6. At the end of The Devil in the White City, in Notes and Sources, Larson writes: "The thing that entranced me about Chicago in the Gilded Age was the city's willingness to take on the impossible in the name of civic honor, a concept so removed from the modern psyche that two wise readers of early drafts of this book wondered why Chicago was so avid to win the world's fair in the first place" [p. 393]. What motives, in addition to "civic honor," drove Chicago to build the Fair? In what ways might the desire to "out-Eiffel Eiffel" and to show New York that Chicago was more than a meat-packing backwater be seen as problematic?
PRIDE, EGO, ARROGANCE!
7. Larson writes, "The juxtaposition of pride and unfathomed evil struck me as offering powerful insights into the nature of men and their ambitions" [p. 393]. What such insights does the book offer? What more recent stories of pride, ambition, and evil parallel those described in The Devil in the White City?
Hitler, Pol-Pot, Charles Manson, Saddam Hussein…There are really a lot of examples of pride and evil in our species.
8. In his speech before his wheel took on its first passengers, George Ferris "happily assured the audience that the man condemned for having 'wheels in his head' had gotten them out of his head and into the heart of the Midway Plaisance" [p. 279]. In what way is the entire Fair an example of the power of human ingenuity, of the ability to realize the dreams of imagination?
The fair was a dream. It was unimaginable and even when it was put into reality the outcome was far beyond what anyone ever imagined. I was the future in action.
9. In describing the collapse of the roof of Manufacturers and Liberal Arts Building, Larson writes: "In a great blur of snow and silvery glass the building's roof — that marvel of late nineteenth-century hubris, enclosing the greatest volume of unobstructed space in history — collapsed to the floor below" [p. 196–97]. Was the entire Fair, in its extravagant size and cost, an exhibition of arrogance? Do such creative acts automatically engender a darker, destructive parallel? Can Holmes be seen as the natural darker side of the Fair's glory?
Arrogance is part of our nature that keeps us trying harder to constantly do better and improve ourselves. The dark nature of man is sometimes triggered by this but who knows what really brings the bad out in people.