The Pit: A Story of Chicago

by Frank Norris
(222 pages)

The Pit deals with the rough and tumble world of the commodity trading pits at the Chicago Board of Trade Building. This was originally written as the second volume in a planned trilogy; the first book The Octopus : A Story of California is also published in a matching volume by the same publisher. The planned third book was never written. In any case, although part of a trilogy, each book is independent and not connected to the other volumes - the only connection is that all three books were to deal with different aspects of the wheat growing cycle.
The author, Benjamin Franklin Norris, Jr. (1870–1902), was an American novelist, during the Progressive Era, writing predominantly in the naturalist genre. His notable works include McTeague, The Octopus: A Story of California, and The Pit. Frank Norris's work often includes depictions of suffering caused by corrupt and greedy turn-of-the-century corporate monopolies. In The Octopus: A California Story, the Pacific and Southwest Railroad is implicated in the suffering and deaths of a number of ranchers in Southern California. At the end of the novel, after a bloody shootout between farmers and railroad agents at one of the ranches (named Los Muertos), readers are encouraged to take a "larger view" that sees that "through the welter of blood at the irrigating ditch. Although he did not openly support socialism as a political system, his work nevertheless evinces a socialist mentality and influenced socialist/progressive writers such as Upton Sinclair. Like many of his contemporaries, he was profoundly affected by the advent of Evolution, and Thomas Henry Huxley's philosophical defense of it. Norris was particularly influenced by an optimistic strand of Evolutionary philosophy taught by Joseph LeConte, whom Norris studied under while at the University of California, Berkeley. Through many of his novels, notably McTeague, runs a preoccupation with the notion of the civilized man overcoming the inner "brute," his animalistic tendencies. His peculiar, and often confused, brand of Social Darwinism also bears the influence of the early criminologist Cesare Lombroso and the French naturalist Emile Zola.

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