Frank Norris


A picture of the author Frank Norris

Frank Norris, born in 1870 Chicago, was an American journalist, novelist, and a leader in the Naturalist movement. He believed novels should have moral relevance: "The novel with a purpose brings the tragedies and griefs of others to notice and proves that injustice, crime, and inequality do exist" (www.pbs.org/wnet/americannovel/timeline/norris.html).

Norris moved to San Francisco, attended the University of California, where he was influenced by the French Naturalist writer Emile Zola. He wrote McTeague, his best novel, about how man can overcome his brutish, animalistic tendencies. He was influenced by socialist/progressive Upton Sinclair, and defenders of evolution, particularly Thomas Henry Huxley.

Norris' work includes morally-purposeful action scenes with a theme often involving suffering caused by corrupt and greedy turn-of-the-century corporate monopolies. Norris planned a trilogy, Epic of Wheat, about the production, distribution, and consumption of wheat in America. The first book, The Octopus (1901), dramatized how California farmers were controlled by the railroad industry. The second, The Pit (1903), was published after Norris died in 1902. He never completed his planned third novel, The Wolf.

Norris married the novelist and short story writer Kathleen Norris. His life was cut short following an appendicitis operation at the age of 32.

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