Sweet Thursday - Character Summaries
Loosely based on Steinbeck's real life friend, Ed Ricketts, Sweet Thursday's Doc returns from the war a changed man. Nonetheless, he remains a figure of respect and admiration on the Row. Western Biological Laboratories, even in its dilapidated state, still serves as an important center for community and culture as it did in Sweet Thursday's precursor, Cannery Row. Though terribly preoccupied with his desire to write his paper and overcome with personal dissatisfaction, he is still able to minister to the inhabitants of the Row in a manner that garners him faithful love and respect. He analyzes bootlegged alcohol, bandages children's cuts, allows the vagrant men to hustle him for money and never patronizes the Bear Flag. Over the course of novel, Doc becomes more self aware and realizes he needs love and companionship to truly be happy. Ultimately, thanks to the antics of his friends on Cannery Row, he finds what he is looking for in Suzy.
Mack is a well-intentioned schemer and is known on Cannery Row for his ulterior motives. Though some may consider him a shyster, Mack works without malice and always with a moderate knowledge, if not concern, for legality and justice. He is the ring leader of the Palace Flophouse gang and often involves them in his well-intentioned scrapes to please Doc and entertain himself. For an alcoholic vagrant, Mack is rather philosophical and has a clearly developed moral sense. He values loyalty and faithful companionship above all else.
Lovable and passionate, Suzy arrives on Cannery Row alone and poor. Her smile and candid nature help her find work at the Bear Flag. She is ill-suited for prostitution, as both Fauna and Joseph and Mary observe. Her coarse manners and lack of education discourage Doc's affections but they share a magnetism that the citizens of Cannery Row notice and encourage. Fauna works to soften Suzy's rough edges. Eventually, after the disastrous party, Suzy matures on her own becoming gainfully employed at the local café and keeping house in the old, abandoned boiler. Only once she has developed self-reliance and faith in her own abilities, is she ready to accept and return Doc's affections.
The mild-mannered Hazel, though lacking in intelligence, does have the common sense to appreciate an unencumbered and restful life. He loves nothing more than sleeping under his favorite tree. However, Fauna's astrological prediction of Hazel's eminent assumption of the role of President of the United States disrupts Hazel peace of mind. His burgeoning understanding of his impending responsibility causes him to painfully acknowledge the world around him. He cunningly manipulates others' perception of him as inattentive and unthinking to help Doc regain his happiness.
Members of the Palace Flophouse
The gang is a collection of vagabond men who have settled in what was once a storage building owned by Lee Chong. Eddie works at La Ida, siphoning left over drinks from customers, which he brings home to the gang. Whitey 1 and Whitey 2 both participated in the war effort and help to drink Eddie's supply of siphoned alcohol. Together, the men form a protective guard for Doc and work to ensure his happiness. As part of their scheme to wed Doc to Suzy, Mack and the boys attempt to gain possession of the Palace Flophouse, which they mistakenly think belongs to Joseph and Mary Rivas. After their disastrous party, the men in Sweet Thursday ironically learn they are not really vagrants, since they actually own the Palace Flophouse, which Lee Chong deeded to them upon his departure from Cannery Row.
The heir to an enormous fortune, Old Jay's name cannot be revealed because it would be recognized. He does not spend money because of tax purposes but instead donates it to worthy causes. He is either so smart he is crazy or so crazy that people think he is smart. Doc left Western Biological in the hands of Old Jay during his deployment. Old Jay neglects the lab and leaves it in ruins. Ultimately he makes up for his irresponsibility and cheapness by endowing a research foundation in Doc's name, which ultimately forces Doc to write his paper.
The new owner of the Bear Flag, Fauna is a shrewd business woman. She sees through most tricks and has an honest concern for her workers and the people on Cannery Row. She is immensely proud of her wall of gold stars indicating employees she has helped marry well. Fauna works hard to teach her girls manners and morals. She is confident of her opinions and uses astrology to persuade others to agree with her.
Having sailed off to his retirement, Lee Chong does not make an appearance in Sweet Thursday. However, he is remembered fondly by Mack and Doc. Conniving yet soft hearted, Lee Chong both benefited from the citizens of Cannery Row and enabled the antics of Mack and friends. In his kindness, he left the Palace Flophouse to the boys and paid the taxes for ten years to ensure they would have a permanent home.
Joseph and Mary Rivas
Also know as the Patron, Joseph and Mary, the American descendent of Mexican parents, lived a childhood of crime in Los Angeles, where as an adult he grew marijuana in a public park as a city worker. A former pool hustler and gang lord, his conversion by a Catholic priest encourages him to live nearly within the boundaries of the law. He takes over as proprietor of Lee Chong's grocery and skims the wages of the local illegal immigrants. He is also the band manager for his nephew and several other illegal immigrants. Clever and instinctively criminal, Joseph and Mary is highly suspicious and believes every person is motivated by self interest.
The owner and proprietor of La Ida, Wide Ida attends several meetings at the Palace Flophouse held on behalf of Doc's well being. She asks him to analyze boot-legged alcohol and provides essential amounts of whisky to stimulate conversations. More importantly, she allows Eddie to work as a bar tender on occasion and he is able to siphon off drinks for the entire Palace Flophouse gang.
A great constable, Joe meets Suzy when she arrives in Cannery Row and offers her enough cash to leave town. When she decides to make a new start as a waitress, Joe lends her the money to move out of the Bear Flag and into her own home. He knows the citizens of Monterey and keeps the characters, such as Mack and the seer, in check.
The only waitress at the Golden Poppy diner, Ella has never taken a day off. When Suzy offers to become a waitress, Ella and the Golden Poppy both receive much needed renewal.
A true vagrant, the seer lives under pine trees on the beach. He obtains nearly all of his nourishment from the sea and steals candy bars on occasion to supplement his diet. He advises Doc to find love on their only encounter. Unencumbered by a need for material goods and companionship, the seer is a cultural oddity in Cannery Row.