"As long as you still experience the stars as something above you, you still lack a viewpoint of knowledge"

The Devil in the White City

1) Find a MODERN news story that ties to some theme traced in the book.  Post a link to the story on your blog, and explain what theme it reflects, and how the theme was essential to Larson’s presentation of the narrative.  **PLEASE NOTE — simply linking to a story about murder or serial killers will indicate minimal effort/understanding.  The fact that Holmes was a serial killer is not a THEME of the book.

My modern news story is of a similar setting as Larson’s nonfiction novel, the Chicago world fair.

Modern China is often characterized by three things.

Population, economic boom, and scandals that come as a result of the previous 2.  We all know the horror stories of lead paint and the girl who was run over and ignored by 18 passerby. How about 150,000 deaths per year due to factory conditions? Yes, amidst economic boom, much of China has gained wealth, but many have also lost their integrity as well.  This is because the high population, and more importantly, density of China has attributed to lack of individuality. But didn’t they always have an enormous population? Well, yes, they’ve had so many people for so long that it is in the culture of the Chinese to not be individualistic. But for scandals like those stated above to occur, there is an added catalyst called economic boom. Like the industrial revolution of Europe and America, wealth became the primary concern for people of the day, and not silly things like human rights or factory conditions. Therefore, deaths can be overlooked because of the high supply of people and the drive to achieve wealth.

The correlating theme to the The Devil in the White City is the loss of individuality as a result of progress. In The Devil in the White City, Holmes is able to commit gruesome murders and get away with it largely in part because of the high population density that was drawn by the World Fair, made a success because of the genius of Burnham and other architects involved. I am inclined to say that people also didn’t wonder too much about the disappearances of Holmes’ victims not only because of the amount of people, but from the excitement of the World Fair, the excitement of progress. Nobody wants to think about macabre topics like murder when the World Fair was going on. As a result, Mrs. Holton’s friends believe Holmes’ bull and crock story about moving to California. Deaths are also accepted as a result of progress. 7 exposition workers were killed during 1893, but are seen as a normal part of construction.


2) Find a photographic IMAGE or work of ART, from the time period of the book (1890-1900), that you think would make a better cover for the novel.  Explain why your chosen image is a better reflection of the argument Larson is making in his book.  Remember that a good cover image should be multifaceted — that is that it should reflect multiple meanings/thoughts/ideas in the single image.

Okay… I know it looks pretty much like the same scene in front of the normal cover, but let me explain. This picture has the noticeable addition of the god-like statue standing before the bright lights of the World Fair. I feel like this inclusion would make the cover much better because it symbolizes the connection between the 2 plot lines following Burnham and Holmes. Many people think of Burnham as a god for his genius in the world fair while Holmes believes himself a god because he can do whatever he wants in this city, including murder for a thrill. One is a good god that is the cause of this grandeur, while the other is a devil in disguise. It also suits to symbolize Holmes very well because Holmes’ character cloaks himself with a likable and charming personality.

Also the larger range of vision better shows the idea of a city. I feel like in the close up picture of the building reminded me more of the White House, making me think of the capitol, and not where the story actually took place. The expanse of the water makes the picture look much more eerie, which suits the tone of much of the book. The statue also looks triumphant and extravagant, hinting at Burnham’s tone of the story.

I chose to keep the picture in the same style because of it’s photo-negative feel. It puts a aesthetic contrast between the buildings and its surroundings brought out the “white city” idea.


I wasn’t sure what to make of this book. I applaud Larson’s extensive research and being able to put all of it in this book. This allowed “guest” appearances such as Louis Sullivan and Buffalo Bill (which vaguely reminded me of Midnight in Paris), but his writing style couldn’t really capture my attention. Maybe it was the fact that it was a narrative non-fiction and the topic that I couldn’t interest myself in, the same way Rise to Rebellion was a drag for me to read.

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