Exploring Steinbeck's Cannery Row


Monterey’s waterfront street

and now-defunct sardine canning factories.


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Cannery Row is the waterfront street in the New Monterrey section of Monterrey, California. Monterrey is the setting of two Steinbeck books, Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday. The former is set in the sardine canneries during the great depression. Originally named Ocean View Avenue, the nickname became official in January 1958 to honor John Steinbeck and his well-known novel Cannery Row.

The novel opens:

"Cannery Row in Monterrey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little-crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses. Its inhabitants are, as the man once said, '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."