The Devil In The White City Language Analysis

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The Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 was a masterpiece of the 19th century. It represented the grand facade of glamour and American achievement. The World’s Fair was a spectacular event, bursting with bright lights and daring sights that left visitors speechless, but The World’s Fair wasn’t the only phenomenon happening in Chicago during this time. Innocent people were being brutally murdered alongside this brilliant piece of American good fortune. Architect Daniel Burnham and psychotic serial killer H. H. Holmes are the two main characters of this story and embody the light and the dark. Throughout The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson uses structure, diction, and figurative language to demonstrate the delicate balance and inescapable…show more content…
When Larson writes about Burnham and “The White City,” the tone is light and vibrant. To describe The World’s Fair, he uses words like “dreamland,” “beauty,” “graceful,” “bright,” and emitting an “indescribable opulence” (241, 261, 252, 313). Larson also describes Burnham as a man of “strength,” “confidence,” and “honor” (20, 21). These words carry a positive connotation and cause readers to believe Burnham is genuine and have a good outlook on The World’s Fair. However, when Larson writes about Holmes, his tone is black and grave. He describes Holmes as having eyes like “great murders,” and possessing the disturbing ability to “sense vulnerability” (35, 36). When writing about Holmes, Larson uses words like “disgrace,” “destitution,” “disturbance,” “hellish,” and “inhuman” (123, 146). These words possess a dark, unsettling connotation that cause readers to have a negative outlook on Holmes. Larson’s choice of diction causes readers to feel two different emotions throughout the book. Readers feel happy, good, and positive when reading chapters about Burnham, but when reading Homes’s chapters, readers feel frightened, afraid and fearful. Larson’s diction creates contrasting tones to reiterate the balance of good and evil that Burnham and Holmes embody in this…show more content…
When describing Burnham, Larson uses several adjectives, depicting him as “handsome, tall, and strong” (26). He writes that people like Burnham because of “his strength, his steady blue gaze, and the confidence with which he conducted conversation” (20). Larson writes that “Burnham and Root became rich men. Not Pullman rich,...enough so that each year Burnham bought a barrel of fine Madeira and aged it by shipping it twice around the world…” (26). Larson uses long sentences and colorful adjectives to give a more detailed and descriptive account of Burnham causing him to seem more personable to readers and have a likeable image. However, when Larson writes about Holmes, he describes him in short sentences. He claims Holmes is “twenty-six years old… Five feet, eight inches; weigh[ing] only 155 pounds” (35). Through a brief, precise description and bland adjectives, readers view Holmes as a cold and remote person. When remembering Holmes’s murders, Larson writes that Holmes “removed [his] apron and rolled down his sleeves… He stoppered the chloroform, found fresh cloth, and walked down the hall to Pearl’s room” (148, 149). His actions are calculated and concise, revealing to readers that everything he does is planned with thoughtful precision and nothing he does is spontaneous.

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