A Devil in White

photo taken / Larson’s book

Erik Larson’s national bestseller The Devil in the White City is a work of art using macabre illustration and sourcing documentation. The two main figures Daniel Burnham, an architect and the infamous serial killer H. H. Holmes, an alias for Herman Webster Mudgett, are “both handsome” (xi) and “blue-eyed” (xi) emitting candor and affluence traceable to the White City, while refuting the gloom of the impoverished Black City. Larson leaves a prefatory note titled “Evils Imminent” explaining the book as “a story of the ineluctable conflict between good and evil, daylight and darkness, the White City and the Black” (xi). Larson depicts a theme that is the antithesis as “Chicago has disappointed her enemies and astonished the world” (310).


An Evil Angel / pinterest

Larson shares the conflict of opposition as seen in the challenge of civic contribution for credibility in the World’s Fair, an exposition against critical reviews. Chicago is becoming a central for industrial growth, however is criticized for the United States’ ranking in comparison to other countries, especially counterbalanced by France’s Eiffel Tower. The city of Chicago erects “a mélange of pavilions and kiosks with no artistic guidance and no uniform plan” (15). Burnham feels compelled to complete, after the death of John Root, an artistic genius—the fair known as the World’s Columbian Exposition—a commemoration to “the four hundredth anniversary of Columbus’s discovery of America” (4) and will gloriously be announced as the White City.

The revelation of criticism as mentioned by Larson, is motivating spectators to prepare for the World’s Columbian Exposition on Opening Day located in Jackson Park. People will enjoy festivities, performances, and the Ferris Wheel named after George Washington Gale Ferris, an innovative engineering that will “make the Eiffel Tower seem like a child’s sculpture” (240). The World’s Columbian Exposition is certainly motivating Holmes, a young doctor and proprietor who sees “no difficulty in acquiring cadavers” (43). He is welcoming guests at the hotel called the World’s Fair Hotel located “at Sixty-third and Wallace in Englewood” (231), a perfect snare for victims accounted in the high two hundred range.

In contrast to a beginning that will proceed “impact on the nation’s psyche” (373), there is an end. Patrick Eugene Joseph Prendergast is questioned during his “trial in December 1893” (382) for shooting and killing Mayor Carter Henry Harrison, a tragedy that occurred in October 1893, two days before the closing ceremony of the fair. Holmes reaches his demise as he is “escorted to the gallows at Moyamensing Prison” (386) for murdering Benjamin Pitezel, a triumphant moment for the staunch detective Frank Geyer.

Chicago will go down in history as a place that experiences success and failure, civic pride and humiliation. The two main figures of Chicago are compared as Burnham executes excellence in good spirit, and Holmes exhibits horror in secret. Larson conveys a theme that illustrates a “vision of the White City and its profound contrast to the Black City” (374).

Work Cited

Larson, Erik. The Devil in the White City. Vintage, 2004.


An Agreement for the Devil’s Best


DiCaprio and Scorsese/ Everett Collection

Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio are preparing to film Erik Larson’s book The Devil in the White City, a work of art accredited to the production of Paramount. Leonardo DiCaprio is chosen to play the character and lead role of H. H. Holmes, however candidates for remaining characters are uncertain—or at least hidden from the public. In search of suitable candidates, my group and I are experiencing differences of opinion based on distinct physical appearances of actors and actresses in juxtaposing their match to Larson’s description. The choices are reexamined as Larson’s depiction of the characters are widely differentiated, especially distinct for their personalities. The possible contestants are decided based on textual evidence.

Leonardo DiCaprio is well-suited to play H. H. Holmes, a serial killer “growing to resemble the devil” (385), not for his eyes “so clear and blue” (37), but for his gifted ability playing roles of characters who mask a deceptive lifestyle: the role of Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street, a scamming broker, and Dom Cobb in Inception, a thief who steals secrets from the subconscious during a state of sleep. Holmes kills victims accounted in the high two hundred range, coming across the victim Emeline Cigrand, a “handsome blonde”(164), who is suggested for Rachel McAdams because of her role as Allie Hamilton in The Notebook, “a warm and outgoing woman” (165). Unlike the beautiful blonde, Minnie Williams, a victim lured for her possessions has “a masculine nose, thick dark eyebrows, and virtually no neck” (200), a description perfect for Lily Collins who plays the role of Baptist Marla Mabrey in Rules Don’t Apply as she obliviously does not “seem to know a great deal”(200).

Theater / Alberton

Daniel Burnham is “handsome, tall, and strong, with vivid blue eyes” (26), and a visionary of Chicago best equipped for the role of Matt Bomer, a dapper actor who possesses a “decisive, blunt, and cordial” (53) nature. Burnham’s vision for the World’s Fair is not completed without the help of John Root, best fitting for Gerard Butler who does not have “white skin” (20), however in the movie Olympus Has Fallen, he plays Mike Banning, an officer who keenly exemplifies an “abstract and silent, and a faraway look” (26) that emanates his deep sensibility. George Washington Gale Ferris, an engineer and inventor of the Ferris Wheel, is suggested for Tom Selleck for having an “angular face, black hair, a black mustache, and dark eyes” (155) and for his skill playing a cowboy named Rafe Covington in the movie Crossfire Trail, a character who is assertive with a “ready command of language” (155).

While searching for the present candidates suggested, there were differences of opinion strictly based on appearances alone. The choices were reexamined after looking at Larson’s depiction that displays textual evidence in favor of the characters, not just for their physical description, but especially for their distinct personalities. The possible candidates are chosen with evident textual imagery according to Larson’s depiction. The characters are diverse in retrospect and will adapt to the “conflict between good and evil, daylight and darkness, the White City and the Black” (xi).

Work Cited

Larson, Erik. The Devil in the White City. Vintage, 2004.

The Devil’s Best Fitting

Collider Videos/ Leonardo DiCaprio

Erik Larson’s national bestseller The Devil in the White Citycurrently an adaptation and working progress of Paramount directed by Martin Scorsese—will film Leonardo DiCaprio, an accomplished actor well-suited to play the lead role of H. H. Holmes. DiCaprio does not display an evident physical appearance of a gaze “so clear and blue”(37) as the charming murderer, however he is talented enough to play the role of characters who emit candor insusceptible of being deceptive. DiCaprio plays the character Jordan Belfort, a broker who defrauds affluent investors for millions in the film The Wolf of Wall Street, a role complementary to the scandalous Holmes who was “arrested seven months earlier for insurance fraud and now incarcerated in Philadelphia’s Moyamensing Prison”(339), as he claims to have used a cadaver instead of killing a policyholder, Ben Pitezel. Aside from his skill for portraying scandal, DiCaprio is versatile while playing a character in the film Inception named Dom Cobb, a thief able to enter the dreams of people in order to steal secrets from their subconscious, a powerful hypnosis used by Holmes as Henry Owens states, “I was always under his control”(204). Lastly, in the film The Aviator DiCaprio covers a double identity as he plays the character Howard Hughes, a successful aviator ostensibly for an infamous airline, however hides his crippling psychological issues, a dark state of mind that replicates Holmes’ delusional words, “I am growing to resemble the devil”(385).

IMDb / Matt Bomer

Although DiCaprio has affirmed his role as H. H. Holmes, the cast members for the remaining figures are not certain—or appear to be hidden from the public. A considerable entrant for Daniel Burnham, the character who erects Chicago with architect, is Matt Bomer. Bomer seems to match the physical attributes and apparent charisma associated with Burnham. Not only does Bomer fit perfectly in a suite, like Burnham he is “handsome, tall, and strong, with vivid blue eyes”(26) and plays characters that are “decisive, blunt, and cordial”(53).

TINK / Robert Pattinson

As for John Root, a genius artist of architecture and dear partner of Burnham, Scorsese might consider Robert Pattinson for his physical appearance and clever demeanor. Pattinson attributes what Burnham admires about Root “white skin and muscular arms”(20). In contrast to his outward countenance, Pattinson exemplifies a gaze compatible to the eyes of Root which is “abstract and silent, and a faraway look”(26), an indication of pure genius.

Work Cited

Larson, Erik. The Devil in the White City. Vintage, 2004.

Betts and “The Bees”


R.Dwayne Betts and I at Lenoir-Rhyne

The Bees written by Audre Lorde is a poem of destruction that takes place in the street outside a school, as boys yell while stoning a flock of bees. The school guards approach with broomsticks in hand, ready to bash the newly formed hive, after a boy is stung by angry bees. Honey drips down from the guards’ broomsticks, and the bewildered bees are trampled by little boy feet. The secret lesson behind the destruction is learned by four little girls, but only one girl spoke up. The poem mirrors—R. Dwayne Betts’ memoir A Question of Freedom—because the characters in both pieces of writing understand institutional destruction.

On December 7, 1996, R. Dwayne Betts is labeled a felon and sentenced to nine years in prison. The school setting in the poem The Bees is an institutional symbol, however prison happens to be Betts’ institutional setting. He is like the little boy and his life as an inmate exemplifies a replica of the trampled bees as said, “And the little boy feet becoming expert in destruction” (20-21). He is now property of the Fairfax County Jail. He explains in his memoir, “It was a five-digit number I soon learned meant more than my name” (6).

hive colony or nest bumblebee workers, efficient builders hives bees nests and megacolonies, monumental buildings bumblebees are products of their organization and teamwork, nest of bumb
Honey Colony or Nest/ Wikimedia Commons

The mystery is behind the destruction of the bewildered bees, a replica of Betts’ life as an inmate. The women in Betts’ life are like the little girls, observing his destruction, and learning a secret lesson from it. His mother is most significant because she is like the little girl who spoke up. The little girl cries out, “We could have studied honey-making!” (32). This poses a question: what would Betts’ life look like if he is not an institutionalized inmate? The girl’s cry is emanated in his mother’s silence as Betts mentions, “When my life became a derailed train I was left with the silence of my mother” (231).


Lorde Audre gives a preamble of the Poem saying, “In the street outside a school what the children learn possesses them” (1-3). The children will not learn the secret lesson until they are present in an institutional setting. After serving his prison sentence, Betts walks outside, ready to leave the facility. As he looks back, he notices a young man staring at him, with hands gripping the fence, imagining—a life beyond the fence. The secret lesson is revealed in the silence as Betts explains, “But what I heard when I looked at him was my mother’s silence, and hoped he could figure out the explanations I never found” (233).

The characters in the poem The Bees, are mere reflections of those in A Question of Freedom and their relations to institutional destruction. R. Dwayne Betts is like the little boy who tramples on the bewildered bees, the example of his life as a new inmate. His mother is like the girl who spoke of the secret lesson behind the destruction. He learns that the secret lesson is in the silence.

Works Cited

Lorde, Audre. The Bees. Black Nature: Good Reads, 2011.

Betts, R. Dwayne. A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival and Coming of Age in Prison. New York: Avery, 2010.

Wonder of the World: Wackiness

Wonder of the World-Photograph

The play titled, Wonder of the World is authored by David Lindsay-Abaire. This wacky play includes whimsical travels, the act of impulses, and a rapid change of emotions. The play focuses on the analysis of Cass Harris, a woman in her thirties, who is longing for a new start. Cass is married to her husband, Kip Harris, who has skeletons in his closet. Cass decides to leave Kip in order to pursue happiness, through adventure by completing her list. Reviewer, Ben Brantley believes that the plays wackiness is imposed rather than organic. Wonder of the World’s wackiness feels imposed, because it is absurd, rash, and structurally unsound.

First, the word absurd involves someone or something that appears to be senseless or illogical. The real absurdity of the play begins on the bus headed towards Niagara Falls, where Cass meets Lois Coleman, an alcoholic with a barrel. Cass and Lois exchange conversations, and introduce their lives to one another. Cass and Lois share one thing: absence of spousal relationships. Cass left her Husband, Kip. As for Lois, she was left by her Husband, Ted. Cass feels if though Lois will be her new best friend, as they venture to Niagara Falls. Cass asks, “Hey, do you wanna be my sidekick” (1.2)?! It is absurd to think that strangers become best friends, over a conversation on a bus. The absurdity is comparative to kindergarten socialization.

My Falls Edit

Secondly, rash is a word to describe the process of a thoughtless and hasty act. An example of rash is suicide, and suicide seems to be a big part of Wonder of the World. Lois, the drunk, is ready kill herself, by hopping into a barrel, and going over the falls. Captain Mike, a handsome captain, explains to Cass that he had attempted suicide after the loss of his wife, Dinah. Another example of rash is sleeping with strangers, and no, not the snoozing type of sleep. On the tour of Niagara Falls, Cass meets Captain Mike, a captain of the Maid of the Mist. Cass makes her rashness known with a sexual introductory of herself saying, “I was telling my friend how I wanted to have sex with you” (1.6). The rash prevalence of suicide and sex in the play is unrealistic.

Lastly, structurally unsound ideas or plots lack fluidity in transition. Structurally unsound ideas or plots make you question the logic of causation. Logic states that every cause comes from the point of origin. It is hard to see structure, when there is no way to create a connection. David Lindsay-Abaire holds a structurally unsound cliffhanger by ending the play with ambiguity. Cass and Lois had left a room full of madness in scene three, then end up in a barrel together, concluding scene four of act two. There is a lack of structure as to how they arrived, hanging off the edge of Niagara Falls. The play concludes with Cass saying to Lois, “Some breakfast would be nice” (2.4) after staring at the roaring waters. The structurally unsound thinking of the play gives a comical effect.

It is clear that David Lindsay-Abaire’s play, Wonder of the World, has a wackiness that is imposed rather than organic, however it seems to work for him. The play is full of absurdity as Cass meets Lois, a dunk with a barrel, who is now Cass’s new sidekick. The play reveals rash themes of suicide and sex. The plot of the play continues on with a structurally unsound transition, as it ends with a cliffhanger that is punned: Cass and Lois are literally cliff hangers. Regardless of the plays imposed wackiness, the characters experience situations that are relative to us, and the play is humorous.

Work Cited

Lindsay-Abaire, David.Wonder of the World. New York, NY: Dramatists Play Service, 2003.

Life as a Dog Breeder


Life as a dog breeder is rewarding, aside from the cons of attachment towards the puppies. My name is Laura Barrier, and I am ambivalent about dog breeding. I have thirteen Saint Bernard dogs: two adults and eleven puppies. The memories of dog breeding that are heart warming consists of birth, puppy growth, and all of the new things learned about each individual puppy. The worst memories of dog breeding involves the act of selling the puppies, and the thought of broken trust. It is astonishing to know that these cute, little puppies will follow, until they have no idea as to where they are being taken. Dog breeding has taught me about the importance of connection and its ties to bonding through trust.