sdw's Reviews > The Octopus: A Story of California

The Octopus by Frank Norris
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Jan 07, 09

bookshelves: fiction
Read in January, 2009

"How long must it go on? How long must we suffer? Where is the end: what is the end? How long must the ironhearted monster feed on our life's blood? How long must this terror of steam and steel ride upon our necks? Will you never be satisfied, will you never relent, you, our masters, you, our kings, you, our taskmasters, you, our Pharaohs? Will you never listen to that commandment Let my people go?"

This book is an epic of Wheat in California. And I mean it - an EPIC of WHEAT. I enjoyed it more than The Grapes of Wrath . I read in the afterward that Norris toned down his critiques and complicated the innocence of the farmers to appease the right-ward turn of his press. Yet, I found the book more convincing and engaging because of the moral fall (the fall from innocence) that the railroads' dealings forced upon the farmers.

This book reinforced most of my pre-existing beliefs about depictions of race, gender, and land ownership in California farm narratives. Its a great novel to use to talk about land grants and the railroads in the west.
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