How is crime essential to the overall functioning of society?
After reading Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City we came up with the essential question, “How is crime essential to the overall functioning of society?” We feel the question applies not just to H.H. Holmes but also the World’s Fair. At the time of the Chicago World’s fair of 1893 crime was more prevalent than any other time in the nation’s history. Petty crimes were partially driven by the poor economic climate of the time and drove the necessity for a bigger police force; however, it soon became clear that the authorities were outnumbered. We can see that these smaller crimes warranted work for those in authority, but what about the larger crimes of H.H. Holmes? The nation was not ready for H.H. Holmes but we can see economic, governmental, and possibly scientific advances that resulted from his crimes. Our modern culture is also directly affected by Holmes and others like him. Holmes was far ahead of his time in the fraudulent crimes he committed against insurance companies. His ability to create a new identity at will allowed him to open new businesses for his own economic prosperity, yet it hurt the local community. We can link his fraud to the government’s implementation of official documents and identification. Other government agencies like the FBI and CIA are also a result of the crimes of H.H. Holmes and others like him. Scientific advances in detective work resulted from the H.H. Holmes case as well. Holmes was intelligent enough to know that burning, dismembering, or otherwise disguising the identities of the people he killed would remove any suspicion; modern forensics and technologies can now identify bodies despite these deterrents. Holmes could get away with his crimes because no one knew to even suspect such a thing; the nation was naive to such crimes. In modern culture, we are inundated with crimes like those of Holmes through television, movies, music and other mediums. Because of this, we are ingrained to suspect people and look for the worst. We almost always look for the worst before accepting someone as being trustworthy.
In thinking about society’s unconcsious dependence on crime and the text, The Devil in the White City, we established four categories in which crime is a necessary evil: the economy, the government, science, and modern culture.