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The Octopus - Review Essays

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At the turn of the century, American readers were interested only in stories with happy endings, where goodness was praised and evil was punished. They did not particularly care if that was a false interpretation of the way life really was. When men such as Frank Norris, the author of The Octopus, wrote angrily of the injustices and poverty to be found in America, readers turned away. The Octopus made them change their minds. The course of the novel and the reality of its characters held the readers’ attention. It is so powerful a book that people had to care about the wheat growers, almost against their wishes.

The impact did not end in the early twentieth century, but continues its legacy into the new millenium.The Octopus, depicts the conflict between farmers and the railroad over land and power in California. The conflict between these two is revealed through the perspectives of several different groups, each viewing it their own way and offering differing ways to solve or overcome this problem. Norris uses this story as an example to show what he feels is the most important ethical dilemma of his time. The Pacific and South West railroad (P. and S.W.) was the cause of the crisis, and as the crisis built up, they saw it as an opportunity to make even more money off of the farmers.

The company, in their selfish desire for wealth, continually cheated the farmers, first promising to sell them railroad land at a relatively low price, and then after the farmers greatly im...


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