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Doc’s Life: Ed Ricketts and You

by David Oppenheim, John Dewey High School, Brooklyn, New York, 2007

Look at the front of Ed Ricketts Lab on today’s Cannery Row in Picture 1. He is the man who Steinbeck based the fictional character of Doc on in Cannery Row. His lab and Cannery Row still exist . His lab on the outside is for the most part unchanged (the interior has changed). Cannery Row itself has also totally changed. It is mostly for tourists now.

Write short freewritten paragraphs for each question.

  1. What are your first impressions of seeing Doc’s “actual” lab in Picture 1? Is it different than your imagination’s view when you read the novel? How? Why?
  2. The character of Doc and the man Ed Ricketts both loved music. Look at Picture 2 and imagine how music affected Doc and other characters in novel
    (This record player is not Doc’s original one but is used by the current owners of Ed Ricketts’ lab).
  3. Look at Rickett’s workplace in Picture 3 and Picture 4. How do you think it affected him ? How would it have affected you if you were working there?
  4. How would you like to have the ocean as your backyard as in Picture 5? What do you think was the effect of the sea on Ricketts? How do you think the ocean environment (as pictured in Ed Ricketts actual backyard) affected Steinbeck writing about Doc?
  5. How has seeing actual photos of Doc’s “world” made the novel more vivid for you ? Be specific.
outside Rioketts lab Ricketts living room Ricketts office blank place holder view of ocean
Picture 2 Picture 2 Picture 3 Picture 4 Picture 5