The Devil in the White City

The Devil in the White City

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The Devil in the White City Part 2, Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Holmes sends his associate, Benjamin Pitezal, to receive the famous Keeley cure for alcoholism, a highly popular remedy at the time, which sometimes gives its recipients amnesia. Holmes says that he wants Pitezal to conquer alcoholism, but in reality, he wants him to collect information about the cure so that Holmes can sell his own version. There, Pitezal meets Emeline Cigrand, a woman he describes to Holmes as stunningly beautiful. Holmes writes to her, inviting her to come to work for him. Cigrand eagerly accepts, excited at the prospect of working in Chicago. Holmes finds that Pitezal has exaggerated Cigrand’s beauty somewhat, but he still finds her lovely. He charms her, and they ride their bicycles around the World’s Fair area.
Holmes’s lies aren’t the only ones that America swallows unquestioningly at the time. The “Dr. Keeley cure,” whose only effect seems to be amnesia, is hugely popular, because people trust the authority of a medical professional — Holmes often convinces people to trust him for exactly the same reason. Holmes exploits others for his own gain, even when he pretends to be helping them. Pitezal’s visit to Keeley gives Holmes the idea to sell his own alcohol cures — the fact that it gives Pitezal rest is irrelevant to him.
Themes
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Ned Conner returns to Holmes’s store to ask about the mortgage. He meets Cigrand, and warns her to be careful of Holmes — Cigrand ignores this advice. She adores Holmes, especially his smooth manner, which she finds uncommon in Chicago, and which he tells her is the result of his English aristocratic heritage. Cigrand’s second cousins visit her, and she tells them that she is in love with Holmes. One of the cousins, Dr. Cigrand, finds Holmes’s building gloomy and disturbing, but thinks that it isn’t his place to interfere with his cousin’s feelings. Holmes later asks Cigrand to marry him, and tells her that they will visit his father, an English lord, on their honeymoon.
Cigrand and her cousin, Dr. Cigrand, don’t listen — to others, like Ned, who warn them that Holmes isn’t to be trusted — or to themselves — when Dr. Cigrand senses that Holmes’s house is sinister. “Normal” people seem especially weak to exploitation by psychopaths like Holmes because they’re bad at listening to their instinct, because they have an instinct to trust. Holmes appeals to Americans’ naïve trust in authority — medical authority, aristocratic authority, etc.
Themes
Sanity and Insanity Theme Icon
Modernity and Anonymity Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon