Imminent Conflict Between Good and Evil

In Erik Larson’s book, The Devil in the White City, Larson explores the late nineteenth century Chicago where he focuses on the Chicago World Fair and two similar, yet very different men. Each possesses extreme skill in their respected fields but one is an architect and the other a murderer. Throughout, Larson describes the events that take place between Daniel Burnham, the lead architect of the World’s Fair, and H. H. Holmes, a serial killer. Larson often draws on how the two men are interconnected, despite the fact that the protagonists never meet face to face. In “Evils Imminent,” Larson’s prefatory note, he writes that The Devil in the White City is “a story of ineluctable conflict between good and evil, day light and darkness, the White City and the Black” (xi). The best passage that illustrates this theme appears from the chapter “All the Weary Days” because the inevitable conflict between good and evil is evident; yet, both sides prevail.

Early in the chapter, Larson summarizes how Geyer’s investigation is progressing and notes that “[h]e had examined every lead, checked every hotel, visited every boarding house and real estate agent, and yet now he had to begin his search anew. Where? What path was left? The weather remained stifling, as if taunting him” (363). Luckily, Geyer finds something of value to his investigation when he and Chicago detectives explore the Englewood building that Holmes once occupied. In it contained evidence that could convict Holmes of many murders. Larson writes that “[t]he discoveries came quickly: a vat of acid with eight ribs and part of a skull settled at the bottom; mounds of quicklime; a large kiln; a dissection table stained with what seemed to be blood” (364). Because of these discoveries, the conflict between good and evil is inarguable. Good overcomes the dark by finally finding enough evidence that can indict Holmes.  No longer can Holmes charm his way out of anymore trouble. It appears that Geyer’s arduous investigation is coming to an end and Holmes (the evil) will perish.

Even though good seems to have won with the discoveries made by Geyer and his team, the ineluctable conflict between the two continues to clash. The eighteen ribs from the torso of a child is discovered, which means that evil has triumphed. The finding of the bones reveals the dark side of Holmes who will stop at nothing to feed his thirst for killing. Not only did he kill one child, remains of other children were also found. Larson mentions that “[a]rticles of clothing emerged from walls and from pits of ash and quicklime, including a girl’s dress and bloodstained overalls” (364). When a child, or anyone for that matter is murdered and essentially dissected, then there is rarely, if any, good that accompanies the death. Holmes ended these young lives to satisfy his addiction; the dark overcomes the light.

Lastly, Carrie Pitezel is summoned to identify the bodies of her children. One can imagine that doing so is extremely difficult. Larson writes that she “[i]dentified Howard’s overcoat and his scarf pin, and a crochet needle that belonged to Alice” (368). Larson continues that “[f]inally the coroner showed her a toy that Geyer himself had found in the house. It consisted of a tin man mounted on a spinning top. She recognized it. How could she not? It was Howard’s most important possession” (368). Larson includes this to give readers the idea that though the investigation is over, Holmes has impacted and hurt so many people that the overall outcome of the investigation is irrelevant. When a parent loses a child, then what does finally bringing the killer to justice mean? The child is gone forever and the darkness of evil will forever envelope the light of the good. This idea further expands on the notion that the conflict between good and evil is unavoidable.

The chapter “All the Weary Days” is the best passage in the book to defend Larson’s claim that The Devil in the White City is “a story of the ineluctable conflict between good and evil, daylight and darkness, the White City and the Black” (xi). The theme is evident throughout, but this chapter especially illustrates the complexity of the conflict between good and evil. Light can overcome the dark, but the shadows that are lingering from evil continue making an impact which essentially undermines the work of the good, such as Frank Geyer’s discoveries. The struggle between the conflict is apparent throughout the book, but Larson presents this theme clearly in this chapter.

Work Cited

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


From Pages to Screen. Casting Call for The Devil in the White City.

Erik Larson’s novel The Devil in the White City, is currently underway to become a movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio (H. H. Holmes) and is under the direction of Martin Scorsese. Scorsese and DiCaprio have worked together before which means the movie is bound to be captivating. Though the movie is centered around a serial killer and is quite dark, viewers will fall in love with DiCaprio like many did for Mr. Holmes. The movie is set to premier in 2017, though there is no clear date as to when the movie is coming to theaters.

As a group, we have decided that Leonardo DiCaprio is perfect to play the role of the slick, yet malevolent H. H. Holmes. Holmes is depicted by Erik Larson as a man who “walked with confidence and dressed well, conjuring an impression of wealth and achievement” (35). DiCaprio’s features strike confidence with a powerful blow. He is no stranger to playing the wealthy and charming character that everyone seems to fall in love with. Scorsese may turn to Nick Offerman to portray the role of Daniel Burnham, the lead architect of the World’s Fair. Offerman would be playing one of the protagonists in the story and is known for his role in Parks and Recreation. Offerman has similar characteristics to that of Burnham. Larson notes that “Burnham was handsome, tall, and strong with vivid blue eyes that drew clients and friends to him the way a lens gathers light” (26). Larson also writes that “Burnham was decisive, blunt, and cordial he spoke under a blue gaze that most found comforting” (53). Offerman, who usually plays roles in comedies, can also act in serious roles like he did in FX’s Fargo, which is what would be required of him to portray Burnham. The casting for Minnie Williams could possibly go to Margot Robbie, a young Australian actress. Minnie Williams is a school teacher who wants to fall in love and start a family. Margot has similar traits, and can play the role of her character as she did in Wolf of Wall Street. Larson writesTo Minnie the little ceremony appeared to be legal and in its quiet way very romantic” (205). They both strive to fall hopelessly in love.  Another possible casting option for Frederick Law Olmstead could be Anthony Hopkins. Known for his role in movies like Hannibal, Silence of the Lamb,  and The Mask of Zorro, it is apparent that the man does not shy away from any role.  Further, they also have very similar looks and personality traits. Larson describes Olmstead as someone who is “increasingly susceptible to illness and often prone to bouts of depression he had a reputation for brilliance and tireless devotion to his work– but also for an acerbic candor that emerged in the presence of men who failed to understand what he sought to create” (53). Larson goes on to add that “Olmstead was no literary stylist. Sentences wandered through the report like morning glory through the pickets of a fence. But his prose reveled in the depth and subtlety of his thinking about the landscape” (54). Scorsese may consider AnnaSophia Robb to portray Myrta Z. Belknap. Larson describes Belknap as “[young and blond, with blue eyes and a lush figure. But what elevated her above mere beauty was the aura of vulnerability and need that surrounded her” (62). Robb fits the description of Belknap almost perfectly and certainly would make for a great counterpart to DiCaprio at the beginning of the movie. The beautiful Emeline Cigrand is a twenty-four year old described as “a warm and outgoing women” (165).  Her character is a polite one stated by Dr. Cigrand, her distant cousin, “I was charmed by her pleasing manners” (165). What better actor to be casted as Emeline Cigrand than Nicole Kidman. The actress is light on the eyes, appearing humble and down to earth. Emeline Cigrand and Nicole Kidman definitely share similar features when it comes to the “trim figure” (164) and hair color.

The collaborative process of this blog post was extremely challenging in my opinion. With four other members in the group, it was difficult to make sure everyone’s ideas were heard and discussed as a group. I tried to ask for opinions and input from everyone before making amendments or adding text to the blog. We resorted to writing the post on a google doc so that we could all see the changes and additions that each person typed. Eventually, after getting into somewhat of a rhythm, we determined that the best way to come up with casting four other members was to see who everyone chose in their individual blog post. Not only did this allow for more input from everyone, it was easier to agree as a group to the different cast members and it allowed for everyone to participate. Personally, listening to my other group members helped me better understand the different characters on a deeper level and grasp how Larson really wanted the reader to understand the character.

Works Cited

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

Casting Call for The Devil in the White City

Erik Larson’s book, The Devil in the White City, is currently in development to be brought to life in the form of a movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio (H. H. Holmes) and

Leonardo Dicaprio/John Russo

under the direction of Martin Scorsese. The two will synergize again in the hopes of chilling the bones of viewers who will get a glimpse into the heinous crimes that Mr. Holmes commits. DiCaprio seems to fit the depiction of Holmes quite nicely. Larson describes Holmes’ appearance as someone who has “dark hair and striking blue eyes, once likened to the eyes of a mesmerist” (35). DiCaprio will be able to illustrate the smooth and charming personality which Larson often draws on when characterizing Holmes. DiCaprio is known for his handsome looks and magnetic personality. Larson writes how captivating Holmes is to women by noting that “[t]o 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” (36). When imagining DiCaprio using charm and slick rhetoric like Mr. Holmes to deceive women into trusting and loving him,  it would be difficult for one to argue that anyone other than DiCaprio would be a better option to play the malevolent protagonist. A possibility for the actor to play Daniel Burnham, the lead architect of

Daniel Burnham/Chicago History Museum

the world’s fair, could be Nick Offerman. They have very similar physical attributes and Offerman could most certainly portray Burnham’s personality. Larson describes why John Sherman was drawn to Burnham by writing “Sherman liked Burnham. He liked his strength, his steady blue gaze and the confidence with which he conducted the conversation” (20). Though Offerman is generally cast in comedies such as the hit series Parks and Recreation, he can also portray a more serious character

Today - Season 62
Nick Offerman/Getty

which he does in FX’s Fargo. Scorsese may turn to Annasophia Robb to portray Myrta Z. Belknap. Larson depicts Belknap as “[young and blond, with blue eyes and a lush figure. But what elevated her above mere beauty was the aura of vulnerability and need that surrounded her” (62). Robb fits the description of Belknap almost perfectly and

Annasophia Robb/Link to Photo Source

certainly would make for a great counterpart to DiCaprio at the beginning of the movie.

Works Cited

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

An Inequitable Spades Game

An Inequitable Spades Game

            In Dwayne Betts’ memoir A Question of Freedom, the author reflects on how his life changes at sixteen when he carjacks a white man. A thirty-minute joyride in a stolen car costs him nine years of his youth in prison. Betts quickly learns tools to survive and grows up fast. Betts writes “[t]here was a spades game being played for our lives and our opponents had set the deck” (59). In other words, the game Betts references is the freedom for the prisoners lives. Furthermore, the opponents he refers to is the justice system.  The moment the cuffs tighten around his wrists, his opponents win. Betts essentially does not have a chance to “win” the criminal justice game. Throughout, he successfully illustrates the metaphor of the inequitable spades game by describing his sentencing, discussing what he sees when transferring from jail to prison, and the inhumane treatment he receives behind bars.

Betts recounts the morning of his sentencing on May 16, 1997. He depicts his emotions by writing “[t]he deputy hadn’t opened my cell door yet, but I was up. Staring into the half darkness of a cell with a night-light thinking about what would happen in a few hours” (69). He describes the morning of his sentencing in an effort to emphasize how anxious he is and the anticipation that is building up inside of him; he is somewhat hopeful for a lenient sentence. Little does he know, the prosecutor plans to go after Betts despite only briefly speaking to him. The judge sentences Betts to a “[m]inimum of fifteen years for carjacking, five years for robbery and a mandatory minimum of three years for use of a firearm in the commission of a felony” (79). The judge does not consider his age or the fact that this is his first offense. The judge has already seemingly made up his mind before Betts arrives. Betts has already lost in this sense. He has no chance at changing anyone’s mind or having anyone listen to him. He is fighting an uphill battle for his freedom. Clearly, Betts relates his sentencing to the spades game metaphor further proving that the cards he is dealt are not in his favor.

When Betts transfers from jail to prison, he describes what he witnesses. Betts explains that “I do what they do in the media: reduced the line of black men waiting to be sent off to prison in the southern part of Virginia to a stereotype” (87). Notice, he does not say “white men.” One may assume based off that sentence, everyone is black and getting shipped to prison. Again, this explains Betts’ view that the criminal justice system is already rigged against people of color, and Betts highlights this fact by providing this claim but not directly stating it. The deck is already set against them, and Betts points this out by describing the walls lined by African American bodies waiting to be transferred from jail to prison.

Betts gives numerous stories of how the jail system treats him unfairly. As a correctional officer searches Betts, the CO places his hand where it makes Betts extremely uncomfortable and he naturally reacts by quickly removing the CO’s hands. This benign reaction results in Betts being punished with solitary confinement and a citation. This unfair disciplinary action just further draws on Betts’ metaphor of how the “game of spades,” or prison life, plays to the advantage of his adversaries. He has no fight in this situation; the system forces him to comply and deal with the unjust treatment. Second, the move from Sussex prison, a level five security facility, to Red Onion, a level six maximum security prison, again reflects Betts’ metaphor. Betts, a non-violent criminal, moves to Red Onion to fill the jail to meet its capacity. He does not fit the criteria of the people that are supposed to be in that jail, but because he is another number, he transfers regardless. Betts has no chance to fight the decision of the unfair move, thus further explaining his metaphor.

Betts’ life changes because of an unfortunate immature mistake he makes in his fresh young mind. He has no real chance of freedom after the offense because his opponents had already set the deck. The court is quick to decide his fate without listening, he is not treated like a human being behind bars, and the judicial system views him as a menace to society. Maybe if the games outcome is not already set by the criminal justice system, more people would have a chance at freedom or a fairer sentence, and Betts would have an alternate memoir to write.

Works Cited

Betts, Reginald Dwayne. A Question of Freedom. Avery, 2010.


An Inoperative Farce

An Inoperative Farce

            In David Lindsay-Abaire’s play, Wonder of the World, Cass Harris leaves her old life behind to embark on a new journey. The play includes many intriguing aspects such as a chronic drunk character, couples counseling from a clown, and for some, death. Although the play is considered a farce, reviewer Ben Brantley writes in his New York Times article that “too often. . .  the play’s wackiness feels imposed rather than organic.” Organic meaning flowing naturally and leading to something with a purpose. There are, in fact, scenes in the play where the wackiness feels inorganic: a large aspic, themed restaurants, and couples counseling by a clown.

In the beginning of the play, after Cass sets off to begin her new life, the lights come up on her with an immense aspic on her lap. This example exemplifies the forced lunacy. For instance, Lois says,

Lois. Are you gonna eat that aspic?

Cass. No, you want it?

Lois. You bet. There’s nothing like a good aspic. (1.2).

While Cass desperately tries to converse with Lois, the topic of the aspic continues coming up, highlighting the fact that it is making its way onto a bus, while Lois disregards every line Cass says. The thought of seeing Cass sitting in a bus seat with a large trout aspic falls in line with Brantley’s claim that the wackiness is too imposed. The aspic has no real meaning in the play other than that one short scene. The aspic could have maybe been symbolic of Cass and Kip’s marriage, but if it was, then it was too weak and not clear enough for the audience to interpret the aspic as a symbol of marriage. Essentially, it leads to nowhere with no clear meaning of why it was written in the play.

In the second scene of Act Two, the lights rise on Cass and her lover, Captain Mike, in a medieval-themed restaurant. The waiters and waitresses dress up in medieval costumes and speak with accents. The other characters find themselves in similar situations such as Native American and Gothic-themed restaurants. The scene has no real significance to the plot of the play, and it suggests that Lindsay-Abaire’s only purpose in writing this scene is to further exaggerate how zany the play really is. Furthermore, the dialogue between the characters in each restaurant appears to be full of one-liners designed for cheap laughs. When an obviously drunk Lois stumbles into the Native American restaurant, the contrived one liners start to flow. For example, Waitress #2 says, “How. Welcome to The Reservation. I’ll be your serving squaw. My name is Walks-With-A-Tray. Can I take your order”? (2.2). This whole scene altogether is a prime example of how Lindsay-Abaire inorganically attempts to add to the wackiness by inserting irrelevant scenes. The purpose of this scene could be a social statement about how we stereotype other cultures, but again, Lindsay-Abaire is not clear enough as to why he added this scene to the play.

One last example is the group therapy scene, which involves a woman dressed like a clown conducting the session. In dialogue between Janie, the clown, and Lois, the wackiness is forced yet again. In the following dialogue Janie remarks, “If you don’t want to take part, Mr. . . .  Lois: Coleman. Janie: Mr. Colon, then you need to leave” (2.3). It is almost as if Lindsay-Abaire resorts to juvenile jokes like Janie saying “Mr. Colon” to make the play seem more bizarre.

Ben Brantley’s claim that “too often . . . the play’s wackiness feels imposed rather than organic,” seems appropriate throughout the play. The aspic on the bus, themed restaurants, and the group therapy scene conducted by a clown all support Brantley’s claim. One tactic Mr. Lindsay-Abaire could have utilized to make the play’s wackiness feel more organic is to take out sophomoric jokes that are presented throughout the whole play such as Janie saying “Mr. Colon” rather than “Mr. Coleman.” Additionally, Lindsay-Abaire could have fashioned more seemingly organic elements by allowing the actors or characters to create the humor, rather than forcing absurdity that is simply not in harmony with the natural wackiness of the play. Lastly, he could have substituted the restaurant scene for something that fell in line with the plot. By doing so, he would allow his characters to interpret his script in their own ways, which would allow the wackiness to feel organic. While Lindsay-Abaire clearly adds inorganic elements of wackiness to his play, one may have a different view of seeing the play performed, rather than just reading the script.




Works Cited

Lindsay-Abaire, David. Wonder of the World. Dramatists Play Service, 2002.

Brantley, Ben. “Setting Forth, the Wind in Her Sails.” Review of Wonder of the World, by David Lindsay-Abaire. The New York Times, 2 Nov. 2001,, Accessed 18 Jan. 2017.

All About That Bass

My name is Jackson Sigmon and I am a freshman at Lenoir-Rhyne University. One interesting thing about me is that I am a bass player (the oversized violin) and participate in many musical groups around the area. I have played for numerous theatre productions at the Hickory Community Theatre, Old Colony Players, and the Newton Conover Auditorium. I also played with the Western Piedmont Youth Symphony, won a chair in the Western Regionals Honors Orchestra, and played a piece with my high school’s orchestra for the Carolina Panthers tree-lighting event in 2015. Ever since I started getting involved with music, I have been presented with so many opportunities and friendships that will last a lifetime.