Sweet Thursday - Essay Questions

  1. Mack sets the tone of the novel in the Prologue by critiquing the art of Sweet Thursday's predecessor, Cannery Row.  He offers up literary advice for improving the novel.  What are Mack's suggestions for improvement?  In what ways do the chapters of the novel address Mack's advice?  How does Steinbeck ironically incorporate Mack's suggestions into the text?

  2. The narrator explains that though the landmarks on Cannery Row, like the Palace Flophouse, The Bear Flag and Western Biological Laboratories, seem to be distinct and unrelated, very strong bonds exist among the characters who dwell in these places.  Together, the narrator states, the Row's inhabitants are "bound by gossamer threads of steel" and share close symbiotic relationships (55).  Where in the text do you see illustrations of the interdependency that exists on Cannery Row?  What does that interdependency suggest about friendship, love, and personal growth in the novel?

  3. Fauna, Suzy and even Ida are strong willed and independent women in the text.  How do they demonstrate and preserve their independence and status as self-sufficient individuals?  What characters oppose this independence and how?  What message do you think the text conveys about femininity in the very masculine world of Cannery Row?

  4. Many of the characters in Sweet Thursday are alcoholics.  How does the comedy in the text affect your perception of the characters' alcoholism?  Overall, what do you think Sweet Thursday implies about alcohol consumption?  Defend your response with specific examples from the text.

  5. The concept of fate is mentioned several times in Sweet Thursday.  Fauna uses astrology to inspire action in the text.  Suzy accepts it is her fate to be with Doc.  Explain how fate functions in the novel.  Does the novel ultimately imply there is such a thing as fate?  Support your position with examples from the text.

  6. Doc, Suzy, and Hazel each become more self aware over the course of the novel.  Compare who these characters are at the beginning of the novel with who they become by the end.  What major changes have occurred in their perspectives of themselves and on life?  What point do you think Sweet Thursday makes about the importance of self realization and personal growth?

  7. Describe the problems that interfere with Doc's completion of his paper.  How does he ultimately overcome the challenges that cause his writer's block?  What do we learn about the frustration of artistic creation through Doc's experiences in the novel?