By Frank Norris
Just like the tentacles of an octopus, the tracks of the railroad reached out throughout California, as though to know every little thing of worth within the nation in keeping with a precise, bloody dispute among wheat farmers and the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1880, The Octopus is a beautiful novel of the waning days of the frontier West. To the tough-minded and self-reliant farmers, the monopolistic, land-grabbing railroad represented every little thing they despised: consolidation, association, conformity. yet Norris idealizes nobody during this epic depiction of the unstable state of affairs, for the farmers themselves ruthlessly exploited the land, and of their starvation for higher holdings they resorted to an analogous strategies utilized by the railroad: subversion, coercion and outright violence. In his creation, Kevin Starr discusses Norris's debt to Zola for the novel's impressive sweep, scale and abundance of characters and info.
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Extra info for The Octopus: A Story of California: The Epic of Wheat v. 1 (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics)
Nonetheless, my point is that a vertical appeal to meaning is, for the most part, underplayed in the works of realism that I examine. 36 Works of realism, so the argument runs, demystify imaginative visions of romance by positing a more realistic world. Nonetheless, because the realistic world that they posit is itself an imaginative construct, realists are ultimately forced to acknowledge the reality of romance as the foundation of their works. The project of realism, it seems, is condemned to fail.
In contrast, I do closely examine selected literary texts. This imbalance betrays my training as a literary critic. I hope that this disciplinary bias does not discourage members of the legal profession curious enough to start reading the book. The first two chapters are designed in part to keep those readers interested. If they have not read all the literary works that I treat, they should not despair; many literary critics have not either. I hope that my readings of literary works will enrichand perhaps alterlegal scholars' understanding of the period's legal history.
34 In a romance, as in Billy Budd, meaning of the everyday, no matter how realistically rendered, must be sought in a transcendent world. Granted, the narrator warns us that Billy Budd is no romance, and Melville's plot suggests that the higher world to which it appeals has itself been emptied of meaning. 35 To be sure, Twain and James each in his own way served as a model for various modernist writers, Twain through his use of the vernacular, James through his mastery of psychological realism.