The Octopus by Frank Norris
"The Octopus" by Frank Norris is a riveting novel that delves into the complexities of social, economic, and political issues in the late nineteenth century. Set in California, the novel follows the struggle between small farmers and ranchers in the San Joaquin Valley and the Pacific and Southwestern Railroad, which represents the ruthless power of capitalism. The novel is a searing critique of the devastating impact capitalism has on ordinary people, and it explores themes of power, greed, and corruption.
The novel is divided into four parts, each of which tells an important part of the story.
Part One: The Octopus
In the opening section, we are introduced to the main characters, including the rancher Magnus Derrick and his family, who are struggling to make a living from their land. We also meet the president of the Pacific and Southwestern Railroad, S. Behrman, who is determined to expand his empire at any cost. The first part of the book sets the stage for the conflict between the farmers and the railroad company, which culminates in a violent confrontation.
Part Two: The Wheat
The focus of the second section shifts to the wheat harvest, which is the primary source of income for the farmers. The railroad company raises the freight rates, making it nearly impossible for the farmers to transport their wheat to market. This leads to a crisis and a showdown between the farmers and the railroad company.
Part Three: The Fight
The third section of the book is the climax of the story, where the farmers and the railroad company engage in a violent battle. The farmers try to stop the trains from passing through their land, while the railroad company sends in armed guards to protect their interests. The violence reaches its peak when one of the guards kills a farmer, which leads to a full-scale war between the two sides.
Part Four: The Aftermath
The final section of the book depicts the aftermath of the conflict. The farmers are defeated, and the railroad company emerges victorious, but at a great cost. The violence and destruction have left both sides scarred, and the future looks bleak for the farmers. The novel ends on a note of despair and hopelessness, with the octopus still looming large over the San Joaquin Valley.
"The Octopus" is a thought-provoking novel that speaks to the power dynamics that exist in society even today. It is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of American literature and the social issues that continue to shape our world today. The novel's vivid characters and gripping plot make it a page-turner that is hard to put down.
In conclusion, Frank Norris' "The Octopus" is an American literary masterpiece that explores the dark side of capitalism and the impact it has on ordinary people. The book's powerful themes and gripping plot make it a must-read for anyone interested in social justice and the struggle against inequality.