Like the title suggests Cannery Row is another of Steinbeck's novels that is set in that rougher areas of regional America during the Great Depression . It is described as a novella of short stories as it is a compilation of character studies and atmosphere rather than plot. Steinbeck's real gift for characterization is evident in the gang of penniless itinerant workers known as "Mack and the Boys," It is through these men's masculine views of the world that enables Steinbeck to celebrate humanity and community mate ship. The absence of female characters is not to suggest that woman had no roles in society instead it is to portray that females are stereotyped to be companions.
The theme of community and mate ship is explored by the men throughout Cannery Row, being most alive in Mack and the boys. This "elder, leader, mentor" in the novel is Mack who leads the other boys away from the low to high ways of life into the sense of community by the creation of "The Palace Flophouse and Grill." A way that "Mack and the boys" showed their manly affection for each other as a surrogate family was by competing in making something out of nothing for the Flophouse. Their discoveries consisted of "an army cot" to a stove that took the them three days to carry from Seaside to Cannery Row. "With the great stove came pride, and with pride, the Palace became home." Through the eyes of "Mack and the Boys" they consider the Flophouse as home, as utopia. Steinbeck seems to be drawn to these men who are dirty, poor and homeless. These men are the people who are usually looked down upon as a burden to society, who are not acknowledged as real people on any accord. Nevertheless Steinbeck celebrates the humanity of these flawed group of characters by giving them the sense of dignity and making them symbols of male freedom . "Mark and the boys are the Beauties, the Virtues, the Graces." .
The characterization of females in "Cannery Row" very much opposed those of the males.