Monday, January 22, 2007

The Octopus

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.

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