Silent Spring (Rachel Carson) – ” a Fable for Tomorrow” Analysis

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Rachel Carson was the author who leaves her mark on the birth of the ecological movement. Indeed, her book represents the first targeted campaign against the ravages of pesticides and herbicides in the United States of America (Carson, 1962). In her work, Carson exposes the impacts of pesticides on wildlife and describes its bad effects on natural environments, fauna and flora but also on the human DNA (Online ethnic centre, 2010). Silent spring aroused a violent debate at that time. It also symbolizes the first victory of change agents, because ten years later the United States of America will forbid the DDT (Hodgson, 2010).

Gradually, the conservation movement developed in importance and lead to a ban of certain pesticides in the United States of America (Online ethnic centre, 2010). As a result, we can say that Carson’s text triggered the birth of the environmental movement at the beginning of the sixties, thus it is very important in the history of sustainable development. Indeed, according to some politicians such as Al Gore, Silent Spring represents a ‘birth certificate’ for sustainability (Al Gore, 1994). This popularity is certainly due to Carson’s vivid explanations which are accessible to everyone.

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Indeed, in the first chapter “Fable for Tomorrow”, we can see that Rachel Carson is an exceptional populariser and a “hysterical alarmist” (Waddell, 2000, p42). In this essay, I will argue that Silent Spring owes its fame and popularity thanks to the Rachel Carson’s style which generated the ideas that are in Silent Spring. The first part will focus on the different stylistic devices which Rachel Carson uses to make Silent Spring as attractive and convincing, whereas the second part will underline some exaggerations and passages in the book which can call into question the quality and the Carson’s judgement.

Firstly, we can argue the Rachel Carson’s work has known so much success thanks to her incredible talent of populariser. As a proof, her work has convinced thousands Americans who were not necessarily interested by the pollution of their country (Hodgson, 2010). Thank to this book, a lot of people have joined the fight to struggle against the pesticide DDT (Hodgson, 2010). People think that this book is the first to show the relationship between environment, economy and wellbeing (Hodgson, 2010). These three notions are the pillars of the sustainable development.

When you are reading the first chapter of Silent Spring, “A Fable for tomorrow”, we can remark that the text is writing as a tale. Tales are excellent to get an easier understanding of the text. Several formulas obviously used in tales are showed in this chapter (Carson, 1962, p1-3). For example, we can find the formula “There was once” or even a marvellous vocabulary which is typical in tales (Carson, 1962, p1-3). In my opinion, Rachel Carson used some typical aspects of tales into her work to create an allegory.

According to Oxford University, an allegory is “a story which can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one” (Oxford University dictionary, 2010). By making her work easier to understand, Carson can target a larger public by writing a story approachable by everyone. Furthermore, Rachel Carson writes her essay by using the simple past (Carson, 1962, p1-3). The simple past is currently used in tales or fables. It permits to describe a fact taking place in the past without indicated neither the beginning nor the end (Academie francaise, 2010).

I think that Carson uses it to explain us easily that in spite of numerous errors of humans, it is always the time to react and to correct these mistakes. It would seem that throught her work, Carson succeeded to convince a large public for the first time about environmental problems (Hodgson, 2010). Moreover, language used in Silent Spring has also contributed to the Carson’s success. In “Fable for tomorrow”, the language is easy and analysed to permit for everyone to understand easily different environmental problems about pesticides.

In addition, we can say that the author give us some geographical indication such as “a town in the heart of America” or even “in countless towns in America” (Carson, 1962, p1-3). And yet, Rachel Carson does not give us any time indications into her work. That means these geographical indications have been specially written in order to involve every Americans reading Silent spring. Consequently, lecturers feel more concerned in the Carson’s fight and they know where they are in the environmental causes that fight Rachel Carson. Into the chapter of “Fable or tomorrow” in Silent Spring, we can find a lot of processes which have permitted to convince thousands of people in the fight of pesticides in United States of America. The easiness to read Silent Spring has permitted to thousands persons to get a better understanding on consequences that could have pesticides as DDT on the environment of American people. This awareness will have permitted to stop the use of pesticides in United States of America. However, we can also note that the different processes which Rachel Carson uses in Silent Spring present some weaknesses.

Indeed, throughout her first chapter “Fable for tomorrow”, the use of several hyperboles takes to think that Rachel Carson exaggerates along her book. These hyperboles may call into question the Rachel Carson’s ideas. For example, she pretends that in an imminent future, our springs could be silent without birds’ song (Carson, 1962, p1-3). Fortunately, it is not the case. Consequently, some people such as Hynes or Graham see Rachel Carson as a “poetic amateur” or even a “hysterical alarmist” (Graham 64-65; Hynes 12-13). Carson mentions also “survivors” in her work and “disasters” in her first chapter (Carson, 1962, p1-3).

It seems difficult to think that consequences linked to bad effects of DDT can take to a kind of extinction. In my opinion, these hyperboles are sometimes pushed to extremes and, thus some arguments may not be taken seriously. “A Fable for Tomorrow” is probably the most convincing chapter of Silent Spring thanks to the moral lesson used by Rachel Carson but also inovating techniques as tale used in her work. However, these techniques can also be seen as alarmist ideas. To sum-up, in my opinion, Silent Spring has known as much success thanks to stylistic considerations of Rachel Carson. A Fable For Tomorrow” outlines radical consequences that could have pesticides on the American environments by using a perfect “successful rhetorical accomplishments” and a style incomparable to others. I think it is the Rachel Carson’s stylistic which has interested readers to environmental causes and green activism and not the topic linked to pesticides. As a result, we can say that Silent Spring represent the most successful rhetorical accomplishments of the sustainable development history (Waddell, 2000, p58).


* Al Gore (1994), “An introduction to Silent Spring”, http://www. uneco. org/ssalgoreintro. tml, (accessed on August 23, 2010). * Carson Rachel (1962), Silent Spring, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002. * Hynes H. Patricia (1989), The Recurring Silent Spring, Pergamon Press * Hodgson (2010), “What does sustainability mean to you? ”, Murdoch University, Perth * Online ethnic centre (2010), “Rachel Carson-Silent Spring: A brief history of Ecology as a Subversive subject”, http://www. onlineethics. org/cms/9174. aspx, (accessed on August 23, 2010). * Waddell Craig (2000), And No Birds Sing, Rhetorical analyses of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, Southern Illinois University, United States of America.

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