Ben Franklin Norris

Ben Franklin Norris
Benjamin Franklin Norris, one of the leading figures in the naturalistic style of writing, was born in Chicago in 1970. During his teenage years he moved to 1822 Sacramento Street to live with his father in San Francisco. He traveled to Paris and studied Art and was first exposed to one of his influential writers Emile Zola. He returned to San Francisco and studied the philosophy of evolution at the University of California at Berkley. He transferred to Harvard and took writing classes under Lewis E Gates. Upon graduating he attempted to make a name for himself as a travel writer. He traveled to South Africa and wrote an article about the Boer war. His plans to stay there were cut short as he was captured by the Boer army and deported back to the United States. When he returned to San Francisco, Norris began writing for the magazine The Wave.
It was at The Wave that he wrote his first published article that later turned into a novel. Norris continued to work as a journalist, covering the Spanish-American war and he published a few more novels. In 1900, he began work on his second trilogy and most influential set of writings called The Epic of Wheat. The first book of his trilogy, The Octopus, was published in 1901. The second novel, The Pitt, was just near finished when he suffered from appendicitis and had to go under the knife to have his appendix removed. Unfortunately he never recovered from his surgery, and the third book of his trilogy was never written. Norris was married to a girl named Jeanette, and had bought a ranch ten miles west of Gilroy, California along route 152. Because of his death, he never got to stay there and continue writing as planned. His body is buried at the foot of Piedmont Avenue in Oakland, California, plot twelve, lot 105, site 11, on the cemetery map.
Although Benjamin Franklin Norris, or Frank Norris as his gravestone reads, died at the young age of 32. He still managed to be recognized to be one of the best naturalistic writers at the turn of the century. Norris had a short life, but it was packed full of things that had a huge impact on him. He witnessed different wars, and the industrial revolution firsthand. As a naturalistic writer, your experiences are what drive your work. Norris? writing was very creative as a result of his experiences. You also could tell about his life by looking at the themes in Norris? fiction books. A great example of this, is the impact of the industrialization on what he thought of as peaceful agricultural communities. The chaos of the people who lived in those communities was an expression of Norris? discomfort of what was going on in his life at that time. These themes are best showcased in his novel, The Octopus. The tentacles of the octopus are a metaphor for the twisting steel tracks of the railroad ?choking? the countryside. Norris got the idea for The Octopus from the Santa Carla valley___ where he stayed on extended vacation. It was that valley where he became aware of the struggle between the farmers who grew wheat and the railroad monopoly that controlled the transportation of it. In The Octopus, the war is fought out in the open with violence and also behind closed doors with bribes. With this novel, Norris single handedly created a social drama in American literature. This was done through his interpretation of the ?ruthless? era. The Octopus is hailed by many critics as Norris? ?most impressive work? or as Warren French said, ?A magnificent, imaginative achievement, one of the few American novels to bring a significant episode from our history to life.?
According to Norris, realism is the literature of the normal and the representative. ?The smaller details of everyday life, things that are likely to happen between lunch and supper.? He says naturalism brings together the best from realism, romanticism, while displaying detailed accuracy and philosophical depth.
?It is a school by itself, unique, somber, powerful beyond words. Its Naturalism? ? Norris

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