1.       The rational explanation laid blame on the forces of change that
during this time had convulsed Chicago. Amid so much turmoil it was
understandable that the work of a young and handsome doctor would go unnoticed.
As time passed, however, even sober men and women began to think of him in
less-than-rational terms. (6)


While introducing one of the main characters, the prologue sets
the stage for the book. It describes evil that migrated its way into a period
of greatness and of “the forces of change that…. convulsed Chicago”. The
prologue sets the stage for all the gruesome details to come and paves the way
for good and evil.

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2.       It was so easy to disappear, so easy to deny knowledge, so very
easy in the smoke and din to mask that something dark had taken root. This was
Chicago, on the eve of the greatest fair in history. (12)


author, Erik Larson, describes Chicago, a big, chaotic city, as a place where
one could easily disappear. It was a place where anything could happen; a
person standing on the street could get hit by a car. It was a very good place
for H.H. Holes to carry out all his devious plans because he knew that all his
actions would be overlooked. It is also interesting to note that as Larson
officially introduces Holmes’ character into the book, the details surrounding
his arrival are very dark. The mere fact that he arrives and finds chaos and smells
of slaughterhouses foreshadows all the disgusting and horrific murders he will


3.       Holmes…. walked with confidence and dressed well, conjuring an
impression of wealth and achievement. He was twenty-six years old. His height
was five feet, eight inches… He had dark hair and striking blue eyes, once
likened to the eyes of a Mesmerist… “They are blue. Great murderers, like great
men in other walks of activity, have blue eyes.” …To women as yet unaware of
his private obsessions, it was an appealing delicacy. He broke prevailing rules
of casual intimacy: He stood too close, stared too hard, touched too much and
long. And women adored him for it. (35-36)


description of Holmes is charming but chilling. His eyes are described as “great
murderers” because they mesmerize females so well. He knew he was handsome and
used it to his advantage to get what he wanted. He was the realistic definition
of “you little devil” when used to flirt because of his ability to make women
feel loved and important which made it easier for him to gain their trust. It
is important to note that throughout the story he always targeted women, who
were unhappy with themselves or their current situation. Unhappiness or
depression, this was the weakness of females and Holmes knew this. He knew that
internally they refused to be lonely which is why he always creeped up and made
them his prey.


The dome was too much—-not too tall
to be built, simply too proud for its context. It would diminish Hunt’s
building and in doing so diminish Hunt and disrupt the harmony of other
structures on the Grand Court. (114)


The character of H.H. Holmes can be alluded to the
dome of the Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building. Holmes’ is an alluring man,
however, he has a psychotic nature to kill. Now, at this point in the story,
that nature is “not too tall to be built” meaning that it is gradually progressing
into something atrocious and will diminish any form of sanity left within him
causing him to disrupt not only the harmony of himself but of the lives of
others. While he still has the chance to suppress it, the nature will eat him
alive to the point of no return.


At first Burnham tried the oblique
approach. “We are now organizing a special interior decorative and
architectural force to handle this part,” he wrote to Davis, “and I have the
honor to offer the services of my department to yours in such matters. I feel a
delicacy in having my men suggest to yours artistic arrangements, forms and
decorations of exhibits, without your full approval, which I hereby
respectfully ask.” (157)


The fair is essentially called the White City and
on the front cover of this book, readers will find the Administration building
on the front cover in white surrounded by darkness. It is almost like the World
Fair is purification for the city of Chicago. Amidst all its chaos and
destruction, people inside and outside of Chicago seemed to find pleasure and a
bit of solace in the place. Due to this, directors of the fair, including
Burnham, people of Chicago, and people of America were prideful in the creation
of a masterpiece. They elevate themselves to a Godlike status and want other
nations of the world to bow to them.


The skies cleared and stayed clear.
Roadways dried, and newly open flowers perfumed the air. Exhibitors gradually
completed their installations, and electricians removed the last misconnects
from the elaborate circuits that linked the fair’s nearly 200,000 incandescent
bulbs. Throughout the fairgrounds, on Burnham’s orders, clean-up efforts
intensified. (251)


This description of the fair can be used to
describe Holmes. Initially when the fair first began, it was very untidy,
unpresentable, and did not really know how to operate but now the sky is clear
and new flowers have opened. This represents Holmes when he first came to
Chicago. It was not in its best condition nor was he, at least not in the
aspects of his monstrous deeds. He was new and now doors have opened for him to
bloom in different aspects of his life. It also represents how after every
murder Holmes committed, he blossomed into a new person ready to commit


The threat of violence was as palpable
as the deepening cold of autumn… The White City had drawn men and protected
them; the Black City now welcomed them back, on the eve of winter, with filth,
starvation, and violence. (323)


Just as the White City had drawn men in and protected
them, so did Holmes. Holmes is a replica of the city of Chicago at a more
catastrophic level. Chicago and Holmes attracted women and seemed so appealing
but they did not know what was in store for them. For many of them, they hoped
for prosperity but got starvation and violence.


The search delighted Holmes. It
satisfied his profound need for attention and gave him a sense of power over
the detective. He knew that Geyer’s search would be in vain. (351-352)


Holmes liked power because it gave him an incentive
to dig deeper and do more horrendous things. The thought of having power elevated
his motivation to kill. One would think that this could be caused by those who
bullied him in his childhood days. Maybe he reminiscences on how powerless
those children made him feel, so he makes others feel this way. It is written
that search delighted him, it should be changed to the search for escape that all
his victims craved and looked for delighted him. He stood nearby and smiled
when his victims searched for a way out; when they were rendered helpless, he
took pleasure in it.


wish to say that I am but a very ordinary man, even below average in physical strength
and mental ability, and to have planned and executed the stupendous amount of
wrong-doing that has been attributed to me would have been wholly beyond my
power….” (369)


These are all lies. Holmes planned and executed
almost-perfect plans of death. He is a conniving killer. He fails to believe
that he is guilty because he does not want to let go of the power and
satisfaction he had when killing all those people. The police department and
detective offices do not even notice the murders of those he killed.


10.    “The fair’s greatest impact lay in how it changed
the way Americans perceived their cities and their architects. It primed the
whole of America—-not just a few rich architectural patrons—to think of
cities in a way they never had before. (373-374)


While the fair itself impacted society, it
also left the impact of Henry Webster Mudgett, alias H.H. Holmes, America’s
first serial killer according to most historians. The story of Holmes left
people worried about their safety. They worried if their neighbor was a killer
and feared for their lives. The level of suspicion and unsafety will rise to
new points that soon citizens may not be able to handle well. People will no
longer look at each other the same. Holmes would have inspired many others to
commit the same dreadful crimes as he and obtain the same gratification.