The Octopus A Story of California

The Octopus A Story of California

by Frank Norris


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781720696087
Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date: 06/27/2018
Pages: 392
Product dimensions: 7.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.81(d)

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The Octopus: A Story of California 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
jwhenderson on LibraryThing 8 months ago
While more than a great read, I cannot pretend to agree with the dire determinism of the author, Frank Norris. This novel of California wheat farmers versus the Railroad (the 'Octopus' of the title) is in the naturalistic tradition of Zola. In fact I was reminded of my reading of Germinal at times while rereading this classic, yet flawed, novel. Norris tends toward hyperbole at times and the prose can be somewhat melodramatic, yet it is a lucidly written novel with fascinating characters. The poet, Presley, is one character who particularly fascinated me. Presumably a stand-in for Norris himself, Presley is able to comment on the action and almost persuade the people to rise up against the Railroad; however, he is ultimately unsuccessful in changing their fate determined by Nature. Norris planned a trilogy based on his story of 'Wheat' but only finished one more volume, The Pit, before his untimely death.
ladycato on LibraryThing 8 months ago
News stories about Occupy Wall Street and the 99% have dominated the headlines for the past year. These same themes also dominate this century-old book, which was a bestseller in 1901. Here, the Octopus is the Railroad, its tentacles suffocating and destroying the lives of hardworking ranchers and their families.This book is also personal for me. It's based on real events that happened around 1880 in central California, only miles away from where I grew up a century later. The Southern Pacific leased land to ranchers, and then after the land was developed and the lease time was at end, the railroad increased the price tenfold and then acted to force the farmers off the land. The end result was the Mussel Slough Tragedy, a shoot-out that killed several men and made the surviving ranchers into local folk heroes.Norris used those elements to create his drama of the West. He changed many of the facts; in his book, the incident takes place right before 1900, and the real places of Hanford and Grangeville have been altered to Bonneville and Guadalajara, respectively. The latter also has a mission in this telling. The geography is also strangely different with nearby hills and canyons that provide handy places for his characters to look down upon the valley of promise; in reality, the hills are some 40 miles away.There are some classics that age better than others. The Octopus is very slow to get going. It has a wide cast of characters and changes points of view on a whim. The women are stock characters, either simpering or overly noble; the real protagonists are the men. In Victorian fashion, the descriptions wax eloquent and can go on for pages. Very little happens in the first 2/3 of this 650 page novel. Much of it is building up the tension, slowly, and has a great deal of angst. However, when the end comes it actually moves along at a steady clip. It's a tragedy in a Rocks Fall Everyone Dies sort of way. Most of the main cast is annihilated: the men dead, the women suffering through miscarriage or poverty or prostitution. All of this is the fault of the railroad or their own moral failings.Those moral failings are heavy-handed in the style of the time, but also are not clear black and white. The most upstanding of the characters suffer because of their poor choices. A character I disliked immensely at the beginning was Annixter; he was creepy and anti-woman, with an angry fixation on his dairymaid. However, by the end of the book he had transformed and became a redemptive figure because of the love of that very dairymaid.The book is also steeped in the biased attitudes of the time. The head of the railroad is Jewish. The cast of good guys is very Anglo-Saxon. The lesser farmhands, such as the Portuguese, are regarded with disdain (which is amazing to me since the valley's Portuguese population is now so large and integral). The most blatantly racist line of the book is near the end, after a jack rabbit round-up: "The Anglo-Saxon spectators round drew back in disgust, but the hot, degenerated blood of the Portuguese, Mexican, and mixed Spaniard boiled up in excitement at this wholesale slaughter." It makes me wince, but the statement is also a reflection of the time period and must be seen in that context. Also, most of those wincing Anglo-Saxons ended up dead, but the so-called degenerates lived on. Perhaps there's a sort of Darwinism in that.It's not a fun read, but I found it fascinating to read a dramatization of events that happened a few miles away from my home, and I'm glad I finally trudged through the tome. Sometimes it's good to read a classic just to be able to say, "I read that."
SandSing7 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
The first book or section is extremely slow, and you're not quite sure where Norris is heading; however, stick with it! The next 500 pages are enthralling, read very quickly, and are scattered with moments of pure genius. A relatively unknown gem of American Literature.
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.