The Devil in the White City

The Devil in the White City

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The Devil in the White City Part 4, Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
It is July 16, 1895, and the deaths of the Pitezal children have been reported on the front pages of various newspapers. The Assistant District Attorney, Thomas W. Barlow, orders that Holmes not be shown the papers, so that Barlow can surprise him with the news and possibly get him to confess. But Barlow’s order comes too late, and Holmes reads the papers.
While Holmes is skillful at controlling other people’s perception of himself, Barlow seems incompetent at controlling what Holmes sees. The newspapers interfere with Barlow’s plans, just as they do with Geyer’s investigation.
Themes
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In his memoirs, Holmes claims that he was shocked by the news of the children’s deaths. He realized that they must have been murdered by Minnie Williams, probably working with a dangerous friend of hers, named “Hatch.” Holmes tells Barlow that Minnie and Hatch have killed Howard, too.
Holmes’s inventions become increasingly unconvincing to others as the evidence builds up. To both the reader and the people investigating Holmes, “Hatch” is obviously a last-minute invention designed to save Holmes’s life.
Themes
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Holmes sends his memoirs to a journalist, John King, and gives him instructions to publish them as a book, with his photograph on the cover, as well as directions on how to sell the book by canvassing in Philadelphia.
Even Holmes’s instructions on how to sell his book seem pathetic, not skillfully planned. In Chicago, Holmes was comfortable manipulating others, but his manipulations are becoming clumsy.
Themes
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Modernity and Anonymity Theme Icon
Holmes, who knows that he’s suspected of murdering Minnie Williams, writes a letter in which he tells King to go to a hotel in Chicago, where he’ll find records of Minnie’s presence long after she was supposedly murdered. Holmes adds that if Minnie “was a corpse then, she was a very lively corpse.”
Even when Holmes denies murder, the humorous way he phrases his denial makes him seem callous and terrifying.
Themes
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Men and Women Theme Icon
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