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Eric Larson, The Devil In The White City

1548 words - 6 pages

Eric Larson, The Devil in the White CityGenerically speaking, Eric Larson's book The Devil in the White City is a tale of architecture and a serial killer. The book reflects the society of the late 19th century, Chicago. In its own the work is a journey of the lives of the people of the great city and how they changed. It encompasses their hopes, their dreams and their treachery. In general where gender roles are concerned, it showcases how women, particularly those from the working class, shaped the city around them while sticking to their constricted roles.The book revolves around two central characters i.e. the architect and the serial killer, however, it manages to not just account for their lives, but in doing so highlight great poverty, violence and depravity of the age and America as it were during that time. It follows through one social crisis after another throughout the vestiges of its pages. It shows the social diversity along with individualistic diversity of the era.In order to understand the role of women during that time, we must first understand the dynamics of the society itself. In conclusion to the works, Larson pens in Notes and Sources "The thing that entranced me about Chicago in the Gilded Age was the city's willingness to take on the impossible in the name of civic honor, a concept so removed from the modern psyche that two wise readers of early drafts of this book wondered why Chicago was so avid to win the world's fair in the first place" [p. 393].The world of that age was a combination of great achievement and burning desire to be better than everything else. To achieve that dream men weren't the only one making the efforts. Women were also breaking out of their age of crafted roles. To win "first place", the race had begun and the general population strived for the collateral dream.The book talks about the two facets of reality and society. Good versus great evil. It highlights man's desperation to be better, to achieve great heights. And on that journey man at times becomes irrevocably corrupt. As Larson states, "The juxtaposition of pride and unfathomed evil struck me as offering powerful insights into the nature of men and their ambitions" [p. 393].After the great fire of 1871, Chicago came back with a new vengeance. Each day hordes of new people walked into the city looking for a future and new dreams. Many of these people were young single women who were oblivious to the peril and dangers of the big cities they hoped to make their homes. Jane Addams, founder of Chicago's Hull House, wrote, "Never before in civilization have such numbers of young girls been suddenly released from the protection of the home and permitted to walk unattended upon the city streets and to work under alien roofs." Her statement points to the status of women in America at the time. Women were going through a conversion; they were trying on new roles in their newly crafted world and leaving behind old ones.They were sheltered and...

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