Rates, Romance, and Regulated Monopoly in Frank Norris's The Octopus

Rates, Romance, and Regulated Monopoly in Frank Norris's The Octopus Rates, Romance, and Regulated Monopoly in Frank Norris’s The Octopus James Dorson, Freie Universität Berlin For a novel as grandly conceived as the opening volume in the “Epic of the Wheat,” the plot of Frank Norris’s The Octopus (1901) turns on what seems like a rather prosaic issue: a dispute over freight rates. The clash over rates between the ranchers of the San Joaquin Valley and the Pacific and Southwestern Railroad—modeled after the Southern Pacific Railroad, notorious for its high freight rates—first erupts at the train station in Guadalajara when Harran and Magnus Derrick, two of the biggest ranchers of the San Joaquin Valley, encounter S. Behrman, the regional agent of the railroad, while they are inspecting a shipment of plows. The previous day the ranchers had learned that their legal battle to prevent the railroad from raising its freight rates on grain has failed, a decision by the California Railroad Commission that they suspect Behrman to be behind. Yet when they confront him over the issue, he is glibly evasive. Echoing legal arguments used at the time in rate cases, he insists that low rates amount to a “confiscation of property,” that the railroad only wants “a http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Studies in American Naturalism University of Nebraska Press

Rates, Romance, and Regulated Monopoly in Frank Norris's The Octopus

Studies in American Naturalism, Volume 12 (1) – Nov 3, 2017

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Publisher
University of Nebraska Press
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Copyright © University of Nebraska Press
ISSN
1944-6519
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Abstract

Rates, Romance, and Regulated Monopoly in Frank Norris’s The Octopus James Dorson, Freie Universität Berlin For a novel as grandly conceived as the opening volume in the “Epic of the Wheat,” the plot of Frank Norris’s The Octopus (1901) turns on what seems like a rather prosaic issue: a dispute over freight rates. The clash over rates between the ranchers of the San Joaquin Valley and the Pacific and Southwestern Railroad—modeled after the Southern Pacific Railroad, notorious for its high freight rates—first erupts at the train station in Guadalajara when Harran and Magnus Derrick, two of the biggest ranchers of the San Joaquin Valley, encounter S. Behrman, the regional agent of the railroad, while they are inspecting a shipment of plows. The previous day the ranchers had learned that their legal battle to prevent the railroad from raising its freight rates on grain has failed, a decision by the California Railroad Commission that they suspect Behrman to be behind. Yet when they confront him over the issue, he is glibly evasive. Echoing legal arguments used at the time in rate cases, he insists that low rates amount to a “confiscation of property,” that the railroad only wants “a

Journal

Studies in American NaturalismUniversity of Nebraska Press

Published: Nov 3, 2017

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