A Summary of John Etheridge Jr.’s Cannery Row: The Gospel according to John
In Cannery Row: The Gospel according to John Etheridge Jr. analyzes the theological significance of John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row. Many reviews of Cannery Row ignore its theological significance while Etheridge explores its importance, claiming that it is Steinbeck’s second most Biblical book, next to East of Eden (Etheridge, 84).
Etheridge begins his review by quoting Cannery Row’s second chapter where he describes the “Word” and its importance (Etheridge, 84). He then relates this chapter with the opening passage of the Gospel of John which echoes Steinbeck and his discussion of the word. He goes on implying that in context the use of Steinbecks characterization of Cannery Row as a “quality of light” (Steinbeck, 1) was influenced by John’s use of, “the light of all people” in the Gospel of John. Furthermore he relates the end of Cannery Row’s second chapter which refers to “our father who art in nature” (Steinbeck, 15) with the Lord’s prayer and Hemingway’s writing, as to lend theological merit to both authors. Steinbeck whom has the belief of a spiritual being present in all of nature and Hemingway who has belief in nothing spiritual (Etheridge, 86). He continues talking about Steinbeck’s theological merit with his knowledge of Science and Naturalist views (Etheridge, 86).
Etheridge later on speaks of Steinbeck’s awe of the Ocean and appreciation for it in Cannery Row. He refers to Cannery Row’s contingency on the Ocean as a lesson for humankind (Etheridge, 87). He claims that Steinbeck is showing his microcosmic view of the world through the characters of Cannery Row’s reliance on the Ocean. The Ocean represents nature, and Steinbecks expresses an appreciation and respect for nature through Doc who although collects sea creatures, feels responsible not to overuse the sea and is fascinated by its creatures. Ethridge believes Steinbeck is stressing that people should strive to live in harmony with nature, just as the book of Genesis does (Etheridge, 87). Etheridge also believes that Steinbeck stresses the importance of the ocean as a relation to the quenching water of Christ in the Gospel of John (Etheridge, 88). Just as the Ocean quenches every need of the people in Cannery Row, the water of Christ quenches every need in the Gospel of John. Overall throughout this review, Ethridge maintains his belief that Steinbeck writes Cannery Row, with much influence from the Gospel of John.