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Defining Characteristics of Chicago’s “Personality”

The article by Sweeney and Gorner entitled “Teen Parolee Charged with Killing Chicago Cop, Former Cha Officer”, ‘The Devil in the White City’ by Larson, and “For the Thrill of It” by Baatz Simon introduces a picture of the city of Chicago, and the criminal acts that are associated with it defining the characteristics of a personality in Chicago. The common point that the three articles share is crime in the context of taking human life and the city of Chicago as an environment that allows this act to define the characteristics of a personality. Larson talks about the history of crime in the city of Chicago by defining the surrounding factors that made it so easy for crime to be committed. The author talks about the thousand trains that come in and left the city bringing with them young women who were single and had never seen the city yet hoped to live in a big and tough city like Chicago calling it their home.

Larson describes Chicago by writing about the streets angling past gambling houses, bordellos, and bars, where vice thrived together with the indulgence of the officials. Describing the old Chicago trait, Larson mention Hecht’s description of how he perceived the city; “It was good or pleasant, in a certain way, to be aware that outside their windows, the devil was still capering in flare brimstone.” The surrounding of the streets in Chicago according to Larson describes death to come as often as unexpected to an extent that one could step out of a curb and lose his life or be killed. The deaths were as rampant as two people per day were, but this could not be recognized since other causes apart from killing also contributed.

The causes that included fires, horses bolting and dragging carriages into the crowds, streetcars falling from the drawbridges, and cholera, typhus, diphtheria, and influenza, appeared to cover up the murders that were also going on in the city. The author argues that the rate at which women and men killed each other or committed murder rose steadily in Chicago and police realized that they had no expertise or work force to manage these acts. The causes for the murders in Chicago are recorded to be prosaic and arise from argument, sexual jealousy, or robbery. Larson mentions the five –murder spree by Jack the ripper as the act that defied every explanation ever given for the murders. This signified that a lot was changing and everyone was looking at the boundary that existed between the wicked and the moral as being degraded. “ it was so easy or very simple to disappear, so simple to deny knowledge, so easy in the din and smoke to mask that a dark thing had occurred”(Larson)

The tribune reporter’s (Sweeney and Gorner) story on the other hand presents Chicago as a city of the gun. A teenage parolee who is determined to escape arrest because of a burglary charge shoots and kills a victim breaking in. Calumet who is the area commander described this act as “unbelievably, unfathomable, and so egregious.” Herring a parolee guns down Flisk Michael, a police officer, and Stephen Peters, a former Chicago Housing Authority officer without the victims having a chance of defending themselves. The reason given for committing such murders is that Herring was avoiding being caught for a burglary. Flisk is said to be the second officer to be shot in a week. Chicago police has had a violent 2010 most of which is the response to burglary. The killing of the police officers is becoming a characteristic of the Chicago personality as this report indicates that in less than 5 months in 2010, six officers have died in the line of duty. “A sixth officer (a sergeant) was killed in a car accident in the month of February, when responding to burglary.” (Sweeney and Gorner)

Darrow is campaigning free love in a case where he represents Loeb Richard and Leopold Nathan who shot Franks Bobby and now faces a death penalty. The arguments that Clarence Darrow presents to the court regarding this case seems to support the Chicago personality of committing murders because of the simplest reasons. The first point that Darrow presents to the court is about the ages of the defendants. “There is no precedent that the court hangs two defendants who had not yet reached their majority.” (Baatz 373) This reason that Darrow gives is aimed at persuading the court to lessen it ruling on the murder case involving the two defendants. The second key reason that the lawyer presents to the court as the cause of the murder is the world war. Darrow says, “It was the Great War, more than any other single event or factor, had contributed to the murder of Bobby Franks.” (Baatz 376).

The argument by Darrow that the killing of human beings had become so routine, casual, and so commonplace, that society now possessed a bloodlust, which inevitably found its way into Richard and Nathan, emphasizes Larson’s argument of Chicago being a human with the skin removed. The age of the Richard and Nathan take a center stage in Darrow’s defense and the lawyer argues that if the judge can hung an 18 year old boy then some other judge will hang the boy at 14, 16, or 17 whereas Herring is a teen and also manages to shoot two officers. The point of appeasing the mob and an act of revenge that Darrow mention (377) if the judge rules that Richard and Nathan be hanged appears to describe the murders in Chicago as right so long as the court will consider the minor as emotionally incapacitated. The murder of the officers by Herring is committed by a minor similar to the one by Nathan and Richard.

The common point in both of these cases is that a gun is used by the defendants to commit the murder. It is true that times have changed and the reasons why murder was committed in the black city of Chicago are no longer the same ones for today. The accidents that claim the lives of the officers while responding to the crimes involving gun shooting or burglary are all killings. The argument by Darrow that hanging Richard and Nathan will not bring Franks Bobby’s life back, or deter crime is opposed by Sweeney and Gorner report stating that the shooter (Herring) is arrested by the police in a swift response, and charges are announced after the arrest. Larson’s article gives a picture of what Chicago has became and the murders that are still going on both in Darrow’s case and Herrings shooting portray the gun as a personality characteristic in Chicago.

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