The Octopus (Frank Norris)

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  • Topic: Frank Norris, Novel, Erich von Stroheim
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  • Published : October 20, 2008
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Frank Norris (1870-1902)
by Janice Albert
Norris' novels include Blix (1899), The Pit (1903), The Octopus (1901), and the memorable McTeague (1899). Of the writers who assembled in San Francisco's Bohemian Club along with Joaquin Miller and Jack London, young Norris was one of the most energetic, filled with ideas. Like many of his contemporaries, he was profoundly influenced by the advent of Darwinism, and Thomas Henry Huxley's philosophical defense of it. Norris was particularly influenced by an optimistic strand of Darwinist philosophy taught by Joseph LeConte, whom Norris studied under while at UC-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. Frank Norris rests eternally in the deep shade of four Irish yew trees. His elegant monument, dedicated by his fraternity brothers братские отношения at the University of California, is an eight-foot tablet in the Arts and Crafts style. It bears his writer's name, Frank, rather than his given name of Benjamin Franklin Norris, and is embellished украшать with three blades of wheat, in tribute to his epic novel, "The Octopus," about wheat farming in the San Joaquin Valley. Roman numerals (MDCCCLXX-MCMII) blunt the awful fact that this prolific, nationally recognized writer died at the age of 32. Frank Norris, novelist and critic, was one of the progressive writers of his time whose works dealt with social problems and won the attention of the reading public. His critical articles on literature and style did much to turn young writers towards realism. Born in Chicago in 1870 in the family of a rich jeweller, Norris was able to get a good education. When Frank was still a boy, his father moved to California where he became a successful businessman. At the age of seventeen Norris went to Paris where he studied art. Reading the novels of Emile Zola fueled his imagination and sharpened his sense of creative purpose. He studied literature and the arts for about two years. In 1890 he entered the University of California, and later went to study at Harvard University. Later, as an undergraduate at the University of California at Berkeley, he studied the philosophy of evolution in the natural history classes of Joseph LeConte. In 1895, he transferred to Harvard College to develop his writing under Lewis E. Gates. A study of his student work shows that McTeague was already in the making as a series of weekly themes. At the university he began to write his first novel, "McTeague", which was considered to be one of the few naturalistic novels in America. Norris was writing a trilogy of San Francisco, of which McTeague was the middle piece, Blix the starting point, and Vandover the Brute, published posthumously in 1914, the conclusion. The novel was written under the influence of Zola in the style of the French naturalistic writers. It was a portrayal of slum life in San Francisco. Unable to find a pub¬lisher at the time, Norris applied for newspaper work. At the outbreak of the Boer War he was sent to South Africa as a war-cor¬respondent for the San Francis¬co Chronicle. On his return to San Francisco he became as¬sistant editor for the paper The Wave, but all his spare time he devoted to his career as a no¬velist. At heart a literary crit¬ic as much as a writer, Norris kept a keen eye on everything fresh and original in the crea¬tive work of other young writ¬ers. When Crane's first novel "Maggie" appeared, he wrote a review in favour of the book and its gifted author. He was also the first critic to note young Dreiser's talent. Having read the manuscript of Drei¬ser's novel "Sister Carrie", he recommended it for publication. During his time at the University of California, Berkeley Norris was a...
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