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The Octopus
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The Octopus: A Story of California is a 1901 novel by Frank Norris and was meant to be the first part of an uncompleted trilogy, The Epic of the Wheat. It describes the wheat industry in California, and the conflicts between wheat growers and a railway company. Norris was inspired to write the novel by the Central Pacific Railroad and the Mussel Slough Tragedy. In the novel he depicts the tensions between the railroad, the ranchers and the ranchers' League. The book emphasized the control of "forces"-such as the power of railroad monopolies-over individuals. Some editions of the work give the subtitle as alternately, A California Story. Plot summary-The Octopus depicts the conflict between wheat farmers in the San Joaquin Valley and the Pacific and Southwestern railroad (P&SW). The railroad attempts to take possession of the land the farmers have been improving for many years, forcing them to defend themselves. The wheat farmers are represented by Magnus Derrick, the reluctant leader of the ad hoc farmers' League designed to fight for retention of their land and low-cost freight rates. S. Behrman serves as the local representative of P. & S. W. In his attempt at writing his great epic poem, Presley witnesses the disintegration of Annixter, Derrick, Hooven, and their families. Benjamin Franklin Norris, Jr. (March 5, 1870 - October 25, 1902) was an American journalist and sometime novelist during the Progressive Era, whose fiction was predominantly in the naturalist genre.His notable works include McTeague (1899), The Octopus: A Story of California (1901), and The Pit (1903).Life Frank Norris was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1870.His father, Benjamin, was a self-made Chicago businessman and his mother, Gertrude Glorvina Doggett, had a stage career. In 1884 the family moved to San Francisco where Benjamin went into real estate. In 1887, after the death of his brother and a brief stay in London, young Norris went to Academie Julian in Paris where he studied painting for two years and was exposed to the naturalist novels of Emile Zola.Between 1890 and 1894 he attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he became acquainted with the ideas of human evolution of Darwin and Spencer that are reflected in his later writings. His stories appeared in the undergraduate magazine at Berkeley and in the San Francisco Wave. After his parents' divorce he went east and spent a year in the English Department of Harvard University. There he met Lewis E. Gates, who encouraged his writing. He worked as a news correspondent in South Africa (1895-96) for the San Francisco Chronicle, and then as editorial assistant for the San Francisco Wave (1896-97). He worked for McClure's Magazine as a war correspondent in Cuba during the Spanish-American War in 1898. He joined the New York City publishing firm of Doubleday & Page in 1899........."
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