A Newfound Appreciation


I’ve always been able to get through English Class without actually learning about the things I read. However, that’s not the case for this class. For the first time, I had to become engaged with the piece of work that I was assigned. My level of thinking was tested and it had to expand to be able to see the point of view that the author was trying to get his or her readers to see. I’ve always been a creative person, but when it came to trying to understand what an author is trying to get across, I have always struggled. That is why I enjoyed the fact that my professor, Jane Lucas, gave us articles or essays on the books we read and that helped my understanding of the novels greatly.

The piece that started this greater level of thinking actually started with the first novel we read, The Underground Railroad, because the author, Colson Whitehead, put so many different levels into his book, and I found each of them extremely interesting. In “Peeling Away the Window Dressing of History”, an essay written by my professor, my mind was further expanded to the different layers of The Underground Railroad. She discusses how there is a magical realism in the novel and how Colson Whitehead uses his fictional characters to present his reader with a somewhat truth of how African Americans were treated in the South. The sentence from her essay that demonstrates this says, “But Whitehead is a novelist, not a historian. His aim is not to produce a history but to breathe life into characters who speak truths from their fictional worlds—not our current terrain of alternative facts but a reimagined past…” (Lucas, Jane). My mind opened to how Whitehead added things to his novel, like Cora working the museum exhibits, to get his reader to see how sometimes we are shown things that are fabricated to give us a happier view on it, when in reality it is far from the ugly truth. Another novel and review essay that really helped me develop a better understanding of literature was Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City and Jane Maslin’s review “Add a Serial Murderer to 1893 Chicago’s Opulent Overkill”. Larson discusses how he did a large amount of research when writing his novel and he likes to add elaborate details to his piece to create an interesting story. Jane Maslin confirms this when she says, “[So he relentlessly fuses history and entertainment to give this nonfiction book the dramatic effect of a novel, complete with abundant cross-cutting and foreshadowing.” (Maslin, Jane). Her review helped me see how much effort authors put into their works and my appreciation of literature grew a little more.

Understanding how much time and effort goes into writing a novel, from the different layers put into the stories to the research done, gave me a newfound appreciation for literature. I have a hard time understanding the hidden purposes of certain things that authors put in novels, but reviews about the novels gives me an insight into the type of thinking that the authors are trying to convey.


Works Cited

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

Lucas, Jane. “Peeling Away the Window Dressing of History.” Jane Lucas, 26 Sept. 2017, janelucas.com/2017/09/26/peeling-away-the-window-dressing-of-history/.

Maslin, Jane. “Add a Serial Murderer to 1893 Chicago’s Opulent Overkill.” Review of The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson, The New York Times, 10 Feb. 2003, nytimes.com, Accessed 11 Oct. 2017.

Whitehead, Colson. The Underground Railroad. Doubleday, 2016.


Annotated Bibliography

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

The Devil in the White City is a book that combines both the historical stories of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and the murders of H.H. Holmes. Erik Larson found the parallels of not just these two, but of many historic events and combined them to create a, somewhat, educational thriller. The two plot lines consist of the architect that builds the Chicago World Fair and the serial killer who exploits the fair to get his victims, also known as H.H. Holmes.

Lucas, Jane. “Peeling Away the Window Dressing of History.” Jane Lucas, 26 Sept. 2017, janelucas.com/2017/09/26/peeling-away-the-window-dressing-of-history/.

In “Peeling Away the Window Dressing of History” the topic of an alternative reality is brought up revolving around how slavery is viewed in the novel The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. This post discusses how Colson Whitehead is not a historian, but a novelist and his goal is to show the truth of the events that take place in his work The Underground Railroad.

Maslin, Jane. “Add a Serial Murderer to 1893 Chicago’s Opulent Overkill.” Review of The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson, The New York Times, 10 Feb. 2003, nytimes.com, Accessed 11 Oct. 2017.

This article is a review of the Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. Jane Maslin points out how Erik Larson “fuses history and entertainment to give this nonfiction book the dramatic effect on a novel.” She also discusses how Larson used his research to add intricate details to his book, which made the novel more interesting as well. Another thing she points out is Larson’s use of foreshadowing throughout the story.

Schreck, Heidi. Creature. Samuel French, 2011.

Margery Kempe is the main character of the play Creature. She has been tormented by demons for a while until she has a vision of Jesus and then she is determined to become a saint. She becomes distant from her husband and newborn son, but even though she does this she is still tormented by the devil, as well as the people of her town because they believe she is lying about her visions.

Whitehead, Colson. The Underground Railroad. Doubleday, 2016.

The Underground Railroad is an alternate history novel that tells the story of Cora’s (a female slave) escape from the plantation she was born on and then the things she experienced on her way to freedom. Colson Whitehead also includes stories of other characters to give his novel more depth and to help give the reader a better understanding of what life was like in the South during the antebellum. Whitehead also uses the analogy in real life of the “railroad” as a literal railroad in his novel.

Wilder, Thornton. Our Town. Harper, 2003.

A small town, where everybody knows everybody, and two kids that live next door to each other fall in love. That is the setting of Our Town by Thornton Wilder. The audience is guided by the Stage Manger through the love story of Emily Webb and George Gibbs. The first act is devoted to how they fall in love. It is proceeded by their wedding as the main event of the second act. The last act is all about death, Emily’s death in particular.


You Don’t Realize What You Have Until It’s Gone

LR Playmaker’s Production of Our Town

Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, set in 1938, actually inspired Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life, giving them the same or similar themes. In both Our Town and It’s a Wonderful Life, the theme of not appreciating the value of life is present, as well as the themes of love, marriage, and death. It is not only their themes that are similar, but also characteristics of each.

Continue reading “You Don’t Realize What You Have Until It’s Gone”

Death From the Beginning

The opening sentence of the Prologue for The Devil in the White City states, “The date was April 14, 1912, a sinister day in maritime history,” (p.3). The fact that this is the line that Erik Larson opens his book with foreshadows all of the horrible things that will take place within the four hundred and thirty-two pages of this story. The prologue discusses how the main character, Daniel Burnham, is on the Olympic, which is the sister ship to the Titanic. This is significant because the day this novel starts out is the same day that one of the greatest tragedies in history occurred, the sinking of the Titanic, which Burnham’s friend was aboard. However, Larson doesn’t include this information because he likes to withhold the prologue leads the reader into all of the death and darkness that surrounds the events that this book talks about.

When Burnham reflects back on the Chicago World Fair, he thinks, “That something magical had occurred in that summer of the world’s fair was beyond doubt, but darkness too had touched the fair” (p.5).  This sentence helps the reader understand that the fair was a monument of the greatness in America, however, there is a lot of death that happens because of this historical event. As the reader continues to read, they will first see that the first string of deaths mentioned are involving the workers. Then, Larson transitions into the murders that occurred while Burnham was trying to build something great.

Burnham was creating the “White City” that was to go on to be one of the greatest achievements in American history, however, “A murderer had moved among the beautiful things Burnham had created” (p.6). Larson introduces the reader to the monstrosities that are involved in the fair. He informs the reader that there is going to be a serial killer, but he doesn’t give the identity of the character yet, only the fact that he is a young and handsome doctor. This murderer is compared to Jack the Ripper, so the reader knows that the amount of death that will surround the man is going to be an enormous amount. Those he targeted included young women in town for the fair, as well as those who tried to bring him to justice. Larson works extremely hard to connect important things in history to each other, in particular, the Chicago World’s Fair and the killing spree of H.H. Holmes, and the presence of death or darkness is always present.

The prologue is concluded by discussing about how only Burnham and Millet were the last few left of the builders of the fair, “So many others had gone. … mysteriously” (p. 6-7).  Larson uses the mystery of how so much death has occurred to keep the readers engaged and to make them want to keep reading to find out how and why each person dies. Soon after this quote, the reader finds out that something had happened to Millet’s ship and if they read between the lines they discover the ship is the sinking Titanic, but the reader is left to assume that Millet dies in the wreck after reading the words, “Soon no one will remain, and the fair would cease to exist as a living memory in anyone’s brain” (p. 7).

Erik Larson uses the prologue of his book The Devil in the White City to foreshadow all of the death and destruction that will take place in the pages to follow. The reader meets the main character and then, through his flashbacks, discovers just what this historical story is about. The story of the great Chicago World’s Fair and the infamous murderer, H.H. Holmes.


Good friends bring you coffee while you work. Great friends bring you coffee and help you work.



Work Cited

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

Just a Little Confession

Rereading is always better with a little Starbucks. It’s just part of the process.

It all starts with a need to confess. Margery, the main character of this play, has been holding on to a sin since childhood and now she feels that it’s necessary for her to confess it to someone since she now has a newborn son. Margery has heard that sins can be passed down to children from their mothers if they are not confessed, so Margery has made it a point not to see her child until the sin is relieved from her. The only problem she is facing is that no one will hear her confession. Every time she attempts to share her awful deeds something goes wrong and only continues to get worse after her “vision of Jesus”.

Continue reading “Just a Little Confession”

Let’s Talk About Me!

Hey y’all! My name is Reilley Bowman and I am a freshman at Lenoir-Rhyne University. I am originally from this area, so I am a commuter. However, I spend a lot of my time on campus with friends. Activities I enjoy partaking in including shopping (I am slightly a shopaholic), hanging out with my KΔ sisters or friends in general, going to athletic events to support my school, and just having fun. Continue reading “Let’s Talk About Me!”