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The Devil in the White City

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English homework

  • Jaime Baek

The Devil in the White City

Copy a short passage that you found to be interesting and explain why you found it interesting/why it is an example of good writing.

  • “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.” (p. 12). Out of everything, this excerption was especially interesting to me. This quote wasn’t said by any of the characters within the book, but rather by Erik Larson himself. Why this quote was particularly interesting to me was because it reflected the author, rather than any of the characters within the story. The quote reflected his impression of what he had researched in order to write this book, separating this particular book from an article one might happen to find in a newspaper, or online. It shows that Larson did more than simply retell the story of Daniel Hudson Burnham and H.H. Holmes, he incorporated his own thoughts and feelings into the story he was telling, molding the story as clay molded by a potter before being sent off. I like this quote because the quote provides proof that the stories aren’t just facts, but rather a narrative, guiding you with the author’s personal thoughts and opinions.

Describe how the author captured your interest or pulled you into the book.

  • Erik Larson used an array of literary techniques throughout the book, but the one that drew me in most was his consistent use of suspense. He would switch between each character’s stories, making sudden switches at crucial point where the suspense was high. This kept me juggling the two stories constantly, providing with constant exciting points as I slowly unraveled each characters’ stories. Although this technique sometimes made me feel a bit lightheaded at times, I couldn’t put the book down because the suspense kept me reading.  

Describe new insights or understandings you have after reading the book.

  • Before this book, I never thought there could be anyone who was so pure, whether that be pure evil or pure good. I always thought people only varied slightly from a mix of half and half. After reading this book however, I realized it is actually capable for someone to contain within them such good like Burnham or such evil like Holmes. No matter how hard I tried, I could not find enough evil in Burnham or good in Holmes to justify my previous outlook on an individual’s personality.

Would the book be different if it had been written either 10 years ago or 100 years ago? (depending on the date of publication)

  • Yes. The book probably wouldn’t have been written the same fashion if it had been written 100 years ago instead of 10. If written 10 years ago, the book would most likely be split into two separate books, one about Daniel Hudson Burnham and the other about H.H. Holmes. This would be as to not confuse the readers so much. The stories would also incorporate less of the author and have more details as people directly related to the stories would still be alive.

How did your understanding of the text or your feelings about it change over the course of your reading? What might have been the cause of this change?

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