Sweet Thursday: Humor Without Sarcasm

In Sweet Thursday, John Steinbeck rambles back to Cannery Row a couple years after World War II has ended. The pilchers have been fished out, the canneries are closed. There’s not much left in Cannery Row except a bunch of social misfits.

Dust jacket of Sweet Thursday showsOcean front docks Cannery Row’s most distinguished resident, a marine biologist known throughout town as Doc, has been unsettled since the war.

Doc gets an idea for a paper about changes in octopi that mimic apoplexy in humans but lacks a good microscope and the persistence to write it.

His neighbors think Doc needs a wife, pick one out for him, and arrange for the pair to fall in love.

The plot is sophomoric because that’s as close to higher level thinking as Cannery Row’s yahoos can reach. The Cannery Row crowd are dull as hoes, but they genuinely love and care for one another. That love puts Steinbeck’s homely non-heroes beyond the reach of sarcasm.

Sweet Thursday isn’t a literary masterpiece, but it’s durable.

You might not want the residents of Cannery Row as your house guests for August, but you’ll sleep a little better for believing that even losers are capable of sacrificial love.

Sweet Thursday
By John Steinbeck
Viking Press, 1954
273 pages
My grade B +

 © 2014 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Linda G. Aragoni

I make big ideas simple for learners. In eight sentences, 34 words, I taught teens and adults to write competently. Now I'm writing guides to turn willing volunteers into great nursing home visitors.

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