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 21 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Attendance at the World’s Fair remains high throughout October, because people know that the Fair is about to end forever. Far more than 100,000 attend every day, and officials expect the final ceremony to attract a record number of tourists.
The Fair seems to be thriving, attracting more than the minimum number of visitors needed to make the Fair profitable. Yet we sense that something is about to go wrong, since Larson has hinted at a great disaster.
Themes
Civic Pride and American Patriotism Theme Icon
Frank Millet continues to organize events that attract visitors to Jackson Park, such as a recreation of Columbus’s voyage to America.
Millet continues to recognize that entertainment is important for making the WF profitable; moreover, the entertainment must be of a patriotic, “all-American” nature.
Themes
Civic Pride and American Patriotism Theme Icon
For American Cities Day, October 28, Mayor Harrison invites the mayors of San Francisco, Philadelphia, and other major American cities. It’s not clear whether or not the mayor of New York attends. Harrison announces that he is engaged to Miss Annie Howard, and that they’ll be married on November 16. He makes speeches in which he mourns the end of the World’s Fair, and privately tells the mayor of Omaha that he’d gladly incorporate Omaha into Chicago’s city limits.
Harrison exemplifies the showmanship, arrogance, and political savvy of Chicago at its finest. In a way, he’s an empire builder, always looking to acquire a new territory, even if the “territory” is already a proud city, like Omaha. He also makes his personal life a part of his public persona, announcing his engagement on the same day as the fanfare around American Cities — it’s as if he wants the celebration to be in his honor, as well as America’s.
Themes
Civic Pride and American Patriotism Theme Icon
Prendergast, humiliated by his visit to the corporation counsel’s office, buys a six-chamber revolver for four dollars. He knows that revolvers can be unreliable, so he loads only five bullets and keeps the empty chamber under the hammer. On American Cities Day, he walks to the Unity Building in the center of Chicago, where Mayor Harrison is making a speech. A guard refuses to let Prendergast enter the building, since he looks suspicious.
By now, it’s clear that Prendergast is dangerous, and wants to hurt Mayor Harrison. As disturbed as he is, he is clever enough to take the precaution of loading his revolver with five shots instead of six, so that he doesn’t inadvertently shoot himself. For the time being, Harrison is safe — Prendergast, unlike Holmes, can’t conceal his inner evil.
Themes
Sanity and Insanity Theme Icon
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In the evening, Harrison returns to his mansion. Around seven thirty, the maid tells him that a young man wants to see him. Harrison isn’t worried by this request, since he prides himself on being in touch with his constituents. Though the visitor seems unusual, the maid tells him to come back to see Harrison in half an hour.
It’s ironic that after being turned away from a big, government building, Prendergast succeeds in entering a much more private area, Harrison’s own house — Harrison is much more trusting than the guard who turns Prendergast away.
Themes
Sanity and Insanity Theme Icon
At eight o’clock the young visitor returns. The servants, who are eating supper by themselves, hear a shot, and rush to the hall, where they see Harrison  lying on his back. William Chalmers, Harrison’s neighbor, takes care of Harrison, and tells him that he’ll live. Harrison replies that he has been shot in the heart, and will die. They argue, and Harrison becomes angry. Chalmers reports that Harrison died too early because he didn’t believe him — even in death, Harrison was “emphatic and imperious.”
Harrison’s death is tragic, since he’s essentially punished for being open, understanding, and friendly to the disadvantaged. But his death is also undeniably funny, and a testament to the qualities that made Harrison so popular and colorful during his life: his propensity to argue, his energy, and his commitment to winning at all costs.
Themes
Sanity and Insanity Theme Icon
Prendergast walks to a police station and tells the police that he has shot the mayor. The police are skeptical until Prendergast shows them a gun that’s been recently fired. Prendergast explains that Harrison betrayed his trust and refused to appoint him corporation counsel in return for his support.
Prendergast finally expresses his reasons for killing Harrison. Spoken out loud, they sound ridiculous — Harrison had no idea who Prendergast was, much less that Prendergast had “campaigned” for him. Harrison hasn’t betrayed Prendergast at all; on the contrary, he’s stood up for thousands of people like Prendergast who are desperate, ambitious, and persistent.
Themes
Sanity and Insanity Theme Icon
The World’s Columbian Exposition Company cancels the closing ceremony in response to Harrison’s death. A memorial assembly is held in Festival Hall. The warship Michigan gives Harrison a 21-gun salute, and the band plays “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Visitors cry, and the World’s Fair is understood to be over.
Even in death, Harrison seems strongly connected to Chicago and the United States itself. He’s a hero in his city, and this is obvious from the enormous memorial assembly that’s held in his memory.
Themes
Civic Pride and American Patriotism Theme Icon
A procession walks through the streets of Chicago. Burnham sits in a carriage, and thinks that the World’s Fair has begun and ended with deaths — Root’s and Harrison’s. A chorus from the United German Singing Societies performs for the occasion — years before, Harrison had heard them at a picnic, and joked that they should sing at his funeral.
Harrison is a humorous, colorful man, and there’s something amusing, and thus highly melancholy, about the Germans singing on the day of his funeral. Harrison’s funeral is a poignant affair, especially since it replace the happiness that was supposed to surround the closing of the WF.
Themes
Ego and Cooperation Theme Icon
The World’s Fair remains open until October 31, and visitors go, as if to say goodbye to a dead relative. Reporters say that a greater sight will never be seen on Earth. Harrison’s death becomes a milestone in Chicago history.
The sadness at the end of the WF is impossible to separate from the sadness at the death of Mayor Harrison. Both were larger than life, full of contradictions, and immensely popular with the city of Chicago. That Harrison’s death closes the WF also suggests all the other deaths that occurred in building and around and because of the chaos of the WF.
Themes
Civic Pride and American Patriotism Theme Icon