The Devil in the White City

The Devil in the White City

The Devil in the White City Part 1, Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In Early January, 1891, the five Eastern architects leave for Chicago, though one of them, McKim, turns back after learning that his mother has died. In Chicago, they survey Jackson Park; since most of them are old and in poor health, walking through it is an ordeal. The Park is desolate and ugly, with dying trees and soil that is difficult to build on. One Eastern architect, Peabody, says that the area is impossible for hosting the World’s Fair; Burnham replies that the area has been decided upon already.
The team of architects Burnham assembles rarely agrees on anything — even when the five Eastern architects come to Jackson Park. Burnham’s job is both creative and administrative: he occasionally has to put his foot down and insist on the final decision, in this case, that the Fair will be held in Jackson Park.
Themes
Ego and Cooperation Theme Icon
Root, who is 43, charms the Eastern architects. Traveling so much in the previous months has exhausted him, though he knows that after January 15, when the visiting architects return to the East, he will be able to rest.
Larson foreshadows Root’s death. Ironically, the “rest” he looks forward to after January 15 will be “eternal rest.”
Themes
Ego and Cooperation Theme Icon
Except for Root, who is too tired, the architects attend an extravagant dinner. Reporters accost them for information about the Fair, but no one speaks. There are no women in sight. The architects give speeches; Grave, from the East, says that the men need to place the Fair’s interests about their own. Burnham makes a speech in which he argues that 1893 will be the third great year in American history after 1776 and 1861, and encourages the architects to “serve their country,” as Americans did in the two earlier years he names.
The group of architects is not only male but highly masculine: Burnham, for instance, makes a highly militaristic speech about fighting for one’s country. Women at the end of the 19th century were by and large kept out of positions of power — this, of course, made them more vulnerable to people like Holmes. It’s amusing that Burnham thinks the year 1893 will be remembered alongside 1776 — readers know that this is decidedly not the case.
Themes
Men and Women Theme Icon
Ego and Cooperation Theme Icon
Civic Pride and American Patriotism Theme Icon
The next morning, the Eastern architects discuss their plans with Harriet Monroe, the cultural critic, who is deeply unimpressed, and calls their designs ugly and plain. Chicago architects will be the key force in the Fair. Root goes home before the dinner begins; although it is a cold night, he walks outside before he has put on his coat.
For all the effort Burnham exerts to assemble a team of architects from around the country, Chicago does most of the heavy lifting. Meanwhile, Root’s behavior doesn’t bode well for his future.
Themes
Modernity and Anonymity Theme Icon
Ego and Cooperation Theme Icon
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