“Doc could not interpret the black voice of his guts.”

Sweet Thursday REVIEW

Sweet Thursday“There are people who will say that this whole account is a lie, but a thing isn’t necessarily a lie even if it didn’t necessarily happen.”

Steinbeck’s third novel in the Cannery Row trilogy serves up another dose of his particular brand of moral relativism. Steinbeck is a promoter of what I might call “intention ethics.” Characters can be guilty of any number of conventional violations of religious or social codes and still be regarded as saints so long as their intentions are good intentions (and they usually are). It is more important to Steinbeck to know why a person lies than to know that they do lie for example. If one is to judge Fauna, the owner of the Bear Flag (the local brothel), it is important to know how well she cares for “her girls” than to know how their business model measures up against Mosaic law. The main characters in Sweet Thursday have little regard for conventional moral codes but they exhibit what are, to Steinbeck, virtue.  In the moral ledgers of Cannery Row and Tortilla Flats, vices and virtues are things to be balanced. The following conversation early in the novel sets the tone.

There was never a friend like Lee Chong," Mack said brokenly.
  "Yes, he was wise and good," said Doc.
  "And tricky," said Mack.
  "And smart," said Doc.
  "He took care of a lot of people," said Mack.
  "And he took a few," said Doc.

 They volleyed Lee Chong back and forth, and their memories built virtues that would have surprised him, and cleverness and beauty too. While one told a fine tale of that mercantile Chinaman the other waited impatiently to top the story. Out of their memories there emerged a being scarcely human, a dragon of goodness and an angel of guile. In such a way are the gods created.”

Steinbeck’s Almighty would be a being whose virtues outweighed his vices, not one that had none of the later. Where a character has more vices than virtues as is the case with Joseph and Mary (that is one name for those of you who have not read the novel), even then, Steinbeck has a capacity for winking at the shortfall. Somehow, a person with few vices can be a good person so long as they are interesting. Of Joseph and Mary, Steinbeck writes:

“Somewhere he felt there was a profession illegal enough to satisfy him morally and yet safe enough not to outrage his instinctive knowledge of the law of averages. You might have said he was well launched on his career when, suddenly, puberty smote him, and for a number of years his activities took a different direction.”

Steinbeck’s characters do not twist themselves into pretzels to be upstanding members of some local Baptist Church. They are, “at ease with themselves.”

“Doc's natural admiration and desire for women had always been satisfied by women themselves. He had few responsibilities except to be a kindly, generous, and amused man. And these he did not find difficult. All in all, he had always been a fulfilled and contented man. A specimen so rare aroused yearning in other men, for how few men like their work, their lives--how very few men like themselves. Doc liked himself, not in an adulatory sense, but just as he would have liked anyone else. Being at ease with himself put him at ease with the world.”

You can see this moral relativity at work in the boys’ decision to have a raffle to raise money for Doc’s telescope. The raffle is completely and shamelessly rigged in such a way that the boys do not lose their accommodations (“The Palace Flophouse is the prize”).

“To Doc’s friends, Mack and the boys mentioned the rigging of the lottery, but to strangers—who cared? It was a perfect example of the collective goodness and generosity of a community.”

Fauna and the boys of the Palace flophouse and the Bear Flag brothel don’t scold anyone for scratching their itches, either sexual or alcoholic. The social codes of the respectable proletariat are less than nothing to them. Consider how Fauna talks to Doc as she is explaining why Suzie is a liability for a brothel .

“Doc,” said Fauna, “I knocked around and I seen all kinds. I tell you, if you got a streak of lady in you it spoils you for anything else. Now you never come over to the Bear Flag. You play the field. I personally think that costs you more but I ain’t one to mess in the way people want to live.”

“I don’t think I’m following you,” said Doc.
“Okay, I’ll lay out the deck. When you’re making a play for one of them babes, them amateurs, you got to do quite a lot of talking before you make the sack—ain’t that right?”
Doc smiled ruefully. “Right,” he said.
“Well, do you always mean every word of it?”
Doc pinched his lower lip. “Why—why—I guess right at the moment I do.”
“But afterward?”
“Afterward, if I were to think about it—”
“That’s what I mean,” said Fauna. “So if you happen to tell a little teensy-beensy bit of baloney you don’t blow your brains out.”
“You’d do well in the analysis business,” said Doc.”

Her characters are not people of stiff moral backbone so much as people with flexible moral cartilage. For Steinbeck, righteousness is not to be found in the observed deed but in the hidden intent. “What hidden, hoarded longings there are in all of us!” he writes,

“Behind the broken nose and baleful eye may be a gentle courtier; behind the postures and symbols and myths of Joe Elegant there may be the hunger to be a man. If one could be, for only an evening, whatever in the world one wished, what would it be? What secret would come out?”

Perhaps the best illustration of this morality of intention rather than the morality of compliance or the morality of consequence is the character of Hazel in Sweet Thursday. Hazel is a character of extremely limited intelligence but great heart. In Hazel’s quest to help solve his loneliness problem, he sets out to find out what Doc needs and to make it possible for Doc and Suzie to close the “couple gap” (my words) that divides them. When Suzie explains in not so many words that Doc simply does not need her and that the only thing that might make it possible for them to form a pair would be if Doc got sick or broke a bone, Hazel has a dark night of the soul but determines to break Doc’s arm. Steinbeck describes the scene of Hazel’s anguish in terms that draw close parallels to Jesus struggling with his decision to go to the cross in the Garden of Gethsemane. The chapter is entitled “Lama Sabathani” the words Jesus used on the cross to ask his Father why he had been forsaken.

“Under the black cypress tree Hazel writhed on the ground. From between his clenched teeth came little whimpers. As the night drew on and the moon went down, leaving blackness, so desolation fell on Hazel, so that he cried out against the agony of his greatness as that Other did, feeling forsaken.

Hour after hour the struggle went on, and only about three o’clock in the morning was Hazel saturated. Then he accepted it as he had accepted the poisoned presidency of the United States. He was calm, for there was no escape. If anyone had seen him it would have been a dull man who did not find him beautiful.

Hazel picked his chosen instrument from the ground—an indoor-ball bat. He crept like a night-colored cat out of the black shadow of the cypress tree.

In less than three minutes he returned. He lay on his stomach under the tree and wept.”

So, Hazel goes up to Doc’s house, finds him sleeping, and hits him in the arm with a baseball bat. And, as if on cue, every one of Doc’s friends sees what Hazel has done as an act of benevolent grace. They understand what Hazel’s intents were. They judge him by his innocent intention. And how can love be wrong that loves with good intent?

And here, dear reader, I should like to pivot and turn our focus to Doc for he is the central protagonist of Sweet Thursday. Doc has a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, has an IQ of 185, and is far-and-away the smartest and most functional character in the novel. He is the owner of Western Biologicals, a company that he staffs singlehandedly, dedicated to the collection and sale of bio-organisms for research. He makes a good living. He enjoys his drink and periodic women, and he is the financial and spiritual “center” of the community. When Doc has a problem, everyone in Tortilla Flat feels it and feels despondent. “As goes Doc, so goes the village,” you might say.

And Doc has a problem. His problem, as Steinbeck describes it, arrives with a phase transition in his own psychological life. He used to be satisfied with his intellectual work and his life’s amenities but now he is not.

"Where does discontent start? You are warm enough, but you shiver. You are fed, yet hunger gnaws you. You have been loved, but your yearning wanders in new fields. And to prod all these there's time, the bastard Time. The end of life is now not so terribly far away--you can see it the way you see the finish line when you come into the stretch--and your mind says, ‘Have I worked enough? Have I eaten enough? Have I loved enough?’ All of these, of course, are the foundation of man's greatest curse, and perhaps his greatest glory. ‘What has my life meant so far, and what can it mean in the time left to me?’ And now we're coming to the wicked, poisoned dart: ‘What have I contributed in the Great Ledger? What am I worth?’ And this isn't vanity or ambition. Men seem to be born with a debt they can never pay no matter how hard they try. It piles up ahead of them. Man owes something to man. If he ignores the debt, it poisons him, and if he tries to make payments the debt only increases, and the quality of his gift is the measure of the man.”

Suddenly, Doc is no longer satisfied with having been useful to dozens, hundreds, or thousands of people. Suddenly, his “lowest self” wants “warmth.”

“Looking back, you can usually find the moment of the birth of a new era, whereas, when it happened, it was one day hooked on to the tail of another.”

Doc feels his gnawing lack but cannot label it.

“But now the worm of discontent was gnawing at him. Maybe it was the beginning of Doc's middle age that caused it--glands slackening their flow, skin losing its bloom, taste buds weakening, eyes not so penetrating, and hearing dulled a little. Or it might have been the new emptiness of Cannery Row--the silent machines, the rusting metal. Deep in himself Doc felt a failure. But he was a reasonably realistic man. He had his eyes examined, his teeth X-rayed. Dr. Horace Dormody went over him and discovered no secret focus of infection to cause the restlessness. And so, Doc threw himself into his work, hoping, the way a man will, to smother the unease with weariness. He collected, preserved, injected, until his stock shelves were crowded again. New generations of cotton rats crawled on the wire netting of the cages, and four new rattlesnakes abandoned themselves to a life of captivity and ease.”

But something has changed. Doc discovers what the Rolling Stone discovered; “He can’t get no sat-is-fac-tion.” The “bottom voice” will no longer be silent.

“But the discontent was still there. The pains that came to Doc were like a stir of uneasiness or the flick of a skipped heartbeat. Whisky lost its sharp delight and the first long pull of beer from a frosty glass was not the joy it had been. He stopped listening in the middle of an extended story. He was not genuinely glad to see a friend. And sometimes, starting to turn over a big rock in the Great Tide Pool--a rock under which he knew there would be a community of frantic animals--he would drop the rock back in place and stand, hands on hips, looking off to sea, where the round clouds piled up white with pink and black edges. And he would be thinking, ‘What am I thinking? What do I want? Where do I want to go?’ There would be wonder in him, and a little impatience, as though he stood outside and looked in on himself through a glass shell. And he would be conscious of a tone within himself, or several tones, as though he heard music distantly.

Or it might be this way. In the late night, Doc might be working at his old and battered microscope, delicately arranging plankton on a slide, moving them with a thread of glass. And there would be three voices singing in him, all singing together. The top voice of his thinking mind would sing, ‘What lovely little particles, neither plant nor animal but somehow both--the reservoir of all the life in the world, the base supply of food for everyone. If all of these should die, every other living thing might well die as a consequence.’ The lower voice of his feeling mind would be singing, ‘What are you looking for, little man? Is it yourself you're trying to identify? Are you looking at little things to avoid big things?’ And the third voice, which came from his marrow, would sing, ‘Lonesome! Lonesome! What good is it? Who benefits? Thought is the evasion of feeling. You're only walling up the leaking loneliness.’

Sometimes he would leave his work and walk out to the lighthouse to watch the white flail of light strike at the horizons. Once there, of course, his mind would go back to the plankton, and he would think, ‘It's a protein food of course. If I could find a way to release this food directly to humans, why, nobody in the world would have to go hungry again.’ And the bottom voice would sing, ‘Lonesome, lonesome! You're trying to buy your way in.’

The lowest voice has the fewest words, but they pack a punch. In them is the echo of the first divine word of complaint ever uttered in the Western religious tradition: “It is not good for the man to be alone.”

Everyone in Cannery Row detects the shift

“Doc thought he was alone in his discontent, but he was not. Everyone on the Row observed him and worried about him. Mack and the boys worried about him. And Mack said to Fauna, ‘Doc acts like a guy that needs a dame.’

‘He can have the courtesy of the house anytime,’ said Fauna.
‘I don't mean that,’ said Mack. ‘He needs a dame around. He needs a dame to fight with. Why, that can keep a guy so goddam busy defending himself he ain't got no time to blame himself.’
Fauna regarded marriage with a benevolent eye. Not only was it a desirable social condition, but it sent her some of her best customers.
‘Well, let's marry him off,’ said Fauna.
‘Oh no,’ said Mack. ‘I wouldn't go that far. My God! Not Doc!’

Doc, one step ahead of them, tries to apply the ‘dame solution.’ for that has been his modus operandi here-to-for. ‘Doc tried to solve his problem in the ancient way,’ writes Steinbeck,

“He took a long, leisurely trip to La Jolla, four hundred miles south. He traveled in the old manner, with lots of beer and a young lady companion whose interest in invertebrate zoology Doc thought might be flexible--and it was.”

But as it turns out, what Doc needs, what the lowest self in Doc’s fertile mind needs, is not some new “skank.” He is about to find out the difference between “Eve” and a barnacle. Doc has absolutely no interest his travel mate. Steinbeck puts it this way:

“He recited no poetry to her. The subject of her eyes, her feelings, her skin, her thought, did not come up. Instead Doc told her about octopi--a subject that would have fascinated her two days before.”

“There’s no need for giving the girl a name,” Steinbeck writes as he and Doc dismiss what she has to offer his need as irrelevant. “She never came back to Western Biological. Her interest in science blinked out like a candle.”

“The girl said good-by and went away, and Doc did not know she was gone. For that matter he did not know she had been with him.”

Doc now plans to meet his emotional longing with an intellectual poultice. He will author a paper. “I’m going to call my paper ‘Symptoms in Some Cephalopods Approximating Apoplexy,’ He states. And then he commences to experience an unrelenting case of writers block, brought on by a full scale rebellion of “the lower self.”

“He read what he had written; dull, desiccated, he thought. Why should I presume that an animal so far removed from the human—perhaps I’m fooling myself. The middle voice sang subtly, ‘Looking for yourself in the water—searching, little man, among the hydroids for your soul—looking for contentment in vanity. Are you better than Mack that you should use the secret priestly words of science to cover the fact that you have nothing to say?’”

“And the bottom voice mourned, ‘Lonesome! Lonesome! Let me up into the light and warmth. Lonesome!’”

It is at this point that all the citizens of Cannery Row and Tortilla Flats recognize that Doc, their local genius, the pride of their lives and mainstay of their existence in many ways, is in serious trouble.

“What was Doc’s trouble? Even he didn’t know. He was deeply, grievingly unhappy. For hours on end he sat at his desk with a yellow pad before him and his needle-sharp pencils lined up. Sometimes his wastebasket was full of crushed, scribbled pages, and at others not even a doodle went down. Then he would move to the aquarium and stare into it. And his voices howled and cried and moaned. ‘Write!’ said his top voice, and ‘Search!’ sang his middle voice, and his lowest voice sighed, ‘Lonesome! Lonesome!’ He did not go down without a struggle. He resurrected old love affairs, he swam deep in music, he read The Sorrows of Werther, but the voices would not leave him. The beckoning yellow pages became his enemies. One by one the octopi died in the aquarium. He had worn thin the excuse of his lack of a proper microscope. When the last octopus died he leaped on this as his excuse. When his friends visited him, he would explain, “You see, I can’t go on without specimens, and I can’t get any more until the spring tides. As soon as I have specimens and a new microscope, I can whip the paper right off.”

His friends sensed his pain and caught it, and carried it away with them. They knew the time was coming when they would have to do something.”

“When trouble came to Doc it was everybody’s trouble.” Steinbeck gives us a window into the ever-gathering internal storm.

“His middle voice argued, “Maybe you don’t believe any of it. Why can’t you laugh at yourself? You could once. You’re trapped in a cage of self-importance.”

“Lonesome!” the low voice cried in his guts. “No one to receive from you or give to you. No one warm enough and dear enough.”

Doc wanted desperately to go back to his old life—the hopeless wish of a man wanting to be a little boy, forgetting the pain of little boys.”

He is like a man whose last shell has molted and his new shell has yet to arrive. His posse begins to speculate that Doc needs more than a “dame.” He might – horrors! – need a wife. “I got a theory, if you ain’t too pie-eyed to listen,” says Mack, the leader of the boys.

“When he had them quiet he went on, ‘When you hear my theory you might get kind of violent. I want you to sleep on it before you talk. I think Doc needs a wife.’”


“Well, hell, he don’t have to marry her,” said Mack. “You know what I mean…” If the absinthe had not given them tolerance, he might have had a series of fights right then. “Kindly do not interrupt,” he said. “I will now review the dame situation in the U.S. You take a look at divorces and the reasons for them, and you can only think one thing: the only guy that shouldn’t have nothing to do with picking out a wife is the guy that’s going to marry her. That’s a fact. It’s a fact that if he’s left alone, a guy practically always marries the wrong kind of dame.”

“Play it safe and don’t marry nobody,” said Whitey No. 2.
“There’s some guys can’t operate that way,” said Mack.
“Are you suggesting we turn Doc, our true friend, in?”
“I asked you not to shoot off your face until you slept on it,” said Mack with dignity.
Hazel tugged at his sleeve. “Ain’t you joking, Mack?”
“No,” said Mack, “I ain’t joking.”
“If anything bad come to Doc, you know what I’d do to you?” Hazel asked.
“Yes,” said Mack. “I think I do—and I think I’d have it coming.”

Meanwhile Doc, squirms in his loneliness like one of his octopi stranded in a receding tidepool.

“He set his chin. ‘I will get the spring tides at La Jolla,’ he said to himself. ‘I will get a new microscope.’ And the very lowest voice whispered, ‘Somewhere there’s warmth.’”

Enter that warmth, in the person of Suzy, a recent addition to the team at the Bear Flag brothel, who comes with no degrees, no money, no skills to speak of, and little aptitude for the “work” she has applied to do. What she does have is something that Doc cannot ignore, an unquenchable courageous integrity (outside of the brothel thing which, as we have discussed, Steinbeck is not morally opposed to) and an inability to prevaricate.  

“Say, Doc, you got a funny business—bugs and all like that.”
“There are funnier businesses,” he said sharply.”She stiffened. “Meaning my business? You don’t like my business, huh?”
“It doesn’t matter whether I like it or not. There it is. But it does seem to me a kind of sad substitute for love—a kind of lonesome substitute.”
Suzy put her hands on her hips. “And what’ve you got, mister? Bugs, snakes? Look at this dump! It stinks. Floor ain’t been clean in years. You ain’t got a decent suit of clothes. You probably can’t remember your last hot meal. You sit here breeding bugs—for Chrissake! What do you think that’s a substitute for?”
In the old days Doc would have been amused, but now his guard was down and he caught her anger like a disease. “I do what I want,” he said. “I live the way I want. I’m free—do you get that? I’m free and I do what I want.”
“You ain’t got nothing,” Suzy said. “Bugs and snakes and a dirty house. I bet some dame threw you over. That’s what you’re substituting for. Got a wife? No! Got a girl? No!”
Doc found himself shouting, “I don’t want a wife. I have all the women I want!”
“Woman and women is two different things,” said Suzy. “Guy knows all about women he don’t know nothing about a woman.”
Doc said, “This guy is happy that way.”
“Now you’re happy!” said Suzy. “You’re a pushover! If no dame’s got you it’s because no dame wants you. Who the hell would want to live with bugs and snakes in a joint like this?”
“Who’d want to go to bed with anybody that’s got three bucks?” said Doc cruelly.
Suzy said icily, “A smart guy. A real smart guy. He’s got what he wants. Seems to me I heard you’re writing a great big goddam highfalutin paper.”
“Who told you that?”
“Everybody knows about it. Everybody’s laughing at you behind your back—and you know why? Because everybody knows you’re kidding yourself. You ain’t never going to write that paper because you can’t write that paper. You’re just sitting here like a kid playing wish games.”
She saw her words go home as surely as though she had watched arrows drive into his chest, and misery and shame overwhelmed her. “I wish I didn’t say that,” she spoke softly. “I wish to God I never said that.”
“It might be true,” said Doc quietly. “Maybe you put your finger on the truth.”

Indeed. She put her finger right on the truth. Like a nail gun.

Fauna later asks if Suzy would like her to help her “trap” Doc and Suzy declines, much as she finds that she cares for him. Indeed, Doc’s willingness to let her be a mirror of truth for him impresses. “No,” said Suzy,“I wouldn’t sandbag no guy. Especially Doc.” “Everybody sandbags everybody,” Fauna, replies. “Let’s don’t sandbag Doc,” Suzy insists trying to draw the conversation to a close.

“I don’t want to lay no bear trap for him, Fauna.”

"Fauna was smiling to herself. She said, 'I guess a man is the only kind of varmint sets his own trap, baits it, and then steps in it. You just set still, Suzy girl. Don’t do nothing. Nobody can’t say you trapped him if you don’t do nothing.'”

And sure enough, when we return to Steinbeck’s “Doc narrative,” we find “the varmint” setting, baiting, and stepping in his own trap. Fauna simply determines that she will not him take an excess of time getting to the truth he is too “smart” to see. Steinbeck writes of her devious plan,

“There will be those who will consider that Fauna took too much upon herself in engineering a marriage without the knowledge or collusion of either party, and such skeptics will be perfectly right. But it was Fauna’s conviction, born out of long experience, that most people, one, did not know what they wanted; two, did not know how to go about getting it; and three, didn’t know when they had it.

Fauna was one of those rare people who not only have convictions but are quite willing to take responsibility for them. She knew that Doc and Suzy should be together. And since they were too confused, or thoughtless, or shy to bring about that happy state, Fauna was prepared to do it for them. Her critics will cry, ‘Suppose she is wrong! Maybe this association has no chance of success.’ And Fauna’s answer to this, if she had heard it, would have been, ‘They ain’t doing so good now. It might work. What they got to lose? And when you look at it, what chance has anybody got? Doc put on a tie, didn’t he? And if I’m wrong it’s my fault. Sure, they’ll fight now and then. Who don’t? But maybe they’ll get something too. What’s the odds for anybody?’

And if it was suggested that people should have the right to choose for themselves after thinking it over, she would have replied, ‘Who thinks? I can think because I ain’t part of it.’

And if she had been accused of being a busybody she would have said, ‘Damn right! Done it all my life!’ You couldn’t win an argument with Fauna because she would agree with you and then go right on as she had planned. She had taken up astrology because she found that people who won’t take advice from a wise and informed friend will blindly follow the orders of the planets—which, by all reports, are fairly remote and aloof. Doc would refuse astrology, so he had to be sandbagged. Fauna expected no thanks. She had given that up long ago. Doc could not interpret the black voice of his guts, but it sounded loud in Fauna’s ears. She knew his loneliness. When she was with him, that low voice drowned out all the others.”

In the end, Doc is trying to respond to a need for water (connection) with an excess of condiments (intellectual work). One of Doc’s friends has it about right,

“There’s a lack of fulfillment in you. I think you have violated something or withheld something from yourself—almost as though you were eating plenty but no Vitamin A. You aren’t hungry, but you’re starving. That’s what I think.”

“I can’t imagine anything I lack,” replies Doc oblivious to his “lower voice” still. “I have freedom, comfort, and the work I like. What have I missed?”

“Well, last night, in every conversation, a girl named Suzy crept in—” says Old Jay.

Eventually, Doc learns what Fauna knows. As Steinbeck puts it, “The low voice of Doc’s guts burst through at last.”

“I’m lonely,” he said. He said it as a simple matter of fact, and he said it in wonder.”

Doc’s lower voice will no longer let him rest. “Low min”d all of a sudden expresses himself with complete sentences.

“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! Feel this, this red burning? That’s rage. Will you let it out or will it fester here until it makes you sick and crazy? Look at the time.”

There is more to the story than I am telling here but, eventually, all that will be required is for Hazel to break the sleeping Doc’s arm with a baseball bat, for Suzy to come over and ask if he needs some help, and for Doc to say, “I need you all right. I’d be lost without you.”

“Brother,” says Suzy, “You got yourself a girl!” “

And thus is Hazel’s mission accomplished and John Steinbeck’s story concluded.

Doc asks Suzy if she can drive to La Jolla. She says, “Yes of course,” and asks for two hours to get ready. Two hours that she uses to get the boys to teach her how to drive.

Lies, after all, are not wrong, if the liar and her friends all have good intentions.

Question for Comment: Steinbeck’s story Sweet Thursday suggests that there isn’t always a logical reason for how we go about settling upon a solution to our deepest longings for connection.

Here is the sound of Doc’s reasoning mind telling him that Suzy is a mistake:

“I’m supposed to have this wild free brain without conventional barriers. And what did I do? I balanced a nasty ledger. I weighed education, experience, background, even probable bloodlines. Some of the worst people I ever knew had the best of all those. Well, there it is. Saying it has made it even clearer.”

“Middle mind had its way. 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 still would 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 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 tennis against a bad player. Let’s stop this nonsense! Forget it! You can’t have it and you don’t want it.”

“Let me put it this way: there is nothing I can do. They say of an amputee that he remembers his leg. Well, I remember this girl. I am not whole without her. I am not alive without her. When she was with me I was more alive than I have ever been, and not only when she was pleasant either. Even when we were fighting I was whole. At the time I didn’t realize how important it was, but I do now. I am not a dope. I know that if I should win her I’ll have many horrible times. Over and over, I’ll wish I’d never seen her. But I also know that if I fail I’ll never be a whole man. I’ll live a gray half-life, and I’ll mourn for my lost girl every hour of the rest of my life. As thoughtful reptiles you will wonder, ‘Why not wait? Look further! There are better fish in the sea!’ But you are not involved. Let me tell you that to me not only are there no better fish, there are no other fish in the sea at all. The sea is lonely without this fish. Put that in your pipe and smoke it!”

“Let me face this clearly, please! I need her to save myself. I can be whole only with Suzy.”

“He stood up and he did not feel silly anymore and his mission was not ridiculous. ‘So long,’ he said to the rattlesnakes. ‘Wish me luck!’”

Is Doc making a good decision here?