Silent Spring

Silent Spring: Biography

Rachel Louise Carson was born to Maria Frazier and Robert Warden Carson, an insurance salesman, on May 27, 1907, on a family farm in Springdale, Pennsylvania. In her childhood she explored nature and read literature, also writing and publishing her own stories in magazines, like the St. Nicholas Magazine for children. She loved Herman Melville, …

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Silent Spring: Top Ten Quotes

“In this now universal contamination of the environment, chemicals are the sinister and little-recognized partners of radiation in changing the very nature of the world—the very nature of its life” (Chpt. 2, p. 16)Carson connects what most people consider benign—chemicals—to what everyone knows is a dangerous killer and mutant—radiation. Both have been humanly created by …

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Silent Spring: Theme

Western Science Is Stone Age ScienceCarson uses a quote from E. B. White in the front of the book. White says he is pessimistic about life on earth because “Our approach to nature is to beat it into submission.” The Western philosophical view has largely been that humans are superior to and apart from nature …

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Silent Spring: Metaphors

War With NatureCarson makes continual references to chemicals as weapons in a war against nature. She calls them “As crude a weapon as the cave man’s club” (p. 261), on the one hand, and on the other, she likens them to nuclear fallout, a bomb that we carelessly drop on the landscape. After giving case …

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Silent Spring: Chapter 17

Summary of Chapter 17: The Other RoadThis chapter covers alternatives to chemical control of pests, and she names it “the road less traveled by” after Robert Frost’s poem, and calls it “our only chance” to preserve the earth (p. 244). All the solutions she offers are biological solutions based on the knowledge of living organisms. …

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Silent Spring: Chapter 15,16

Summary of Chapter 15: Nature Fights BackCarson notes the irony that despite the cost of our war on insects, we have failed. They are fighting back and adapting to our poisons. Chemicals fail, she asserts, because they cannot take into account the complex and precise systems of nature. The only effective control on insects has …

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Silent Spring: Chapter 13,14

Summary of Chapter 13: Through a Narrow WindowThis chapter turns to what happens in the individual cell with chemical interference. The cell produces life energy, but chemicals disrupt cell oxidation. Doctors who were trained before 1950 do not have knowledge of this latest research. A living cell is like a flame that burns fuel to …

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Silent Spring: Chapter 11,12

Summary of Chapter 11: Beyond the Dreams of the BorgiasNow Carson turns from mass spraying to the ordinary chemicals people buy and use every day. She argues that from a daily contact with chemicals from birth to death, the progressive build-up in the body leads to “cumulative poisoning” (p. 157). Insecticides in the supermarket look …

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