The Devil In The White City Book Review

Published: 2021-06-22 00:31:23
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Category: Education, Workplace, City

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Introduction
The devil in the white city is one of the literatures by Erik Larson, which highlights some developments in the eighteenth century. This was a defining moment in United States where various architectural designs wee being adopted. Technical education had just hit its peak as many more people acquired skills. With the knowledge, they looked for creative ways of beautifying the city (Johnson, 73). They realized the need of planning everything and ensuring that both buildings, roads, rails and parks were placed at their right positions. One of the weaknesses that such architectural designs and designers had was the fact that they underestimated the changes that came with time. They had so much confidence in what they did that it did not occur to them that they would be affected by artificial and natural calamities. With the developments came other economic and social challenges. The most surprising thing was that as the architects went on with the designs, they failed to foretell and even prepare for impending risks. In this literature, we shall analyze some of the developments that happened during the year and some of the risks that were associated with them.
Three risky situations in the book
Increased levels of crime
As the city of Chicago went though a series of developments, and the fair that had been organized, it was expected that there would be high levels of crime in the city. City planners when facilitating development projects have always considered this factor. The book highlights some of the safety precautions that were undertaken by the city to minimize on high levels of crime. One of such measures was to train security officers and erect police stations at strategic places. The buildings were also designed in a way that would not allow easy penetration by either breaking or sneaking through them (Collins, 124). The architect designed the building with watchtowers, which made it easy for them to monitor any criminal activities. There were also security checks at major city entries to ensure that only legalized people access the city. Apart from the watchtowers erected on buildings, they were also erected at major points of the city. They were served with security officials who would watch across the city and ensure safety of the people.
Crime was also a risk associated with extensive immigration and association. The author has mentioned cases of murder, robbery and even rape. There were measures put in place not only to punish the criminals but also to teach the society on the effects of crime. There were guidance and counseling sessions for couples who were facing issues in their relationships because of the economic changes (Larson, 77). Amidst such developments, there were social groups cropping up, which were mainly for the purposes of encouraging and strengthening each other. For instance, there was a strong shift of gender roles where women found themselves performing corporate responsibilities. They had issues balancing between their household responsibilities was becoming a major conflict resulting in criminal offenses. With such groups in place, they were able to know and learn and balance and hence minimizing on crime.
Fire hydrants
Architectural development in the city put the buildings at risk of catching fire. This was because of the necessity that fire heard in running machines and performing other vital activities. This implied that fire could not be avoided at all costs. It was also realized that despite the importance that fire had in facilitating developments, it could also jeopardize the efforts that had been put in place. Realizing this, fire hydrants were installed in major areas of the city as well as fire fighting equipments in tall buildings. The buildings were constructed to ensure that if fire occurred at any point or floor of the building was access to fire fighting equipment and facilities. Hydrants were supplied with adequate water and maintained regularly to deal with emergencies. Apart from the precautionary measures that were taken, there were also preventive measures taken to minimize on the causes and effects of fire.
The public and especially those who dealt with fire on a regular basis were give skills on how to manage the occurrence of the same. They were to have protective gear and use their equipments well so that they are not burned. Those in officers were also taught on what they were to do just incase they were encountered with a fire scenario. There were do’s and don’ts for the people which would prevent the fire fro spreading or even affecting them. Fire sirens were also installed in the building and people alerted on their locations (American Bibliographical Center, 36). The only issue was however the fact that the visitors to the buildings had no idea of where the facilities were. The training was also not done on a regular basis and mainly remembered when a fire occurred. In case the fire took time before affecting a place, fire precautionary measures were forgotten and neglected.
Accidents
Accidents were also an occurrence that had bee predicted in the constriction and planning of the city. The accidents came from automobile machineries, which were discovered to have many weaknesses. Cases of trains loosing their rail tracks, hurting and killing people had become common (Pitti, 97). People falling from tall building and being injured by falling objects. Most of such phenomena could not be predicted considering the absolute trust that the architecture had in designing their plans. There were plans to minimize on accidents by testing machines before employing them for public service. The engines were also checked on a frequent basis and repairs made whenever possible. However, due to human error and other unavoidable circumstances, accidents could not be completely avoided. There were however measures to ensure that those who were injured had access to medical treatment.
Apart from testing their engineering skills, there were measures to ensure that those who controlled the machines were competent enough. There were also other alternative measures taken incase of uncontrollable slug. For instance, when the titanic was designed, the architecture had full confidence that ship was strong enough to ferry people. However, there were boats installed to ensure that people escaped just incase it capsized (Larson, 152). Despite the inconvenience that was finally experienced and the engine of the ship failed, there were some boats where people would escape as they awaited other rescue measures. This was also applicable to other equipments used by people to either carry on with their daily chores but also travel about.
Five risks not covered in the book
Room for renovations
Room for renovations was something that was taken for granted by the planners of the Chicago city in the early century. This was caused by the rigidness and the confidence that the designers had, they thought that what they were making would be the best not considering the changes in technology. As they designed various buildings and machines, they did not think that for a while, technological developments would come with new changes, which will render their technology useless and meaningless (Jonnes, 185). This was a big blow especially to other new inventories who felt a building would look netter if it were designed in a particular way. In as much as they desired to facilitate the changes and transform the buildings into modern and acceptable facilities, they were limited on how much they could do it. The main renovations that could be done were those of changing the paint and installing movable assets. This was however hectic especially when it was considered than some of the equipments were installed during constructions and hence making it quite difficult to move them.
There was mainly a challenge in installing modern communication equipments to enhance security and interaction. It required that some of the devices pass through the walls and networked to ensure effectiveness and tidiness of the offices. However, with the settings, such facilities were not effectively installed compared to other newer building that were erected. Automobiles on the other hand could not stand the taste of time due to their inability to be enhanced. Many resources had to go to waste as it was realized that such machines had to be gotten rid of to pave room for better and effective ones. The few that remained were mainly for history purposes, as they could not match those that had just been introduced. Such technology was considered selfish, as it did not permit new inventions to be built on them.
War and war consequences
War was something that had been underrated by the leaders of the time, even though it was not a direct consequence of the wars that followed, developments imparted on its results. The developments that happened in United States and other nations implied something. The architectural developments were not only an attractive to the locals but also to the international community. Apart from the pride that it brought to the Americans, it was a source of jealousy to neighboring communities. They thought they also deserved to have such beautiful artifacts. Since they could not steal the knowledge, they could interfere with the process and even compete with the country (McNamara, 64). War became a strategy through which the nations could prove their superiority and destroy some designs that had taken architectures time to erect. Most of the resources that time had been used to erect the structures and little was set aside to cater for the war.
The tension became eminent and wars broke up, fro world wars to civil wars, this became the order of the day. It was discovered how ill prepared to attack their enemies. They had to ambush young men from their homes that had little experience of what was. They were not given adequate training and send to fight in places that were strange to them. The hardest part was to cope with the consequences of the war, which negatively imparted on the economy of the country. Most of the young people who were endowed with the skills and knowledge of developing the city had been killed in the war (Larson, 180). The society was left mostly with women and children who were also not experienced in terms of developments projects. They had the responsibility of rebuilding their personal lives and hoes as well as filling the gap left by the men. These were war risks that the city had not prepared for and had to suffer as well as learn lessons.
Political changes
The nineteenth century was not only an economic defining moment but also a political one. It was a time when the eyes of many citizens were being opened to know and realize what they wanted for their nation. Despite the minimal opportunities they had to influence the leadership of their country, there was a realization within them that something had to be done. The leaders of the time underestimated the ability of citizens to demand their rights and thought they would still employ their dictatorial skills to have their way (Baty, 45). It was only a matter of time when small revolutionary groups were formed, which turned out to human rights and political revolutions. Some of the people who had gained knowledge started imparting the same on others and raised awareness in them. The citizens realized that most of the decisions passed favored those who ranked in the society while the majority did not benefit. It was time for them to influence such decisions for their favor.
Political changes were not to be obtained easily; they were not only risky to those who established them but also to the leaders of the time. The determination that people had meant that someone had to suffer in the end, but change was inevitable. Those who established the groupings were not afraid of death as long as it facilitated the needed changes. On the other hand, the leaders were not ready to give up the pride and fake they had earned over the years. This was hence going to be a tough change that none was prepared for. It was a risk that was worth taking, one that imparted on the history of United States. Despite the various assassinations that took place, they yielded the desired fruits. Years down the line, what was being fought for was achieved. It changed people’s perspective towards change as they realized that they could have what they want if they purposed.
Employee unrest
With many economic establishments, the corporate sector was active with the need for people to take up employment in various companies. The developments did not only create job opportunities but also made many more people seek knowledge and education. They were to be prepared for responsibilities ahead, which would be determined by their level of education. In the initial stages of employment, employees demanded nothing more than opportunities to work. They took in what they were given and basically worked to the favor of their employers. No matter how the terms of work changed, employees had the obligation of obeying and respecting their employers and fulfilling their demands. It did not occur to employees that such conditions would change as workers started demanding for their rights. They realized that what they were being paid for was to be done so under certain circumstances.
They realized that employers were in the habit of giving them good employment packages when employed but turned against them as time went by. No matter how hard work they worked, they were never appreciated for what they did and treated as slaves. It was time for such treatment to be brought to halt as workers planned to jointly demand for their rights. It was inconveniencing for most industries whose economic activities were jeopardized as employees downed their tools. The solution was to have agreements that stipulated the rights of employers and employees. Employees had to agree to work in certain terms for a particular remuneration package. This struck a balance between the two parties and made working environments and conditions better. It also minimized on inconveniences caused to industries as well as exploitation of employees. This also gave rise to trade unions, which became the basis under which employees could have their issues addressed.
Immigration consequences
Immigration was also another effect of growth and development experienced in the nineteenth century. It was a time when trade was the main economic activity of the people. With different unique treasures owned by different communities, trade was the only way through which such exchange could be facilitated. Merchant traders were attracted to places that had development potentials. With the architectural designs in Chicago and other cities of America, this became the most opportune time for traders to market their goods. As they flooded the cities, some of the settled there while others found the place to be irresistible and sought permanent residence (Hamilton, 98). It had not occurred to the governors that such immigrations could impart negatively especially on the social strata of the community. They enjoyed the fact that their nation was preferred as a green pasture for many not realizing how the same would affect the distribution of resources.
As the people settled, there was need for more housing unities and an improvement on social amenities. What had been planned was not adequate for the growing population. Due to the rigidity of the plans and the fact that the city was designed to handle only a minimum capacity of people, there was population outburst. This led to the development of social classes where the best housing facilities were preserved for the great and others of less significance were forced to scramble for other facilities. The city that was designed to be free from hazards was now a dangerous place to be especially for the poor. They were to live in dirty environment that were not adequately supplied with social amenities. Poor living conditions lead to outbreak of plagues and diseases. Slums became the source of all health hazards, which spread even to other cities. Since this had not been planned for, many people succumbed to their diseases and infections.
Conclusion
The devil in the white city is a book that highlights some of the challenges that were faced by nineteenth century developers. The developers did their best to control some calamities they foresaw but neglected some. This has however not been used against them but rather a cautionary strategy to other future developments (Wilton, 65). It was a time when many lessons were learned from the mistakes that were made and strategies put in place to ensure that nothing was left unturned. Planning for a city is more than just having beautiful architectural designs, it has to be realized that anything initiated by man is associated with risks, which have to be planed for in advance. These challenges have had impact on how other cities were planned. Issues that had been previously ignored are considered with the full knowledge that everything is subject to change.
Works cited
American Bibliographical Center. America, history and life, Volume 41, Issue 4. Michigan: Clio
Press.,
2004.
Baty, Chris. Chicago. London: Lonely Planet, 2004.
Collins, Skyler. The Unauthorized Guide to the History Behind the Devil in the White City:
Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America. New York:
BiblioBazaar, 2011.
Hamilton, Maxwell. Journalism's Roving Eye: A History of American Foreign Reporting. New
York: LSU Press, 2011.
Johnson, Scott. Trials of the Century: An Encyclopedia of Popular Culture and the Law, Volume
1. New York: ABC-CLIO, 2010.
Jonnes, Jill . Eiffel's Tower: The Thrilling Story Behind Paris's Beloved Monument and the Extraordinary
World's Fair That Introduced It. New York: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated,
2010.
Larson, Erik. The Devil In The White City. New York: Transworld, 2010.

McNamara, Frances. Death at the Fair. Chicago: Allium Press of Chicago, 2009.
Pitti, Stephen. The Devil in Silicon Valley: Northern California, Race, and Mexican Americans.
London: Princeton University Press, 2003.
Wilton, David. Word Myths: Debunking Linguistic Urban Legends. Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 2008.

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