The Devil in the White City By Erik Larson Summary and Analysis Part I: Chapter 10 - Alone

Summary

The outside architects meet at Burnham and Root's office to resume discussions about the fair despite the Easterners' lack of commitment and confidence in the project. Burnham attempts to use flattery, only to be called out by Hunt. Burnham's insecurities about his lack of formal education resurface with the rebuke. Root is absent from this meeting; Dora calls Burnham later in the day to tell him that Root is sick. As the architects continue to work, Burnham visits Root and stays with him. With Burnham by Root's side, the architects' enthusiasm for the fair grows as Root's improved health encourages collaboration. However, Root's condition takes a turn for the worse, and he dies. Shocked by Root's death, Burnham considers quitting the fair, but he convinces himself to carry on after newspapers imply that nobody can pick up with the fair where Root left off.

Analysis

This chapter brings up the pride theme that runs through the novel. Chapter 10 also serves as a turning point for Burnham. While grieving the loss of his partner and friend John Root, Burnham's pride causes him to continue with his work after contemplating quitting the fair. Burnham's pride is bolstered by the need to prove that he is capable of building the fair without Root's genius.

The end of the chapter sets up the next part of the book by foreshadowing challenges to come for Burnham. Larson leaves a picture painted of unions battling for wages and working conditions, a declining global economy, the president of the fair commission threatening to quit the exposition, and the recollection of a cholera outbreak not too long ago in Chicago, all events that could drastically affect the fair's success.

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