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Analysis Of Erik Larson’s The Devil In The White City

975 words - 4 pages

The World Fair of 1933 brought promise of new hope and pride for the representation of Chicago, America. As Daniel Burnham built and protected America’s image through the pristine face of the fair, underlying corruption and social pollution concealed themselves beneath Chicago’s newly artificial perfection. Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City meshes two vastly different stories within 19th century America and creates a symbolic narrative about the maturing of early Chicago.
From first impression, Burnham found that Chicago had a murky factorial image lined with a “fantastic stink that lingered in the vicinity of Union Stock yards” (41). The dreadful surface that Chicago was maintaining allowed Burnham to be determined to collaborate and recreate its image. His efforts would also make a reputational comeback for America’s poor representation in the Exposition Universelle (15). One major feature that transformed public opinion of the state was to illuminate the entire fair with clean white buildings that outlined the goodness of the area (252). Eye-catching whiteness contradicted the presumed dirtiness of the town. Making a contradiction from what was assumed of the city would allow the fair to generate a much bigger transformation. The lights also gave the fair a unique, whimsical edge. “The lamps that laced every building and walkway produced the most elaborate demonstration of electric illumination ever attempted”, incorporating new technology in a grand-scale way merely to keep the theme of brightness ongoing throughout each day and night (254). Most importantly, it displayed the town’s potential to become a thriving and respected city. The theme of whiteness interlaced with the neoclassical outline in The World Fair’s design created a feeling of unity that displayed the fair’s “becomingness”, as Olmstead had wanted (55). With the innovation of brightness, the result was a beautiful and harmonious scene that brought all of unique tourists together and hid the darkness in the city.
The integration of new inventions was another key element in creating Chicago’s new appearance. The electric light that was incorporated throughout the fair was a new and fantastic shock for visitors from countries that had never seen that amount of light in the late hours (254). The sudden power-driven illumination across the entire fair would make Chicago look technologically revolutionary, and definitely impressive. The place was speckled with almost 200,000 incandescent bulbs connected through elaborate circuits (251). Creating a new and fantastical environment would create a lasting impression for visitors to remember Chicago as—a magical city that always seems to stays bright. The Ferris Wheel was another huge invention that baffled the crowds (259). Ferris was creating a completely new invention that seemed like an impossible challenge to create, which made it ground-breaking when it was finally finished. It scared and intrigued the public, though they...

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