A Comparison Of Burnham And Larson's The Devil In The White City

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The 1893 Chicago World’s Fair was a significant event in our nation’s history. It found the American people in a time of great pride and blissful naivety. Earning the nickname ‘the White City’, the Fair was full of new oddities and architectural phenomenon; however, Chicago’s darker inhabitants used the Fair as a preying ground. In the midst of the festivities, murders are being committed, overlooked due to the overwhelming positivity of the Fair. The nonfiction novel, The Devil in the White City, focuses on two significant figures, architect Daniel Burnham and serial killer H. H. Holmes. Erik Larson uses juxtaposition, imagery, and figurative language in order to portray the distinct differences between Burnham’s and Holmes’s worlds, …show more content…

Burnham creates an “ivory city” and the alliteration used to describe it as it “gleams and glows in golden radiance” emphasizes the brilliance of the fair and causes the audiences’ minds to create an image of heaven (333). According to Larson the “White City” is as “beautiful as a poet’s dream, and as silent as a city of the dead” (333). Both similes serve to emphasize the artistry that is the Chicago World’s Fair, and paint a picture for the reader of another worldly quality. The world Holmes creates is far gloomier. His “castle (123)” is one of mystery and death. With “gas jets embedded in the walls” and “a large basement with hidden chambers” (67), Holmes’s city is not the White City, but the Black City. He has a furnace installed into his basement and uses his vault as a means to rid himself of his victims, as “the air grows stale” when he closes the vault door (295). The comparison of Holmes’s hotel to a castle serves to portray to the readers how grotesque and morbid Holmes’s intentions were from the start, and to make the readers see that not everything is as it looks, much like Holmes

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