Burnham In Eric Larson's The Devil In The White City

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Society is a structure that besieges every individual. Its daunting presence is inescapable. In Eric Larson’s novel, The Devil In The White City, the stories of two strangers living in close proximity to each other are presented. Both men had goals they dedicated themselves to and challenges they had to conquer, yet the two couldn’t be more disparate. The first man, Burnham was the head architect of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and the second, H.H. Holmes, was an atrocious serial killer. In describing this dichotomy, Larson produces an intriguing display of society at the end of the 19th century. Burnham was faced with the challenges of the society as the economy failed and his fair attracted meager attendance, while Holmes’s lack of respect…show more content…
Many immigrants and rural inhabitants fled to urban areas in search for any job that would provide them with any salary. As more and more companies failed, thousands of families lost their only source of income. Layoffs and wage cuts were common. Eventually even Burnham, a man with a reputation for being a fair employer, had to join the trend and let many of his employees go. Burnham knew that, “The dismissed men... faced homelessness and poverty; their families confronted the real prospect of starvation” (Larson 155). In the midst of unemployment, unions gained strength. The unions could be seen as a positive impact on society because they showcased people standing up for their rights, however the truth was far from that. The strikes organized by union leaders were violent and unsafe. Protesters blocked trains, burned railcars and set buildings aflame. One man, General Nelson A. Miles sensed that the spreading unrest was, “‘more threatening and far-reaching than anything that had occurred before”’ (Larson 335). To make matters worse, the Chicago fair which provided over ten-thousand jobs was coming to a close. The workers, “left the fair’s employ and returned to a world without jobs, already crowded with unemployed men” (Larson…show more content…
With hundreds of people flooding to cities in search of income, the cities became populous and dangerous. Streetcars regularly tumbled from draw bridges, and horsed carriages bolted into crowds. Each day, an average of two people were killed at Chicago’s railroad crossings. Fire was also a leading cause of death, claiming dozens of lives per day. The cities were not prepared to protect their residents. Crime lurked on every street corner, and murder was becoming commonplace. In 1981, “The Chicago Tribune reported that 5,906 people had been murdered in America, nearly 40 percent more than in 1890” (Larson 153). Police were of little service as they were overwhelmed with hundreds of cases of disappearances. Many citizens avoided reporting murders or crimes they witnessed or suspected to the police; “It was as if no one thought the police would be interested in yet another disappearance or, if they were, that they would be competent enough to conduct an effective investigation” (Larson 190). Lives were not being valued and death was not being taken seriously. Such an attitude extends to the production of the Chicago World's Fair. During construction fractured skulls and electric shock took the lives of many, yet there was no attempt to make the construction site safer for the workers. When the Cold storage was

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