Doc thought, Let’s look at this. Here is a man with work to do. The girl-what is she? Let’s suppose every good thing should come of a relationship with her. It would still be no good. There is no possible way for this girl and me to be successful-no way under the sun. Not only is she illiterate, but she has a violent temper. She has all of the convictions of the uninformed. She is sure of those things she has not investigated, not only sure for herself, but sure for everyone. In two months she will become a prude. Then where will freedom go? Your thinking will be like golf against a bad player. Let’s stop this nonsense! Forget it! You can’t have it and you don’t want it.
Middle mind hooted, “You can’t not have it too. Whatever happens, you’ve got her. Take a feel of your pulse, listen to your pounding heart. Why?… You haven’t even thought what that means yet, but you’ve got a pain in your gut because of that.”
Low mind said, “Nothing’s bad. It’s all part of one thing-the good and the bad. Do you know any man and woman-no matter how close-who don’t have good and bad? Let me out! Or by God, I’ll set my claws in you and I’ll tear at you for all your life! Let me out, I say!
I just finished my first book since I decided to begin reading again. Let me just say, reading is so much more “me” than netflix and apple tv and I really, really miss the years of living on my own when I didn’t own a television. I used to finish like 5 books a month. I think that’s better for me, and my brain, so I am going back to that practice.
I picked Steinbeck to start back up with because he’s always been my favorite. His voice is strong, the scenes he describes are clear, and I’ve always been able to relate to his characters. Sweet Thursday is the sequel to Cannery Row, one of my top 3 books by him.
The passages above are a monologue in a character’s head towards the end of the book. He’s fighting with himself about a girl that he has been trying to convince himself he doesn’t love. I like how Steinbeck portrays the 3 selves.
The first paragraph is earthly, human Doc. He’s a character that is tightly woven into the community of Monterey and they all care about him deeply. He also holds a lot of responsibility. A lot of people offer him opinions about how he shouldn’t get involved with the girl he is clearly in love with. All their assumptive opinions come from thoughts of his well-being, so his first earthly argument is pretty much Doc arguing with the opinions of his peers that he has convinced himself are correct and that he believes. He knows that the minor differences that they possess are not all that major; even her most undesirable traits he has to repeatedly re-rationalize as negative in his own mind. This is because he loves her.
The next argument comes from Doc’s “middle mind”. I think this is supposed to represent the more logical side of himself, his brain. I read a few articles about some really cool hidden, ignored subconscious thoughts that turned into different sicknesses until the mind had acknowledged the feelings and consciously healed them. In the story, Doc had been worried about his health. They finally suggest in this chapter that it might be because he’s trying to shut down and ignore his love for her.
The next argument comes from Doc’s “low mind” which is clearly his heart. Seems to be more positive and reassuring that everyone is good and bad, not just one or the other. If you decide to acknowledge that nobody is all good or all bad and accept your person’s highs with their lows, then you can allow real love to happen. If not, you can quit, and wonder “what if” all your life-and it’ll probably drive you insane. Eventually, you’ll realize that everybody has a great side to go with that bad side, that everybody has a few irrational moments of passion to pair with their well-thought articulated moments of logic, and that there is not a single way to appreciate all the flowers in your garden without consistently pulling out the weeds. When you do realize this, hopefully you didn’t give up on the girl because of what everyone else said; hopefully you realized what you thought, how you felt, and the truths you knew were enough to stand up for the love that you were internally arguing with passing by.
The book never tells you what Doc decided. That’s why I like Steinbeck.
I also had this whole other thing worked out about how Steinbeck was really using this as a metaphor for Jesus, The Holy Spirit, and God. He was super religious and all, but I went with this twist to stay true to theme and… just the overwhelming relevance of page 194 in a book, I started a few days ago, and my life. Coincidences are rationalizations for people ignorant to the fact that they are not steering their own life, but insist on thinking that they are. When I read things that have such strong parallels with my current situation, I try to be humble enough to acknowledge and understand I’m apparently right on track with my life path and getting a well-deserved sign that I’m heading where I should be. The reassurance that it isn’t just my plan always seems to make things much easier anyways. Especially when I’m often left wanting things that clearly are just not supposed to be for me right now.