Social Forces that Shaped America

Essay Assignment: Erik Larson, The Devil in the White City

Write a 5 page essay that responds to the questions below, connecting the reading to the historical era. That is, tie it to what we are learning in class. It must make reference to characters and events in the book, as well as material from the lectures and textbook, and will be graded on both the quality of the writing as well as the content.

Use concrete examples. Please double-space and proof-read your work. That means printing it, then re-reading it with pen in hand to clean up mistakes that spell-check can’t find.

For citation, simply provide the page number in parentheses (87) if it comes from the Larson book, or add a footnote with full publishing information if you are citing anything else.

The Devil in the White City portrays a period of enormous social upheaval in American life. What were some of the major changes in urban living, gender roles, working conditions, and communications? What impact did these changes have upon the experience of ordinary people? What groups competed for power in Chicago, and how did they mobilize support? Consider the ambitious projects of the two main protagonists, Burnham and Holmes. How are they affected by the social conditions of the era, and what larger tendencies in American society do you think they reflect? Both Burnham and Holmes dealt with labor conflicts. What was at stake? Why were there disputes between workers and their employers? How did Burnham and Holmes deal with their workers?

Cover these questions in an essay that has an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. You need not address the questions in order, nor should you repeat the questions in your paper. But do be sure that your essay discusses these issues. (The study questions can help direct you toward useful material for this essay.)

Needless to say, copying material from the web is forbidden and easy to spot. Do your own reading, guided by the study questions, and take pride in writing your own essay.

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