Analysis

Whereas the rest of the friends in Danny's group are tainted in some way, Jesus Maria Corcoran is the voice of innocence. He has an almost childlike view of the world, which Steinbeck emphasizes by including details like, "He slept like a baby." Perhaps Pablo describes him best when he says, "His is a grasshopper brain. He sings and plays and jumps. There is no seriousness in him." Because of his innocence, Jesus Maria is always in trouble with women that are smarter, or at least more manipulative than he. Jesus Maria is clearly played for a fool by Arabella Gross, who accepts his presents but then leaves him when some soldiers come to see her. Even afterwards, Jesus Maria does not understand what has happened. He explains to Pablo and Pilon that it had been time for her to go, indicating that he wanted their relationship to be clean and traditional, despite Arabella's reputation as a "cannery slut." This is not a bad thing, however. Jesus Maria Corcoran is described as a very kind soul, who cared nothing for himself, and who would do anything for his friends.

The moral atmosphere of Monterey is bizarre and clearly liberal when it comes to the issues of sex. Whorehouses seem to liter the landscape, and there is casual, and often extramarital sex happening at every turn. Cornelia Ruiz is the most talked about person in town because of her nighttime exploits but despite her reputation, everyone still wants to sleep with her. Pablo and Pilon talk of her as an evil woman, but later in the book it is evident that they would pounce on a chance to win her graces. Sex is also a tradable commodity, proven by the adventures of Pablo and Pilon with Mrs. Torrelli. While affairs and one night stands are the norm, and generally applauded and encouraged by the people of Monterey, especially among Danny's friends, any sort of committed relationship is looked down upon. The endearing quality of the paisano lifestyle is the freedom that the paisanos enjoy. Any sort of commitment to a woman is a blatant attack on this lifestyle. That is why Pilon is so worried about Danny becoming involved with a Portagee girl whose reputation was that of a girl who thought a lot about marriage. If a man wanted to be involved with a woman for anything more than a one night fling, Monterey etiquette seems to imply that the man should buy his woman gifts and have drinks to offer her. This is also an obvious strain on the paisano way of life.

Like the town lifestyle and scenery of Monterey itself, the way that Steinbeck describes that town is free of overly poetic detail and his language is completely free of embellishment. He brings about the change from daytime to night by describing the fisherman who thought that fish bit during the day being replaced by the fishermen who believed that they bit at night. Idiosyncratic details, of which this is just one example, serve to create a feeling of simple, rustic, and beautiful unity. This consistency in the types of characters, the types of details, and subject matter help readers feel at home in the environment that Steinbeck creates. Once readers are inside, it is easier to accept the things that are engrained in Monterey, like the profusion of extra marital sex, which might have seemed more unusual otherwise. Instead of labeling Monterey immediately as a den of sinners, Steinbeck bends our reception of the facts, and convinces us that it is really a very wholesome community.