The Word and Steinbeck

The word is a symbol and a delight which sucks up men and scenes, trees, plants, factories, and Pekinese. Then the Thing becomes the Word and back to Thing again, but warped and woven into a fantastic pattern. The Word sucks up Cannery Row, digests it and spews it out, and the Row has taken the shimmer of the green world and the sky-reflecting seas.

— John Steinbeck, Cannery Row

Is Steiny alluding to Christ in the above quote? Perhaps. If not, this chap doesn’t know what to make of the discrepancy in the capitalization of the word “word.” As John (the disciple of Jesus, not Steinbeck) informs us in his Gospel, Christ is the Word made flesh (Thing?). Studying Scripture does indeed reveal a fantastically woven pattern but I hesitate to go any further beyond this brief point of contact. I’m in no way a Steinbeck scholar and it would be literary malpractice to read my baggage into his words.


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