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


Page 263

hard, sordid strife of daily affairs are fine, if not always quite realized, phases of poetry and faith. The style, though tending always to turgidity, is strong and full; the movement, though at times nervous, is rapid; the pictures, though perhaps excessively panoramic, are always richly alive.
  The passion which informs The Octopus, a kind of fiery zeal for truth which lifted and enlarged all Norris wrote, is the quality which marked him off from the older realism of Howells. Zola had it, and Norris, who called Zola “the very head of the Romanticists,” was even willing to name his own form of naturalism romantic if he could thus argue for the use in fiction of deeper and more stirring truths than those minute, those surface matters which, in his judgment, were the chief stock in trade of official realism. Perhaps the most obvious instance in his work of this romantic tendency is the story of Vanamee in The Octopus, the sheep-herder who has mystical communion with the spirit of his dead mistress. But equally romantic, in fact, is Norris’s constant preoccupation with “elemental” emotions. His heroes are nearly all violent men, wilful, passionate, combative; his heroines—thick-haired, large-armed women, almost all of a single physical type—are endowed with a frank and deep, if slow vitality. Love in Norris’s world is the mating of vikings and valkyries. A plain case of such heroic passions may be found in Moran of the Lady Letty (1898), the story of a civilized young San Franciscan who is shanghaied upon a Pacific fishing boat and, among many adventures, meets and loves the splendid Norse savage, Moran, whom he wins with the valor aroused in him by a



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