The story of Cannery Row begins by slowly introducing each important character. The plot is definitely backdropped to the description of characters and the physical setting of each scene. The story meanders from scene to scene of daily life as the characters are introduced. The plot begins when the boys living in the Palace Flophouse decide that Doc is such a good guy, someone should throw a party for him. After the consumption of much alcohol, the boys hatch a plan to do some work for Doc to earn the money so they can throw him a party.
The balance of the story describes how the entire community prepares to give Doc a surprise birthday party. The party is awkward and forced at first, but soon Doc is playing records and reciting Persian poetry. People grow introspective until some party crashers come along. The whole party erupts in a huge fight featuring the residents of Cannery Row against the outsiders. The fight spills into the street. Doc’s lab is only slightly damaged and luck returns to Cannery Row with the successful completion of the party.
In conclusion, I think the theme of the story is about the cohesion of a community that has been ostracized by mainstream society. Everyone in Cannery Row is on the fringe of acceptable society in some way. Dora’s profession, Henri’s mental illness, Mack’s indolence and Doc’s misanthropy all serve to marginalize them. The real theme of the story is how this diverse group of “losers” represents us all by showing how they form their social connections.