In the Devil in the White City, the author focuses on the building of Chicago’s world fair in a time of the year 1983. This world’s fair was better known as World’s Colombian Exposition. This world fair was designed with the Colombians in mind. This is in the sense that the world fair commemorated the coming of Columbus in America. The author is also observed to use extensive research whereby the lives that were led by real men and women are recreated, in a bid to reinvent Chicago during the Columbian exposition. In addition, a sociopath murder went by the name H.H Holmes. He attacked young women who came to attend the fair.
In this story, the author also points out that Chicago won the right for publicly hosting the fair by means of congressional vote. As a result, the city of New York, which was a great rival of Chicago, lost. With the fair and the building of the white city, the city of Chicago experienced an increased influx of visitors in the city tallying up to forty million, in numbers. Daniel Burnham faced a lot of criticism from the public. The fair was a design feature, which seemed impossible to complete within the given period, but the chief architect through an act of courage took on the challenge. In his efforts to make the fair a reality, Daniel Burnham attracted assistance from the best in the sectors of design, engineering, and architecture throughout the country. This resulted in a success rate of a very high magnitude. Visitors in the city of Chicago were astonished by how impeccable the structure was. This later became what is referred to as a neo-classical architecture, which remained so for over fifty years of its setup (Roland 20).
In the novel, a sinister tale about a doctor by the name H.H Holmes unfolds. The story was set several miles far from the city of Chicago in a suburb known as Englewood. He owned a house, which he had built on a full city block equipped with a crematorium located at its basement and a torture chamber. In contrast, he had opened up a pharmacy on the first floor of the building fully equipped with all the currants’ in the market. In this same building, a restaurant was also functional and quite a good number of respectable businesses were run alongside with the restaurant. These so-called respectable businesses were the sources of corruption in all its forms. Fraud schemes were also not new to the so-called respectable businesses (The Devil in the White City 45).
Holmes was a man who charmed the women owing to his handsomeness and his blue eyes. He was observed to charm women into working for him, and many were the instances he sought women’s company when in town for the fair. This arresting and attractive personality of Holmes in the eyes of the women faded when events took a turn for the worse. This is because after mesmerizing and seducing the women, he killed them in numbers using the most inhumane procedures. He killed some of the women by locking them up in airtight chambers and torturing them to death using poisonous fumes. The lucky ones were smothered using soaked rags but this did not make the action any less cruel. One of his signature killings was where he dissected the women’s bodies after skinning them. He then sold these bodies to be used as skeletons in the neighboring medical schools, to be used as aids in the study of medicine. Holmes got off with the thrill of killing and to quench his desire. He preyed on the weak and vulnerable in the society, and hence he was considered a sociopath. Including the story of H.H Holmes in the novel helps, make the story spicy. His inclusion by the author adds a twist of reality in the novel. This happens owing to the presence of evil in the society in the form of sociopaths and murders; the author brings a sense of reality in the novel. Hence, the story is more believable. Readers of novels need something they can be associated with; hence, the inclusion of the grisly story proves to be of assistance.
According to the author, as portrayed in the book, he effectively brings out the plagues that the city of Chicago suffered from. The plagues were not only brought to reality using the murderous, character of Holmes but the economic struggles that were rampant throughout the city of Chicago. The people in Chicago were exposed to serious hardships, which cropped up because of the financial hardships that they faced. The author tries to paint a clear picture of the city of Chicago by bringing out the difficult times the city of Chicago faced in the race to make the city developed, in terms of technology. Immigration was another problem faced by the residents of Chicago. As a result of the influx of foreigners into the city of Chicago, the rates of unemployment increased significantly owing to the increase in competition for jobs, in the market (Miller 45).
Immigrants also populated most areas within the city of Chicago and this increase of the population resulted in a proportional increase at the cost of housing. This translated into poor housing conditions at very high costs. These housing facilities lacked basic amenities, such as water and proper ventilation. Poor ventilation resulted in the contraction of diseases, such as asthma whose treatment added to the financial burden implicated on the residents of this city. As a result of the budgetary hardships imposed, individuals resulted into acts of lawlessness such as theft and vandalism. All these misfortunes reached the peak at the end of the Gilded Age. The city of Chicago main objective was not to establish itself as an American city with an identity, but it was fighting without a war whereby it was relentlessly trying to hold itself together by reducing the ever-growing gap between labor and capital. As presented by the author, the city of Chicago is opportunistic in the sense that it takes advantage of the gap or rift between labor and capital. This as a consequence draws a clear line of separation between the parties involved and hence giving rise to a battlefield. The author also comments that the thing that caught his eye during the period of the Gilded Age was the willingness to take on any challenge, especially the impossible ones to serve civic honor. This civic honor is clarified where the city of Chicago is determined to carve and establish an identity for itself (The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America 57).
In conclusion, the greatest battle was witnessed in the city of Chicago in a bid to try to overcome the atrocities posed during the Gilded Age. This is because this city is seen to try to combat the various plagues that have infested the city of Chicago. Hardships experienced by individuals during this age on the form of flooded immigrants economic and labor struggles. There is also the rift between labor and capital. In Chicago’s efforts to address this situation, Chicago is seen to build a fair, which attracts people’s masses in the city. This, as a result, helps build a sense of belonging to the name of civil honor.
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