Sweet Thursday

Sweet Thursday

"Sweet Thursday" is a 1954 novel by John Steinbeck. It is a sequel to "Cannery Row" and set in the years after the end of World War II. According to the author, "Sweet Thursday" is the day after Lousy Wednesday and the day before Waiting Friday.

Plot summary

Doc returns to a deserted Western Biological Laboratories after serving in the army during World War II to a changed Cannery Row. Mack and the Boys are still living in the Palace Flophouse, but Lee Chong has sold his general store to one Joseph and Mary Rivas. Since the death of its original owner Dora, the local brothel, The Bear Flag Restaurant, is now being run by Dora's older sister Fauna, a former mission worker previously known as Flora. Under Fauna, the girls of the Bear Flag study etiquette and posture with the goal of joining Fauna's list of 'gold stars', former employees of the Bear Flag who have married and left their employ there.

As Doc tries to rebuild his neglected business, the latest Bear Flag resident Suzy is causing trouble. Fauna knows Suzy isn't cut out to be a working girl, but her soft heart always causes her to fall for a hard luck story. Deciding to make Suzy one of her gold star girls, Fauna plots to throw Suzy into the arms of an unwitting Doc and enlists the aid of Mack and the Boys.

After a disastrous party hosted by Mack and the Boys, Suzy leaves the Bear Flag but not to marry Doc. Choosing to take care of herself, Suzy moves into an empty boiler in a vacant lot and takes a job at the local hash joint, the Golden Poppy. While Cannery Row is stunned over Suzy's actions and Doc wrestles a critical project, Hazel struggles with his own demon. Having been told by Fauna in an astrological reading he will become President of the United States, Hazel fights destiny and breaks Doc's arm in an act of desperation. Realizing Doc's broken arm will keep him from a much needed collecting expedition, Mack and the Boys teach Suzy to drive a car. Suzy and the injured Doc head off to the coast for the collecting expedition.


Love is the major theme of this book, specifically between Doc and Suzy. The love between them is not lust filled or deceitful, rather it is from Suzy being the only person brave enough to give Doc the truth about his life and the research paper he is struggling to write. This honesty shocks Doc because he is used to being treated with unspoken reserve among the other residents of Cannery Row. But Steinbeck knows that your true love is one to speak with honesty, and uses it to show the relationship between Doc and Suzy is genuine.


The novel was derived from Steinbeck's "book" for the Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway musical, "Pipe Dream" (which was nominated for nine Tony Awards). The movie version of this book's predecessor, Cannery Row, incorporates several of the story lines in "Sweet Thursday".

In Popular Culture

The song "Sweet Thursday" from California Singer/Songwriter Matt Costa's 2006 release Songs We Sing is an allusion to the work. The song also incorporates aspects of other Steinbeck works including Tortilla Flat (1935) and The Grapes of Wrath (1939).

In 1960 Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn wrote a suite inspired by this novel; "Suite Thursday"

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