Pound pastrami, said one note, can kraut, six bagels,—bring home for Emma.Another list occurs after the dramatis personæ in the play Cyrano de Bergerac. It classifies characters who are not worthy of individual mention but are, nevertheless, needed.
The Crowd, Citizens, Marquis, Musketeers, Thieves, Pastrycooks, Poets, Cadets of Gascoyne, Actors, Violins, Pages, Children, Spanish Soldiers, Spectators, Intellectuals, Academicians, Nuns, etc.What a cross-section of humanity in these words! I think that most people can recognize themselves somewhere in that list. In fact, the word "etc." guarantees it.
John Steinbeck uses lists to show the rich diversity in Cannery Row.
Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses. Its inhabitants are, as the man once said, “whores, pimps, gamblers, and sons of bitches,” by which he meant Everybody. Had the man looked through another peephole he might have said, “Saints and angels and martyrs and holy men,” and he would have meant the same thing.One thing these lists have in common is that we are familiar with their contents. If we are not, then the list becomes a mystery. It gives us an overview of alien thoughts. Jorge Luis Borges illustrated this in "The Analytical Language of John Wilkins" with a bizarre list of the fourteen types of animals, reputedly taken from an ancient Chinese encyclopædia.
- Those that belong to the emperor
- Embalmed ones
- Those that are trained
- Suckling pigs
- Mermaids (or Sirens)
- Fabulous ones
- Stray dogs
- Those that are included in this classification
- Those that tremble as if they were mad
- Innumerable ones
- Those drawn with a very fine camel hair brush
- Et cetera
- Those that have just broken the flower vase
- Those that, at a distance, resemble flies