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Benjamin Franklin Norris, Jr. (March 5, 1870 – October 25, 1902) was an American novelist, during the Progressive Era, writing predominantly in the naturalist genre. His notable works include McTeague (1899), The Octopus: A California Story (1901), and The Pit (1903). Frank Norris was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1870. His father, Benjamin, was a self-made Chicago businessman and his mother, Gertrude, had a stage career. In 1884 the family moved to San Francisco where Benjamin went into real estate. In 1887 after the death of his brother and brief and unsuccessful stay in London young Norris went to Académie Julian in Paris where he studied painting for two years and was exposed to the naturalist novels of Emile Zola. He attended the University of California, Berkeley between 1890 and 1894 where he picked up the ideas of human evolution of Darwin and Spencer, that are reflected in his future writings.
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.