Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Frank Norris  

Pen Name: None


Audience: Adult;

Born: March 5, 1870 in Chicago, Illinois

Died: October 25, 1902 in San Francisco, California (32 years of age)

-- Frank Norris on WorldCat --

Illinois Connection

Norris was born in Chicago and lived there until he was 14.

Biographical and Professional Information

Frank Norris was a naturalist who attempted in his sweeping fictional canvases to depict the impact of large, impersonal social and economic forces on individual lives. He is best known for McTeague (1899) and his uncompleted trilogy, The Epic of Wheat, which was to trace the impact of the wheat industry on society. The first volume, The Octopus (1901), deals with the conflict between wheatgrowers and the railroads in California. The Pit (1903), set in Chicago, is about wheat speculation on the Board of Trade. Norris' premature death kept him from completing the trilogy with The Wolf, about the flow of wheat to Europe to relieve famine.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

McTeague - A Story of San Francisco
ISBN: 1595477721

NuVision Publications, LLC. 2007

At first McTeague has a simple but satisfying life, surrounded by three symbolic possessions: a caged canary, a concertina, and a gold-plated molar he wants to use as his shop sign. McTeague can be seen as the canary, imprisoned in his gilt cage by the forces of society and heredity the concertina represents his pleasure in plebeian culture and the molar, his crude profession. Norris also shows the effects of striving for social status. McTeague comes from a family of poor miners as a dentist, he is barely on the cusp of professional respectability. Described as "hopelessly stupid," he reverts to his innate brutish roots. His wife, Trina, comes from equally humble origins, but apes what she perceives to be the habits of those higher up the social scale.

A Man's Woman
ISBN: 1406916609

Hard Press. 2006

The Pit: A Story of Chicago
ISBN: 1595477705

NuVision Publications, LLC. 2007

These novels, while forming a series, will be in no way connected with each other save only in their relation to (1) the production, (2) the distribution, (3) the consumption of American wheat. When complete, they will form the story of a crop of wheat from the time of its sowing as seed in California to the time of its consumption as bread in a village of Western Europe.


  • Name engraved on the frieze of the Illinois State Library alongside other great Illinois literary figures, 1990