Always Darkness Beneath the Light

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

After perfectly matching and lining up the time range of two events occurring at the time of the Chicago’s World Fair, Erik Larson wrote the book The Devil in the White City. The non-fiction book consists of one event “that something magical had occurred in that summer of the World’s Fair” and another which also focused that “darkness too had touched the fair” (5). The events jumped from one event to the other in between the chapters, which allows the readers to travel through time, and eventually, allows the readers to come to a conclusion about the book’s message. A conclusion in which the message says, there is always darkness lurking beneath the light.

Larson conveys this message in such a detailed, yet sly way, that if the reader skipped over a chapter or did not read a certain chapter, the next chapter of the event will confuse the reader, and the reader will be lost in missing some important information that has led to the event.

With that said, the book first starts off with the chapter titled “The Black City” and gives a summary of life in Chicago. “A thousand trains a day entered or left Chicago. Many of these trains brought single young women who had never even seen a city but now hoped to make one of the biggest and toughest their home” (11). Thousands of trains entered and left Chicago, and also brought thousands of people as well. However, what they do not know about the Black City is that “outside their windows, the devil was still capering in a flare of brimstone… anonymous death came early and often… and there was murder” (11-2).  The Black City is a dangerous and dark place, but with the construction of the World’s Fair, the White City now makes its entrance, and all the darkness will fade away.

The White City has public bathrooms, pure water, an ambulance service, electric street lights, sewage-processing systems, and even a daycare for children. “[F]irst time Chicagoans could stroll at night in perfect safety… [and] … nightly illuminations… was like getting a sudden vision of Heaven” (254). The White City is Heaven perfect and protects the people from dangers. “As the light was fading away in the sky, millions of lights were suddenly flashed on, all at one time”, and the darkness suddenly fades away again (254).

However, the protection is only temporary, for it only lasted six months. “The White City had drawn men and protected them; the Black City now welcomed them back…” (323). With the fair (White City) now closing, the lurking darkness of the Black City now welcomes Chicago back “on the eve of winter with filth, starvation, and violence” (323). The darkness of the Black City is on the rise again with the White City coming to an end.

Yet, not only does the Black City and White City shows that there is darkness underneath the light, there is also a person from the book who emits light on the outside but inside, “born with the devil in [him]” (109).

Holmes, a “young handsome doctor” (12), who is “twenty-six years old… five feet, eight inches… 155 pounds… and had dark hair and striking blue eyes”, have every glance of young women falling on him as he walks with confidence wherever he goes (35). He breaks prevailing rules of casual intimacy, and women adores him for it. He exudes warmth through his smiles, and shows obvious affections for anyone he loves or cares about. He is just the perfect man any woman could possibly wish for.

However, “wherever he went, troubling things seemed to occur” (42). Police are getting a handful of reports of mysterious disappearance, and “women and men vanished in equal proportion” (102). There are mysterious disappearances, but who would think that an affectionate and caring doctor such as Holmes, could hurt anyone, much less kill someone. However, to kill or not to kill, “the choice was his, a measure of his power” (257). After all, “[he] could not help the fact that [he] was a murderer, no more than the poet can help the inspiration to sing” (109). Therefore, underneath that charming and mesmerizing gaze of Holmes, is a darkness of evil which only craves for blood and murder, “growing to resemble the devil” (385). Eventually, at one point, “he described himself as the Devil and contended that his physical shape had begun to alter” (6).

So The Devil in the White City is a non-fiction book which enables the readers to move through time and envision the “single, magical event” that linked two events together, and letting the readers know that there is always some kind of darkness hiding underneath the light (xi). Even Erik Larson said, “In the end it is a story of the ineluctable conflict between good and evil, daylight and darkness, the White City and the Black City” (xi). Therefore the message that Larson is trying to convey is that light cannot escape darkness, and darkness cannot escape light. If there is light, then there is darkness, and vice-versa. Thus the readers can see the dark and light side of the Black City and White City, and the glamorous and devilish side of H. H. Holmes.

Work Cited

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


Casting for Characters as a Group

According to our group, we thought and debated for a while to see who is a better casting choice for the different characters from the book The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson. We looked at the different characters each group member chose to cast in the film, and from there, we decided who we will be the best actor or actress to cast as who from the book in the film.

As a group we all decided that Leonardo DiCaprio was the best choice to play H.H. Holmes in the upcoming film adaptation of The Devil in the The White City. On page 12 we get our first basic introduction and description of Holmes as “a young handsome doctor step[ping] from a train, his surgical valise in hand.” This fits with the type of roles DiCaprio personifies best, he exemplifies the look of a classic gentleman with a dark and devious side. As we continue to read we come upon a more detailed description of Holmes on page 35. “He walked with confidence and dressed well, conjuring an impression of wealth and achievement. He was 26 years old. His height was five feet, eight inches; he weighed only 155 pounds. He had dark hair and striking blue eyes…”

Moving along, we decided that Daniel Burnham would be serve by John Goodman. We believe that this was a good casting choice because of the descriptions giving to him by the author. In the book he is described as, “…sixty-five years old and had become a large man.” (3). Also, it states that, “His hair had turned gray, his mustache nearly white, but his eyes were as blue as ever, bluer at this instant by proximity to the sea.” (3). Based on these descriptions, it concluded us to instantly think of John Goodman, therefore we made the decision to cast John Goodman as Daniel Burnham.

Next, we chose to cast Minnie, who we chose to be Kate Winslet. We made this decision because of their resemblance according to this book. In the book, it tells us that she is plain, short, and plump. It also states that she is between the weight of 140-150. We think that this is also a great choice because of her previous interactions with Leonardo DiCaprio, in the movie The Titanic. We believe that these two would be outstanding in this movie, as they were in The Titanic. For the sister of Minnie William, Anna Williams, we decided on Jennifer Lawrence for her young looks and congeniality. In the book we learn that Anna was a teacher back home in Midlothian, Texas. Though Lawrence has never starred in a movie where she played a teacher her skepticism and adaptability, as portrayed in her previous work The Silver Linings Playbook, exemplifies the attributes of Anna described on page 203.

Next, we chose to cast John Sherman’s daughter, Margaret Sherman. She was listed as being, “…young, pretty, and blond…”(21). So with that description we chose to pick Reese Witherspoon. We made this accusation, because of their similarities in their everyday features. Also, we all know that Reese Witherspoon has played in several great movies, so we believe that she could shine great throughout this movie.

“Detective Frank Geyer was a big man with a pleasant, earnest face, a large walrus mustache, and a new gravity in his gaze and demeanor”(339). We cast Jude Law for this role for his magnificent portrayal of Dr. Watson in the 2009 adaptation of Sherlock Holmes. Jude Law can portray the hard working overly serious detective, who is no stranger to the site of murder and heinous crimes. Frank Geyer would end up being the hero of the story eventually catching Holmes.

Therefore, these are the casting choices that our group had decided on. Although some do not fit the description as described in the book, we agree that these actors and actresses best fit the role and would do a wonderful job at portraying the characters. Also, some of these actors and actresses have worked together in previous productions, and have the ability to adapt and make changes to fit their character’s role. So they are great casting choices.

Work Cited

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

Casting for The Devil in the White City

Erik Larson’s book The Devil in the White City will be made into a film adaptation by Paramount, which will be directed by Martin Scorsese. Casting as H. H. Holmes will be Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Burnham should be cast by Chris Vance, and Jennifer Lawrence as Anna Williams.

Leonardo DiCaprio/John Russo

Leonardo DiCaprio is well-suited to play the role of H. H. Holmes because not only does he have a similar face structure as H. H. Holmes-as shown in the picture from the book-but also because of his quote that he said, “don’t think for a moment that I’m really like any of the characters I’ve played. I’m not. That’s why it’s called ‘acting’”(Kaple). This quote reminds one of a certain character from the book, and that character is Holmes. Holmes is definitely not like the character he is seen in public. In public and on the outside, he “exude[s] warmth and charm” (264), however, on the inside “[he] was born with the devil in [him and] could not help the fact that [he] was a murderer, no more than the poet can help the inspiration to sing” (109). DiCaprio will be a good casting choice for Holmes, if we take DiCaprio’s quote and imagine it being said from Holmes personally, we can really see DiCaprio in the role of Holmes.

Image result for chris vance
Chris Vance/Bobby Quillard

As for Daniel Burnham, he should be played by Chris Vance. Chris Vance is a good choice because Vance “miss[es] the banter with friends and family” (Chris Vance Biography), just like Burnham misses his friends and family. Burnham rarely sees his family and when Root died, it crushed him and “Burnham lost his friend… He felt an acute loneliness” (390). With the same emotional longing which connects both Burnham and Vance, Vance should be able to perform well as Burnham in the film adaptation of the book.

Jennifer Lawrence/Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images

Lastly, Jennifer Lawrence should be cast as Anna Williams. Anna Williams was the younger sister of Minnie Williams, which “wooing her was pathetically easy” as Holmes had described Minnie (201). However, “Anna was skeptical” because of the fast advance of their romance (203). Anna was “suspicious of Holmes true intentions”, and this is where Lawrence would fit in well in playing Anna’s role. As many have seen Lawrence playing the leading role Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games and as Elissa in House at the End of the Street, she is always on her toes and suspects that something will happen. Sure enough, she did a wonderful job at acting out her role in being suspicious and cautious of her surrounding. Therefore Jennifer Lawrence will be a good cast to play as Anna Williams, who became suspicious the moment the romance between Minnie and Holmes escalated.

Hence, Leonardo DiCaprio is a well-suited choice to cast as Holmes because of the resemblance in their facial structure, whereas Daniel Burnham should be played by Chris Vance for their emotional connection, and Jennifer Lawrence should be cast as Anna Williams because of Anna’s suspicions of Holmes, and Lawrence’s experience in acting of being suspicious.

Works Cited

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

Kaple, Neeraj. “21 Powerful Quotes From Hollywood Star Leonardo DiCaprio.” Influence Keeping Faith Is Enough, 8 Sept. 2016, Accessed 13 Apr. 2017.

“Chris Vance Biography.” IMDb,, Accessed 13 Apr. 2017.

Always Think Twice!!

Have you ever done something without a second thought and later regretted it?


In A Question of Freedom, a memoir written by Dwayne Betts, tells of a decision he regrets making and walking away “a minute too late” (237).  Throughout the whole book, he constantly repeats the event of him robbing the white man, and how that event changes his life forever. In this repetition of the incident, it does not only shows that Betts regrets his decision, it also teaches a lesson to the reader. It teaches a lesson which says to think twice before making a bad decision.

“I pulled the pistol on the sleeping white man because I thought I could do it and not have to live with it for the rest of my life” (95). In this line, it explains that Betts did not think that just by pulling a gun on a man could cause him to lose a part of his life to being locked up in jail cells. He did not think of the consequences that will follow his actions because he “never thought that what [he] did to a stranger could color [his] life” (95). He thought that because the man was a stranger to him, and he a stranger to the man, he would not be caught. However things did not turn out in his favor, and as he is thinking back and writing his memoir, he hopes that “in the small moments someone will remember what [he] says” and think twice before they are in his shoes as well (96).

Moving along, the reader sees Betts referring back to the crime again as he says, “I’ve always wondered why the books I’ve read before being locked up didn’t save my life, especially since everyone I’d met in prison could see how writing and reading changed my vision of the world” (231). Pondering on this thought, he is not sure why the books he had read did not keep him from being locked up. He wonders why, he did not remember a thing about those books until after he was behind bars.

It is because at that time, Betts thought, “my robbery would not lead to death, and thought that it would not lead to a life of crime” (232). His only thoughts then is that what he is going to do will not lead him to death, but what he did not know is, although it will not lead to death, it will lead to a crime big enough where he will spend a portion of his life in prison. Therefore, in writing his book, he had in mind that “[he] could write a book that show how [he] climbed out of the hole [he’d] dug [himself] into”, as a reminder to him and others to ponder more than once on a decision that could possibly lead to an unpleasant outcome (231-2).

Once again, the readers sees Betts mention again his wrong doing as he writes the last few lines in his poem, “A Different Route” saying, “I took a different route home last night… a lot has changed [then] and I failed” (220). This line alone gives a powerful message from Betts to the reader and himself. The word “I failed” really shows that Betts is trying his hardest to redeem himself and serves as a reminder to the readers to not take a different route because that different route may very well lead to failure just like it did for Betts. He took a different route home, where he made the wrong decision, and everything changed just like that. Regardless of how good of a student he is in school, his decision lead to failure and caused all his good credits in school to be wiped out. Therefore, thinking back, if he had known what it is like to be in prison, he would have walked away from the hole he was digging.

In all, A Question of Freedom, is a memoir written to tell the reader of Betts’ regretful decision of not giving it a second thought before he drove away in the white man’s car, but more importantly, it tells and constantly reminds the reader or anyone to always think twice about a decision that might cause one to spend a part of their life in jail. Surely, Betts was a second to late because “if [he] had seen that whole three months before, [he] would have run away from the man sleeping in his car” (8). Betts wrote his memoir to remind him of the wrong decision he had made, at the same time tells the readers to think twice of their decisions, and he “hopes in the small moments someone will remember what [he] says and put the gun down” (96).


Work Cited

Betts, R. Dwayne. A Question of Freedom. Avery, 2009

Love Comes in Different Forms



What is love? Is love about living happily with the one you love? Can love last forever? Can love cause one’s heartbreak? Wonder of the World, by David Lindsay-Abaire, is a play that may very well answer these questions. In Wonder of the World, Cass and Kip Harris are married, but then suddenly, Cass decides to leave Kip and say, “I don’t think it’s the life I was supposed to have” (1.1). “I’m starting a new life, and I’m brimming with expectations! There are possibilities where I’m headed” (1.1). With that line, she left Kip and started her adventure. So then, how is this play about love? How can this play answer the questions above?

Well, throughout the whole play, the reader or audience can sense the love and emotions the characters have towards each other. Feelings of happiness, and feelings of longing were shown in the play. That’s what love is. Love is the emotions that rises to the surface that comes from deep within the heart.

In the very first line the audience hear, is from Kip; who seems excited and happy as he say the words, “[h]ey sweetie! Guess who’s home for lunch? Cass? Where are ya? You’ll never guess what I got” (1.1). The happiness and gleefulness is heard from every word and every sentence Kip said. There is love and the feeling of waiting all day just to come home from work to see the one you love and eat with them. The word “sweetie” obviously shows that Kip loves Cass, and the question he asked, “[g]uess who’s home for lunch”, expresses even more that Kip is clearly happy to be home for lunch with the one he loves.

Not only does that line from Kip reveals that he loves Cass, there is also evidence that states that Cass, too, loves Kip. “I Cass, take thee Kip to be my lawful wedded husband” (1.4). This line alone, is a powerful line within the play, and definitely implies that Cass loves Kip enough to take him as her husband. Marriage is a sign of love so deep, that two individuals are willing to share one life together forever. Therefore, this proclaims that Cass does in fact loves Kip enough to marry him and take him as her husband.

Also, love does not only come in a form of happiness or marriage; love also comes in the form of longing and missing someone. Cass, while at Niagara Falls, unconsciously calls out, “I miss Kip”, and then took back her words as she realize what she had just said (1.5). Although Cass took back what she said, the second she spoke those words, it was a sign of love. She misses Kip, and she said them unknowingly, implying that she loves Kip deep down within her heart. Also, the feeling of longing will only be felt when one truly loves someone or something that is not around. So it shows that Cass, although far from Kip, still feels the connection to Kip, thus making her miss Kip and strengthen the fact that she loves him.  

Therefore, the whole play focuses its theme on the different ways that loves comes to an individual. Whether it is happiness, marriage, or longing, they are all forms of love portrayed in one way or another. So regardless of all the dramas going on in the play, especially with the farce and ridiculous coincidence that each characters somehow relates to another character, Kip and Cass reveals to an individual the different forms of love through their action of love for each other.

Furthermore, through Kip and Cass, David Lindsay- Abaire ultimately achieve the definition of love, and this definition does not only includes one aspect of love but multiple approaches of love. Love that is happiness, love that is sorrowful, and love that is forever deep within the heart. Love that cannot be define with just one definition, but with all of these emotions and aspects together; a full definition of what true love is.

Work Cited

Lindsay-Abaire, David. Wonder of the World. Dramatists Play Service, Inc. 1998.

My Passion: Singing

Hi! My name is Godoua Vang. I am 19 years old and a freshman at Lenoir-Rhyne University. Ever since I was young, I have loved and enjoyed singing. screenshot_2017-01-30-19-48-44I would sing whenever I’m happy, stressed, or just whenever I feel like singing. Singing is a part of me that will never  change or vanish. It is a strong passion that comes from within me and will always be there.

screenshot_2017-01-30-19-45-17This past year over Thanksgiving Break, I joined the Hmong New Year’s Festival’s singing competition. During this time period, I met many talented singers from up and down the East Coast. Also, to my surprise, I won 3rd place in the competition. It was the last thing I expected. However, it was a great first time experience joining a competition, and I had a fantastic time sharing the stage with each of the contestants. I look forward to joining more singing competitions in the future, and expand my connections with talented singers from all over the place.

Singing has helped me make new friends, brought laughter and fun into my life, and created connections with wonderful people who shares the same passion as I do.