The Devil in the White City

The Devil in the White City

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The Devil in the White City Part 3, Chapter 20 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The organizers of the World’s Fair begin to return to their ordinary lives. Charles McKim is sad to leave the World’s Fair, since his time there has been entertaining and enjoyable in a way that his ordinary life has not. He tells Burnham that he can’t express his sadness in saying goodbye to him.
It’s telling that the people who organize the Fair, not just the people who attend it, are sad to leave it. The magic of the WF is so great that even working on it for years can’t disillusion organizers like McKim.
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McKim writes a letter reporting on the various methods proposed for destroying the World’s Fair after October 30. Some want to use dynamite to blow up the buildings, while others want to burn them. A journalist writes that it would be better for the Fair to end in a “blaze of glory” than to slowly disintegrate.
Even the end of the WF will be an incredible spectacle — it’s as if the sight of the White City  being built is just as exciting as the sight of the White City being torn down.
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Olmsted, now 71 years old, has many other projects to work on, though he knows that he is nearing the end of his career and his life. He insists that he is not an “unhappy old man,” since he has his legacy as a designer and his children to keep him happy. Sullivan, who has received many awards for the Transportation Building and its Golden Door, returns to working with Dankmar Adler, though business is slow throughout 1893. He fires one of his junior architects for taking on his own clients — the man’s name is Frank Lloyd Wright.
Olmsted’s insistence that he isn’t unhappy, like Burnham’s insistence that nothing can go wrong, isn’t enormously convincing. We’ve seen him worry over the smallest details of Jackson Park — it’s as if he’s so focused on these details because he has nothing else in his life to turn to. Larson conveys the sea changes in the architectural world by contrasting Olmsted’s age and unhealthiness with the sight of a young, ambitious Frank Lloyd Wright, the man who will quickly revolutionize the architectural world with his architectural ideas that are so at odds with the neoclassical buildings on display at the WF, as embodied in structures like the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.
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Ten thousand construction workers are now unemployed with the end of the World’s Fair. Mayor Harrison is sympathetic to the workers’ cause, and tries to help them by hiring street cleaners and opening police stations for people who need a place to sleep. The Pullman Railway company starts to experience financial trouble as travel to Chicago declines. Workers’ wages are reduced.
As we begin to sense that Harrison is about to die, we’re allowed to contemplate the irony that Harrison is highly sympathetic to desperate, disadvantaged people, while other figures, like Pullman, seem almost completely indifferent to them.
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Holmes decides to leave Chicago. He sets fire to his hotel, and files an insurance claim for 6,000 dollars, in the name of Hiram S. Campbell, one of the Holmes’s aliases. The insurance investigator F.G. Cowie suspects arson, but orders the money to be paid, provided that Campbell appear in person.
While no one yet suspects that Holmes is a multiple murderer, Holmes is finding it more and more difficult to get away with his crimes. His burning of his building alludes to the burning of the WF that some of its organizers have proposed. It is worth noting that the first to investigate Holmes are not those who suspect murder of vulnerable women, but strong institutions that think he is trying to cheat them of money.
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Holmes can’t pretend to be Campbell himself, since Cowie knows his face. He decides not to hire someone else to pretend to be Campbell, since an attorney, William Capp, has been sent to look for Minnie Williams, and Holmes wants to be cautious. Holmes never collects the policy on his hotel.
Holmes is finding it more difficult to lie and cheat. Here, he’s unable to collect an insurance policy, though he’s done so many times before. The noose is tightening, slowly, around Holmes’s neck.
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Cowie’s investigation into Holmes’s hotel encourages Holmes’s creditors to unite to demand their money back. They hire an attorney, George B. Chamberlin, who had attempted to track Holmes down earlier for refusing to pay for his kiln. Chamberlin will be the first man in Chicago to suspect Holmes of crime.
We’re given more hints that Holmes won’t continue to get away with his deceptions much longer. It’s interesting that one investigation into Holmes’s crimes triggers a different investigation — this pattern will continue later on, when investigations into some of Holmes’s murders inspire other detectives to investigate other murders.
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Chamberlin invites Holmes to his office, where Holmes is ambushed by his various creditors. Holmes is surprised, but politely greets everyone, and is able to calm them down. He says that he would have paid all his debts had it not been for the recession of 1893.  Many of the creditors seem sympathetic. Chamberlin asks Holmes to leave the room; when he’s gone, Chamberlin, who’s not convinced by Holmes’s apologies, encourages the creditors to arrest Holmes immediately. Holmes, waiting in the adjacent room, talks to an attorney. It’s unclear if Holmes bribes the attorney or simply asks him what he knows, but he discovers that Chamberlin wants Holmes arrested. Holmes leaves the office immediately.
Even after being ambushed by his creditors, Holmes remains calm and civil — his ability to manipulate others is so great that in only a few minutes, he’s able to make some of these creditors sympathetic to his deceptions. Holmes is also skilled at using other people to gain information, as we see when he bribes, or possibly just asks the attorney what his creditors are talking about. In spite of the enormous criminal abilities Holmes displays in this scene, it’s clear that he’s becoming more desperate as his crimes catch up with him.
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Holmes leaves Chicago with his fiancée, Georgiana, and Benjamin Pitezal for Fort Worth, Texas, where he wants to use Minnie’s land. He plans to sell some of the land and use the rest to build a new building, similar to his hotel in Chicago. Before leaving the city, he insures Pitezal’s life for 10,000 dollars.
Holmes tries to cut his losses by dipping into Minnie’s fortune and leaving Chicago for good. In a way, this is a form of surrender, since we’ve seen how Holmes thrives in Chicago. Nevertheless, he continues to charm women just as he always has.
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