The Devil in the White City By Erik Larson Summary and Analysis Part III: Chapters 33-36 - Vertigo, Heathen Wanted, At Last, and Rising Wave

Summary

The chapters focus on the Ferris wheel's implementation and impact on the fair. Chapter 33 begins with a successful test run of the Ferris wheel with 6 of the 36 cars attached. After the rest of the cars are attached, Ferris and Burnham get into a minor argument about what kind of fencing should go around the Ferris wheel attraction.

Chapter 34 finds Olmsted travelling from worksite to worksite, catching up with his other affairs. While doing so, he anonymously engages in his own investigation into public perception of the fair. He observes a growing interest in going to the fair, but observes that many people still maintain economic concerns. Even the supposed cost of food at the fair hinders some from making the trip to Chicago. In response, Olmsted writes a letter to Burnham expressing his concerns about too much garbage floating around fairgrounds and the need for more spontaneous events at the fair. Burnham disagrees. Unaware of a fire at the fair's Cold Storage Building, Burnham is not made privy to a warning about the future of the building, issued by the chief of the fair's fire department.

Chapter 35 covers the opening of the Ferris wheel on June 21, 1893. Ceremony marks the event, and several stakeholders, including Ferris, his wife, and Harrison, are in the first run that day. The attraction then opens for the general public. Meanwhile, Ferris and his people promote the safety of the Ferris wheel to ease public fear.

Chapter 36 marks the end of June. Fair attendance has almost doubled, but is still nowhere near what stakeholders had projected. The Ferris wheel garners credit for the increase in attendance. People generally are on their best behavior at the fair; arrests and injuries have been minimal. The Ferris wheel continues to face rumors that it is unsafe. Although the fair isn't set to close until October, people are already lamenting the end of its run and contemplating what people are going to do with themselves once the fair is over.

Analysis

The amount of power Burnham wields over the fair is evident as he encounters power struggles and disagreements with Ferris and Olmsted. Daniel Burnham's emerging as a more powerful and confident character. Ironically, despite his growing power and control over the fair, Burnham is not made aware of a growing safety concern at the Cold Storage Building at the end of this series of chapters.

The image of fire in this chapter serves as foreshadowing for unforeseen death and destruction at the fair.

Chapter 36 revisits the theme of pride illustrated in earlier chapters. The people of Chicago have developed a great sense of pride in the fair. Even Olmsted, characterized thus far in the novel as someone who is critical and often complaining, seems proud and more satisfied with the exposition.

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