The Devil in the White City By Erik Larson Summary and Analysis Part III: Chapters 41-42 - Love, Freaks

Summary

Chapter 41 covers the courtship of three couples. First, the narrative describes how the famous writer Theodore Dreiser courts a reluctant school teacher from St. Louis at the fair, a woman who eventually agrees to marry the American novelist. The chapter then shifts focus to Holmes, his new love interest, Georgiana Yoke, and how he uses the fair to court her. Holmes finally proposes to Yoke and marries her under a different name. The third courtship in this chapter is that of 60-something-year-old Mayor Harrison and a young 20-something. The pair likely will announce their engagement at the end of October, on the day of the fair's closing ceremony.

Chapter 42 moves the action to the end of July, as Burnham encounters a committee developed to cut operating costs of the fair. The fair continues to remain a source of pride for Chicago, as the city receives affirmation from a New York newspaper about the exposition's successes. Meanwhile, Millet continues to pressure railroads to lower their fares and works even harder to create attendance-drawing events. In particular, he plans a midway ball — an exotic, intoxicating, and hugely successful affair.

After the ball, fair attendance increases to an average of over 100,000 people a day. Meanwhile, the national and global economies continue to plummet; more banks close, leading businessmen to commit suicide; unemployment rates rise; and unions fight on for better relationships between employers and employees.

Analysis

These chapters advance the plot through August and provide a flavor of the larger societal picture during the time of the fair. Chapter 41 interweaves three examples of "marriage" facilitated by the fair. By placing these stories of union within the same chapter, author Larson connects several characters who use the fair as a vehicle to serve their marriage interests. All are scandalous in their own ways according to social norms of the time.

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