The Octopus: A Story of California

The Octopus: A Story of California

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by Frank Norris
     
 

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Like the tentacles of an octopus, the tracks of the railroad reached out across California, as if to grasp everything of value in the state Based on an actual, bloody dispute between wheat farmers and the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1880, The Octopus is a stunning novel of the waning days of the frontier West. To the tough-minded and self-reliant

Overview

Like the tentacles of an octopus, the tracks of the railroad reached out across California, as if to grasp everything of value in the state Based on an actual, bloody dispute between wheat farmers and the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1880, The Octopus is a stunning novel of the waning days of the frontier West. To the tough-minded and self-reliant farmers, the monopolistic, land-grabbing railroad represented everything they despised: consolidation, organization, conformity. But Norris idealizes no one in this epic depiction of the volatile situation, for the farmers themselves ruthlessly exploited the land, and in their hunger for larger holdings they resorted to the same tactics used by the railroad: subversion, coercion and outright violence. In his introduction, Kevin Starr discusses Norris's debt to Zola for the novel's extraordinary sweep, scale and abundance of characters and details.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780140390407
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
07/01/1986
Series:
Penguin Classics Series
Pages:
688
Product dimensions:
7.00(w) x 5.00(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Benjamin Franklin Norris, Jr. (1870-1902) was an American novelist, during the Progressive Era, writing predominantly in the naturalist genre. His notable works include McTeague, The Octopus: A Story of California, and The Pit. Frank Norris's work often includes depictions of suffering caused by corrupt and greedy turn-of-the-century corporate monopolies. In The Octopus: A California Story, the Pacific and Southwest Railroad is implicated in the suffering and deaths of a number of ranchers in Southern California. At the end of the novel, after a bloody shootout between farmers and railroad agents at one of the ranches (named Los Muertos), readers are encouraged to take a "larger view" that sees that "through the welter of blood at the irrigating ditch. Although he did not openly support socialism as a political system, his work nevertheless evinces a socialist mentality and influenced socialist/progressive writers such as Upton Sinclair. Like many of his contemporaries, he was profoundly affected by the advent of Evolution, and Thomas Henry Huxley's philosophical defense of it. Norris was particularly influenced by an optimistic strand of Evolutionary philosophy taught by Joseph LeConte, whom Norris studied under while at the University of California, Berkeley. Through many of his novels, notably McTeague, runs a preoccupation with the notion of the civilized man overcoming the inner "brute," his animalistic tendencies. His peculiar, and often confused, brand of Social Darwinism also bears the influence of the early criminologist Cesare Lombroso and the French naturalist Emile Zola.

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The Octopus: A Story of California 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a great novel. Really interesting details of the times.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book seem like a one sided tale of how terrible big business can be. But late in the book our principal charitar has a meeting with the percieved evil person that is the President of the railroad. During this encounter the RR President confesses that at any time the farmers could have refused to do business with the railroad and pressured the railroad into more agreeable business arangments.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Frank Norris uses the English language like a fine artist uses paint. This is a brilliant, timeless novel that explores an interesting era of American history. I was leary to read the book due to the fear of getting a 'Sinclair-ian' socialist lecture, but this novel simply tells a human story with the objectivity of a good journalist. One of the true 'American' classics.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This century-old novel is as timely today as when it was first published. In an archetypal tale of struggle between farmers and Railroad, People and Trust, Norris explores the brutality, injustice and evil of the capitalist system. A brilliant, gut-wrenching cry of social protest.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Teddy ridiculed the writers and photographers wh exposed the darker side of prosperous turn of the century America. Norris does all of that and more buy exposing greed, corruption, hate, and family troubles in The Octopus. With memorable characters like Buck Anexter, Vanamee, and Hilma Tree this is a book for all time and all people.