The Devil In The White City; Murder, Magic, and Madness At The Fair That Changed America

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The Great Fair of 1893 was held as a major achievement for its time. Huge buildings, impossible feats of engineering, a mixing of cultures, and the use of many new technologies were major aspects of its success. However, even though the builders of the fair worked against impossible odds, they required a leader, a figurehead to lead the way to success. In his book, The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, Erik Larson’s portrays Burnham’s obsession with grandeur as a key part of his persona to emphasize why he was the right man for the job. Larson includes examples of Burnham’s high opinions of grandeur and elegance, as well as his understanding of their greater effect on the general public to highlight why he was the right choice for lead architect. For example, Larson includes a scene aboard the R.M.S. Olympic, one of the largest ships of its time. Larson notes that Burnham “loved the opulence of the ship, just as he loved the Pullman Palace cars and giant fireplaces” (3). Larson makes use of this particular example of Burnham’s opinions to allow the reader to develop a base-line understanding of what goes through Burnham’s head when he designs the fair. Here, without even mentioning the fair, Larson seeks to bring forward the qualities of Burnham, which, in hindsight, made him the right man for the job. Due to this passion for grandeur, Burnham became a perfect fit for the job because he was supposed to design an entire city off of the drawings and sketches of many diverse architects with very little collaboration between them. He took his passions and applied them to the grand plans of the exposition, seeing the final product in his mind’s eye and molding the city until it a... ... middle of paper ... ...ith the fair, Larson exemplifies him because the fair was a success due to the fact that it outdid Paris. Larson emphasizes that this fair would not have been as much of a success without Burnham’s obsession with grandeur and elegance and this is why he was the right man for the job. Even with the amount of misfortune that the builders of the fair experienced, the mere fact that they were able to (mostly) complete the fair on time, and that they topped Paris shows that the fair as a whole was a success. However, Larson places emphasis on Burnham’s role in the fair by including examples of his obsession with grandeur and elegance in order to tell the reader that Burnham was the right man for the job. Work Cited Larson, Erik. The Devil In The White City; Murder, Magic, and Madness At The Fair That Changed America. New York: Random House, Inc., 2003. Print.

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