devil in the white city: burnham vs. holmes
Erik Larson writes, “Beneath the gore and smoke and loom, this book is about the evanescence of life, and why some men choose to fill their brief allotment of time engaging in the impossible, others in the manufacture of sorrow. Larson’s purpose is to compare and contrast the two main characters, Daniel Burnham and Henry H. Holmes. One is a successful architect and the other is a successful serial killer. Burnham was the famous architect that built the World’s Fair in less than two years. Holmes is America’s first serial killer. Larson refers the “White City” to the “Black City” to show good versus evil. Burnham represents the White City by building an amazing World’s Fair that brought over 40 million visitors and Holmes represents the Black City by the evil he brings to it.
Burnham made society better by using his “allotment of time” while gaining the respect of others. In doing this, he changed people’s perception of their own city during a depressed time when people had no hope. He pursued his goal of building America, while Holmes destroys it. Burnham is a true example of change for the better. Holmes, however, uses his charm and good looks to pursue evil. He “manufactures sorrow” by murdering women in Chicago. He perfected his fake identity as a nice young man, but with a dark side.
Erik Larson shows the difference between the two characters not only through their positions in the world fair, but their differences in their relationships. Burnham stays true to the same wife, Margaret throughout the entire book. Holmes on the other hand, had multiple wives: Clara, Myrta, and Georgiana. Holmes never divorced any of these women before marrying the next women. While Holmes was married to all these women, he also had flirtatious interactions with many other women. Larson never once discussed