Frank Norris – 1870-1902
A West Coast journalist, Norris created a new kind of American novel, which embodied a “naturalist” vision, suggesting that human events were driven by essentially natural forces, amoral and beyond the individual’s will or control. McTeague (1899) presented an almost surreal vision in this vein, telling the story of brutish dentist who kills his wife then dies as he flees through Death Valley. His subsequent work was more realistic, culminating in The Octopus (1901), which depicted the amoral forces of economics in society. Norris’s life was cut short by a failed appendicitis operation.