In The Octopus, what was the purpose of the railroad trust, and how did they accomplish their goals?
The purpose of the trust is to take over the land owned by the farmers in order to further their capitalistic enterprise. "The railroad...represents a culture driven solely by profit, with no human concern. It is a product of technology, which allows it to be run from edicts passed far away, by people who make decisions affecting lives that they will never encounter. . . .The destruction of the farmers is thus presented as the destruction of a culture of honor and truth by a senseless machine that devours culture in the name of profit. In this novel, there is no hope offered for the finer things in life: they are doomed to lose in an unfair struggle." Everyone, including the farmers, are corrupted by the railroad. Rather than taking a moral stand and furthering it through the law, the farmers first try to bribe the commissioner—but fail to accomplish their purpose. Finally, when the farmers do take their issue to court, they lose because politics in this novel do not always rule in favor of moral principles. Enotes has an excellent discussion of the novel.