The Devil In The White City, American Experience Argumentative Essay
The Devil in the White City written by Erik Larson tells the story of the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. The fair left a lasting imprint in the history of the United States and more so the people of Chicago for all the good and bad reasons. For a very long time, the United States had been seen as a country of barbarians and cowboys and the fair was meant to prove everyone wrong. The fair was meant to put the United States on the same platform as other developed nations of the time such as France that had built an immaculate fair just a few years before the United States did (Larson 3). There were endless opportunities for everyone who cared, and that is how two men became part of the history making of that fair, and these are the two men that Larson focuses on in his book. The book describes how it is possible to have the good amidst evil and how good cannot thrive without evil standing in the way; the events of that period were both good and bad as seen through the two storylines. But again, it is imperative to note that even if people always expected good things all the time, evil has a way of showing up when least expected.
Daniel Burnham was the lead architect for the building of the ‘White City’ while Dr. Henry H. Holmes was the figure behind the hotel that put him in the limelight as the feared serial killer of the time and both present the good and evil that became of the city of Chicago. Burnham led other architects and engineers in transforming the wasteland on the shores of Lake Michigan to what came to be known as the ‘White City’. The fair was intended for all the good reasons, and the country was looking forward to proving to the world that it had the means and technology to be at the top (Irving 82). The other man, Dr. Holmes seized the opportunity to bring terror to the city through his ‘World Fair Hotel’ that was next to the ‘White City’. Both men had intentions and when one had good intentions the other had wrong ones.
Holmes succeeded in using his good looks and charm to lure innocent women into his hotel in order to kill them. He perfected his fake identity as a doctor but used that to his advantage and disadvantage of his women victims. Burnham on his part used his technical know how to put America on the map as a country with the economic, artistic and cultural powers (Collins Para. 8). It was through him that America could commemorate and celebrate Christopher Columbus. In effect, that was supposed to be a historical event and time that all Americans at the time could relive the American spirit. But the devil was also in the offing as Holmes proves through his demonic acts of conducting serial murders. In as much as there were joy and a lot of fun in the air as people went to the fair, there was also another man who was bringing pain, suffering and death to the victims and their families and friends.
Burnham and Holmes are different personalities and plans for the city and the fair. Burnham wanted to make society better by positively impacting the lives of the people of Chicago and the entire United States. It needs to be remembered that it was about that time when there was a serious economic meltdown, and there was an increase in joblessness. Aside from helping in the creation of jobs for many people, he was keen on ensuring the economic advantage the fair had in Chicago and the entire United States. He must have been a very hard working man and good at heart for that matter. But the opposite is true about Dr. Holmes. He had an aim of destroying Chicago. Both men were working in Chicago at the same time but each with different reasons and outcomes. Theirs is a perfect example of how good and evil exist at the same time and the same place.
The two men, Holmes, and Burnham, are different each in their rights as far as good and evil is concerned. Burnham is a sane character who is concerned about the common good of everyone. Dr. Holmes, on the other hand, is a psychopathic killer who has no mercy for his victims. At the time of the death of his friend Roots, Burnham mourns and is saddened by his death. He has a heart that is concerned about others and their welfare. He uses his technical knowledge to empower others and in building the fair, he is giving a helping hand to the whole country. He is a celebrated hero because the whole process is successful. His mere presence brings good tidings to the people and even his fellow architects (Appelbaum 38). It is for that reason that architects such as Fredrick Law Olmsted and George Post are willing to work with him and finish the project successfully. There may have been no other statesman, as good as him in the story.
Surprisingly, there are men and women who do not have a human heart that concerns itself with the well-being of others. In as much as it is animalistic to kill, Dr. Holmes does fit into the category of an animal. Even so, animals too have respect and love for each other. It is impossible for a cow to kill another, not even when they are struggling to share food even during a drought. But Dr. Holmes passes for the worst that humanity van boast of, thanks to his animalistic tendencies. He does not even seem to be remorseful of his actions. In fact he enjoys killing; one may think that he does that as a sport (Collins Para. 6). He enjoys committing heinous acts of murder. He is selfish and does evil things much to his gratification and the pain of others. That evil can exist in the nature of purposeful killing is appalling and evil. Maybe Satan himself is not capable of doing that.
The world fair may have been meant for all the good reasons as seen through Burnham and the other people involved, but evil just found its way into it through Dr. Holmes. Burnham together with others used their talent to transform a rather swampy area of Chicago into a now infamous ‘White City’. He had all the good intentions of helping in the transformation of the city of Chicago and thus positively affecting the lives of its inhabitants. But the devil has a way of finding his way around, and evil struck through Dr. Holmes, who lures his victims, especially young women into his hotel just to murder them. Both men possess the forces that compel humanity to perform actions, whether good or bad. It is strange that both lived at the same time and within the same locality, and it is incredible that their involvement in the history of America made history for all the right and wrong reasons.
Appelbaum, Stanley. The Chicago World’s Fair of 1893: A Photographic Record. New York: Dover Publications, 1980. Print
Collin, Morris. Review of Larson Erik, The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America. H- USA, H-Net Reviews, November 2004.
Irving, King. Chicago. Carbondale: SIU Press, 1981. Print
Larson, Erik. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America. New York: Crown, 2003. Print
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