Nonfiction > Carl Van Doren > The American Novel > Subject Index > Page 262
  PREVIOUS NEXT  
CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD · SUBJECT INDEX

Carl Van Doren (1885–1950).  The American Novel.  1921.


Page 262

  As to his actual achievement, The Pit, though its success on the stage and its vivid presentation of a thrilling drama of business made it more popular than The Octopus, is certainly inferior to the first member of the series. With greater case and lucidity, it has less poetry, less depth of scene and texture, less final significance. In proportion as mere trafficking in wheat is a less organic function than either growing it or eating it, so The Pit falls in interest and power below The Octopus, which takes high rank among the best of American novels. The Octopus of the title is the Pacific and Southwestern Railroad which holds the wheat growers of California in its cruel tentacles, able if it likes to deny them access to their natural markets, and consequently a symbol of the control which economic machinery exercises over the elements of life. The book sets forth the drama of Agriculture and Trade locked in a fierce conflict, with Trade for the moment villain and victor. Norris’s sympathies lie with the oppressed ranchmen; the Railroad has the iron teeth and ruthless hunger of the Old Witch of juvenile melodrama; in the end, though the ranchers have been defeated, the wheat itself too symbolically pours in upon the agent of the Railroad and destroys him—the wheat “untouched, unassailable, undefiled, that mighty world-force, that nourisher of nations, wrapped in Nirvanic calm, indifferent to the human swarm, gigantic, resistless.” And yet these cosmic implications do not remove the story too far from actual existence in California. The canvas swarms with actualities—plowing, planting, harvesting, sheep-herding, merry-making, rabbit-killing, love, labor, birth, death. Intimately involved with the



CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD · SUBJECT INDEX
  PREVIOUS NEXT  
 
Loading
Click here to shop the Bartleby Bookstore.

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2014 Bartleby.com · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors