The Devil in the White City By Erik Larson Summary and Analysis Part III: Chapter 29 - Night Is the Magician

Summary

Chapter 29 begins by describing what the typical fairgoer might experience at the fair. The fair is a place of great inventions and many firsts. Children are left at day care, and parents are given a claim check for them. The first zipper, first all-electric kitchen, and a new gum called Juicy Fruit all debut at the fair. Despite all the interesting things to see and experience at the exposition, attendance is not anywhere near where stakeholders want it to be.

Burnham orders a clean-up of the fair in order to boost attendance. He then leads a tour of important people, including John Root's widow, Dora, around the grounds in the way Burnham wants people to see the fair. During construction, Burnham had fought to have limited entrances so that fairgoers would follow the route Burnham thought best for their visits. Burnham lost this battle, giving him more reason to give guided tours with the fair now in full swing. Dora Root is so impressed with the exposition and the way that Burnham honors Root's vision in the fair that she writes Burnham a letter to tell him so.

Analysis

Imagery and symbolism weave through this chapter. The fair is often described with images of white and light. The buildings are all white, serving to illuminate the fair. The electric lights scattered throughout the fair are effective in hiding the garbage and flaws still present at the fair. The lights and the white represent the pure and good, symbolic of Daniel Burnham and his efforts to make the fair successful. Purity shines even brighter when widow Dora Root gives Burnham affirmation that he has captured his dead friend's vision. These images greatly contrast with those surrounding Holmes in earlier chapters. The lights hiding the flaws or bad parts of the fair is symbolic of Holmes's murders and crimes going virtually unnoticed in Chicago during this time.

The tone set at the end of Chapter 29 gives hope that Burnham's fair will be a success if the Ferris wheel can be finished and if the fair's positive reputation will continue to spread. Larson's push-and-pull style creates tension and anticipation. At the beginning of the chapter, fair attendance is down. By the end of the chapter, hope for a positive outcome is restored.

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