As the protagonist, Burnham demonstrates the impressive creation that can come from the human mind. He and his partner, John Root, are given the responsibility of creating and overseeing the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Burnham is a leader by nature. He learns how to delegate and build beneficial relationships with his workers and commissioners. When required, he also makes tough decisions with fierce determination. Of the two partners, Burnham is better at business, but when Root dies, Burnham grows quickly as an artist. Burnham certainly craves power, knows how to manipulate, and sometimes views others as assets instead of people, but his defining quality is that he does everything for the greater good.
Burnham repeatedly dwells on his rejections from Harvard and Yale. He carries this insecurity with him his whole life and tries to compensate by pursuing grand ambitions. He wants to live like the famous giants of his time who started with the “right” educations, but even without formal training at an Ivy League, Burnham is considered one of the greatest architects in the United States.