and shows how they affect each other. Each group represents different facets of American society. All of these components of society have many problems, which people go about trying to solve in different ways. However, the underlying theme is how people are defined by their social status which shows how dismal society’s values and priorities have become.
The setting is one of the most important components for the development of both the story and characters in the book Cannery Row. The fact that John Steinbeck became a famous author during a time of period of heightened economic crisis may have had an impact on the setting of this book. Another issue that may have helped define the setting was Steinbeck’s fascination with the castaways of our society, those on the lowest rung of the economic ladder, the working-class. Not surprisingly, the inhabitants of Cannery Row are, for the most part, blue collar working-class people. These people go through their lives striving to achieve the American dream. Yet, for the citizens of this town it always seems to be just out of their reach.
The underbelly of our society is also brought forth in the setting of the book. The author makes a strong criticism of our society with his statements on societies views of values and morals. The values that our society admires are “kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding, and feeling” are the lead values and morals that lead to no fruitful accomplishments while the detested values lead to things that are desirable. The values that are detested by society are “sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism, and self-interest.” He says that we are misleading ourselves because of the fact that we don’t understand the values that we want for ourselves. If you are good you don’t succeed and if you are bad you succeed. That is societies way. In Cannery Row the whorehouse is such a successful business that the local government takes money away from them. Yet they still have plenty of money to help the sick in the community as well as stay in business.