17 April 2012
Larson, Erik. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America. New York: Vintage, 2004. 447 Pages.
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson is a book centered around the events of the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. This book features a dual storyline following the events of Daniel Burnham and his involvement in the architectural design of the World’s Fair, and Dr. H H Holmes, a man using Chicago and the World’s Fair to his advantage in a killing spree. Though these two story lines do not interact with each other directly, it serves the great purpose of contrasting the very good that the very evil that came from the World’s Fair. This book is demonstrating two completely different sides of Chicago. One that is capable of grand feats like the World’s Fair and the other with a corrupt and dark underside. This is exposed very explicitly through the events of Daniel Burnham and Dr. H H Holmes. There is an extremely stark contrast in this book between good and evil. The good coming from the grandeur of the World’s Fair. This event was only orchestrated due to America’s need to be better than Europe, specifically France, after they had their own Paris World’s Fair in 1889. With Larson’s use of language, he is able to accurately display just how great this product was supposed to be. Another aspect of the “good” side of the World’s Fair is Daniel Burnham. Burnham has to prove his personal worth, through his work, to his peers and to himself. He vowed that one day he would be the greatest, and this was his chance. He is nothing less than a beacon of hope for the city of Chicago, a place of unfathomable corruption and disgust. Not only was he responsible for his own reputation, he was also responsible for the reputation of the city itself. Chicago was eager to prove itself among the elite cities of the United States, and Burnham was the medium to accomplish such a goal. This man was the...
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