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FRANK MORRIS

 

(1870-1902)

 

Frank Norris, novelist and critic, was one of the progressive writers of

his time whose works dealt with social problems and won the attention of

the reading public. His critical articles on literature and style did

much to turn young writers towards realism.

 

Born in Chicago in the family of a rich jeweller, Norris was able to get

a good education. When Frank was still a boy, his father moved to

California where he became a successful businessman.

 

At the age of seventeen Norris went to Paris and studied literature and

the arts for about two years. In 1890 he entered the University of

California, and later went to study at Harvard University. There he

began to write his first novel, "McTeague", which was considered to be

one of the few naturalistic novels in America. The novel was written

under the influence of Zola in the style of the French naturalistic

writers. It was a portrayal of slum life in San Francisco. Unable to

find a publisher at the time, Norris applied for newspaper work. At the

outbreak of the Boer War he was sent to South Africa as a

war-correspondent for the San Francisco Chronicle. On his return to San

Francisco he became assistant editor for the paper The Wave, but all his

spare time he devoted to his career as a novelist. At heart a literary

critic as much as a writer, Norris kept a keen eye on everything fresh

and original in the creative work of other young writers. When Crane's

first novel "Maggie" appeared, he wrote a review in favour of the book

and its gifted author. He was also the first critic to note young

Dreiser's talent. Having read the manuscript of Dreiser's novel "Sister

Carrie", he recommended it for publication.

 

His work as a journalist at The Wave took him to various corners of

California. He witnessed an actual fight between the farmers and agents

of the South-Pacific Railroad Company in the struggle of the farmers to

defend their rights to the land they had cultivated. The fight made a

deep impression on the young writer. He knew that his thoughts on the

farmers' movement would not be printed by the newspapers, so he saved

this material for a book which he later wrote, "The Epic on the Wheat".

 

The Spanish-American War found Norris in Cuba as a correspondent for an

American magazine. He wrote many articles against the war, which were

not accepted by the editor because he characterized the war as a bloody

stain on the L'SA and stressed the fact that the American soldiers were

not at all enthusiastic about fighting for the imperialists. In Cuba he

fell ill with yellow fever and had to return home. He went to live in

New York where he began writing his novel "The Epic on the Wheat". But

an operation for appendicitis stopped his creative work. He died in New

York in 1902.

 

NORRIS'S WORKS AND HIS VIEWS ON LITERATURE

 

In his first novel, "McTeague" (1899), Norris wanted to show the

corrupting influence of gold upon human nature, and how it breeds greed

and avarice in human beings. The story is set in a poor district in San

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