The Chicago’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 had 6 months to impress the impact on the city of Chicago. The United States had done nothing on the world’s fair during this time. The great Chicago world’s fair was a perfect way for the United States to disprove this. Its official purpose was to commemorate the four hundredth anniversary of Columbus’s discovery of America. Erik Larson is the author of the book and he precisely describes the time period of 1893 Chicago world’s fair, also known as the World’s Columbian Exposition. In the book, Erik Larson creates two separate plot lines. One plot line is about building the fair and another is a serial killer.
Both plots are on two different men who never meet each other. Devil in the White City by Erik Larson has countless acts of violence, it near perfectly constitutes literary merit and would still be a viable source for the 9th or 10th-grade curriculum because of its exemplary precedents of Good vs. Evil and Man vs.
Nature and Society. This energy and regard for inside and out research are clear all through the book as he imparts to us the substance of long-overlooked reports that paint a dim and frightening photo of the underbelly of the sparkling white city of Chicago. Fallen angel in the White City ought to be utilized as a part of the tenth grade educational programs since it would be ideal for the “Great versus Insidious.” It is the narrative of two men who never met face to face however whose permanent stamp is solidly engraved on Chicago’s history. The two men are gifted in their picked creates, pioneers in their field.
One, a talented engineer, who might go ahead to outline some of America’s most imperative structures was one of the pioneers of the World’s Fair in Chicago. Devil in the White City should be used in the 10th-grade curriculum because it would be perfect for the “Good vs. Evil.” His specialty was kill and at this brutality he was the best, rapidly getting to be noticeably one of America’s most productive serial executioners previously the term had been instituted or promoted. In spite of never meeting the lives of the two men were interwoven and in beneficial interaction with the World’s Fair itself, as their accomplishment in their picked fields was made conceivable by the characteristic of destiny that chose Chicago as the setting for the World’s Fair. When he says, “But the fair did more than simply stoke pride. It gave Chicago a light to hold against the gathering dark of economic calamity. (Larson.
288).” The fair let most people forget about their troubles for a couple of days and brought people all over the world come together. It is amazing how one thing can bring so many people close together. The author says, “If evening at the fair were seductive, the nights were ravishing. (Larson. 254)” For visitors, nights at the fair were like a vision of heaven. But for architects, the night also masked some of the fair’s flaws. When life is so short, some people choose to fill their limited time here doing good whilst others choose to walk the path of evil.
It is both gruesome crime thriller and sociological document that constantly contrasts good and evil, dark and light, and shows the vibrant city of Chicago as both the White City of good and promise and the Dark City where evil exists in the shadows.Devil in the White City consists of two main storylines: one about the life of H.H. Holmes. The mere fact that these two stories are being told together encourages us to compare them and compare their characters. First, there is some overlap between the two storylines; for instance, Holmes profits from the World’s Fair, killing tourists who come to Chicago for the event and even naming his building the World’s Fair Hotel. Second, and more disturbingly, the author of the book, Erik Larson, suggests that there are similarities between Holmes, a murderous psychopath, and the men involved in building the World’s Fair.
Both Holmes and the builders of the World’s Fair excel at persuading others, whether with flattery, bribery, or, at times, point-blank frankness. The author says, “The burden of restoring the nation’s pride and prominence in the wake of the Paris exposition had fallen upon Chicago. (Larson. 33)” Not only does Larson explore the dark depths of Holmes’ Chicago, he discusses the vicious business world that Burnham fought in the planning and creation of the fair. The similarity that Larson notes between sanity and insanity has many implications. In Holmes’s case, it makes his actions seem especially terrifying. He also says, “It was so easy to disappear, so easy to deny knowledge, so very easy in the smoke and in to mask that something dark had taken root. This was Chicago, on the eve of the greatest fair in history.
(Larson. 12)” Danger accompanied some change. In the modern Chicago, during the time of the fair, it was easy to fly under the radar, assume anonymity, and hide within the city crowds.
Larson writes, in a darkly humorous tone, that Holmes, like Chicago itself, wastes nothing: Chicago’s slaughterhouses, which are hugely important to the city’s economy, use every part of the animal, while Holmes, who loves the smell of the slaughterhouses, sells the dead bodies of his victims to medical schools for a huge profit. Larson’s observation is disturbing because we recognize that a serial killer’s behavior isn’t altogether different from behavior we see every day. The connections that Larson makes between sanity and insanity also shows us that the ambitions of the people who design the World’s Fair.Devil in the White City shows “Man vs. Nature” in this novel. The book addresses the natural elements that created difficulties for Burnham as he built the fair.
Burnham and his crew are at the mercy of nature; winters in Chicago can be extremely cold and the summers hot, making the project a challenge to complete. The author tells us that, “There would be miracles at the fair—the chocolate Venus de Milo would not melt, the 22,000 pound cheese in the Wisconsin Pavilion would not mold—but the greatest miracle was the transformation of the grounds during the long soggy night that had preceded Cleveland’s arrival (Larson. 236).” People were amazed that the weather in Chicago cooperated for the fair. The frozen grounds had everybody worried for a bit, but amazingly enough, things turned out okay.
Although the book is a chronological story of the World’s Fair, it serves to be much more. There is a struggle from the beginning for a man to control and manipulate nature. The truth is that Burnham and his crew are at the mercy of nature. A perfect example of the nature versus man dilemma is the weather. The winter is extremely cold while summers bring heat that makes it hard for the crews to work.
In the middle of these extremes are tornadoes, heavy rain, and gusting wind. These elements quickly remind Burnham and his crew that they are not the ones in control. At times the willpower of man triumphs over nature. The crew was able to devise a plan that turned the “quicksand” into a land that could hold heavy structures. This was a long difficult process, but nevertheless, they overcame the will of nature.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that Eric Larson perfectly illustrates the contradictions of the life of American people at the end of the 19th century. At the same time, he conveys the main message that regardless the human nature is extremely contradictory and that there may exist “the juxtaposition of pride and unfathomed evil” which struck the writer “as offering powerful insights into the nature of men and their ambitions” (Larson 393). Regardless the fact that the author tends to some extremes that may be viewed as exaggeration since he intentionally choices really extraordinary individuals as the main characters of the book, his work is still quite interesting and it is probably due to such a striking contrast between the main characters acts that make readers so involved and interested in the story line. On the other hand, it is necessary to underline that Eric Larson wants to look beyond the public image of the main characters attempting to penetrate in their inner world and understand them. In such a way, readers can read the book and make their own conclusion, have their own views and that is what is really good about the book since the author does not impose his own opinion. This is why the book may be recommended to read and it will be especially interesting for those who are able to critically evaluate the characters and events described by the author.