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 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
By June 11, six cars have been hung on the Ferris Wheel. Ferris’s wife sits in the car for a ride, along with Luther Rice and other designers. As the wheel spins, others jump into the cars. The engineer responsible for turning the wheel stops it, then gives up and allows everyone to ride in it.
The Ferris Wheel is a symbol of the WF itself — it’s big, ambitious, dangerous, and intensely patriotic. There’s also something very populist and democratic about the wheel — the way the workers crowd into it, which is potentially very dangerous, mirrors the danger and excitement of the crowds at the WF itself.
Themes
Modernity and Anonymity Theme Icon
The Ferris Wheel allows its passengers to enjoy a beautiful view of the landscape and the fair grounds. Ferris’s wife lets him know that the ride was a great success, and the other cars are quickly added to the wheel. Burnham wants the area surrounding the Ferris Wheel to be open; Ferris wants it closed off with a fence. Burnham eventually uses his design.
Larson doesn’t explain exactly why Ferris and Burnham disagree on the design for the Ferris Wheel grounds, but it’s possible to guess why. Ferris, an inventor, is focused on safety and control; Burnham, more concerned with the unity of the Fair as a whole and the enticement of the paying public, wants it visually connected with the rest of the exposition and accessible to the public.
Themes
Ego and Cooperation Theme Icon
On Sunday, June 18, 1893, the Ferris Wheel is open to riders, two days earlier than planned. Nevertheless Ferris’s board of directors urges him to wait in case of last minute problems or accidents; Ferris agrees. On Wednesday, passengers finally begin riding the wheel. The board is cautious because of an accident earlier in the month, when a sled at the Midway’s Ice Railway went off its tracks, killing and injuring passengers. The Ferris Wheel has the potential to cause even more damage.
Again, Larson builds suspense surrounding the Wheel. Though it’s been installed successful, there’s no guarantee that it will continue to work — like the Ice Railway, it could fail spectacularly. Nevertheless, the board of directors’ decision to wait two days before opening the Ferris Wheel to the public suggests that even if there are still dangers at the WF, the organizers are at least learning from their mistakes.
Themes
Modernity and Anonymity Theme Icon