The Octopus, The Rise of Silas Lapham, The Titan, The Pit, The Wolf
Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Ellis’ [Edith Mary Pargeter] ‘Peters Biography to Portrait of Dora (Portrait de Dora)
a novel by Frank Norris, published in 1903, the second volume in Norris's projected trilogy, ‘The Epic of the Wheat’, the first volume of which is The Octopus (1901). Norris drew on historical fact for his story: the attempt in 1897 of Joseph Leiter to corner the Chicago wheat market. In the novel Leiter becomes Curtis Jadwin, a tycoon with a farm background who has made a fortune in real estate and now wants to dominate the Chicago wheat market of the city's Stock Exchange, ‘the pit’ of the title. In Jadwin, Norris's intention seems to have been to offer a study of the financier along the lines of William Dean Howells's The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885) or Theodore Dreiser's later novel The Titan (1914), but most critics find that the novel comes alive most in the treatment of Jadwin's wife, Laura, as Norris follows her from Massachusetts to Chicago, marriage to Jadwin, and the inevitable decline of their relationship as Jadwin ignores her to indulge his growing passion for speculation in wheat futures. Laura is Norris's finest female creation, and the consequence of this is that The Pit becomes more a domestic tragedy than a coherent part of the planned trilogy. The wheat, the great life force which Norris intended as the central theme of his trilogy, plays a somewhat subordinate role in the novel. The Pit was adapted for both stage and screen. The planned third volume of the trilogy, The Wolf, was never written.
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