Silent Spring, Rachel Carson

By Olivia Zoolalian

Core Text 

Carson, R., Lear, L., & Wilson, E. O. (2002). Silent Spring (Anniversary ed.). Houghton Mifflin Company. 

 

Summary 

“The classic that launched the environmental movement”. Carson’s Silent Spring paved a new way for environmental issues to be heard. Carson combined science and fiction into her writing to create an opportunity to change the way people think about and treat the environment. She uses her platform to highlight the negative effect of chemicals that were apart of US agriculture. Carson used this book to bring environmental consciousness into people’s minds. Within just the first chapter Carson uses a science fiction approach, to bring awareness to the birds no longer chirping, and the roadsides being no longer beautiful. Although this place she speaks of is not real, she preaches that it will become a reality if there isn’t a change made. This first chapter serves as a call to action, only making the rest of her book where she focuses on insecticides and waste, more impactful. Carson wastes no time to make her intentions clear behind this book, which makes her words more meaningful throughout the rest of her work. 

 

Literary Devices 

Throughout Carson’s “Silent Spring” readers are able to get a feel for her work and really imagine living in the town that she describes in the beginning of her book. Carson allows us to not only see what the town would be like, but she also brings deeper meaning into it, by relating it to what we citizens could live through if no one takes action. She uses the reader’s attention, gained from the first fictional chapter, to inform the world on why this may happen and what we can do to prevent it.

Devices:

Foreshadowing: Foreshadowing can be seen in Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, most importantly in the first chapter. Carson used this by creating a fictional town and describing its changes in environment, and how it looks and feels. Because this is not a real town she is speaking of, her whole idea is to send a message that is foreshadowing our real future planet. She uses this in order to grab readers attention and want them to keep reading to find out why this could happen.

Imagery: Carson uses imagery when painting a clear picture of this made up town she speaks of. The way she describes the scenery of this town makes it easy to picture it visually in our minds. For example, “The roadsides, once so attractive, were now lined with browned and 249 withered vegetation as though swept by fire.” Descriptions like that excerpt, make it easy for any reader to clearly see what she is describing.

Conflict: This story is created with intentions on highlighting the conflicts between humans and nature. The town in the beginning of the story is destroyed by humans. Humans are blamed for destroying land, trees, even the air. This story reflects on a deeper conflict that is a real-life conflict still occurring now, which is climate change, pollution, and deforestation. Carson allows us to see a fictional conflict, arise to reality.

 

Resources 

 Lear, L. (1993). Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring”. Environmental History Review, 17(2), 23-48. doi:10.2307/3984849. 

  • Within this journal article, Lear puts an emphasis on Rachel Carson’s intelligence. She highlights Carson’s achievement on inspiring a cultural revolution, something she definitely did not expect. Lear goes through Carson’s whole timeline briefly, and mentions her time spent outdoors when she was young, leading to her work at Fish and Wildlife Service, which is a bit foreshadowing to what she had later become. Lear labels her work of Silent Spring, an “overnight sensation” after stating in her book, “every human being is now subjected to contact with dangerous chemicals, from the moment of conception until death”. He emphasized Carson’s accusations flowing all across the world, where she would get love and hate, to where Time Magazine charged the book an “emotional and inaccurate outburst”. Despite many complaints and hatred surrounding this book, Lear emphasizes his love for this book and what it had done historically. 

Pollock, C. (2001). Silent Spring Revisited: A 21st-Century Look at the Effect of Pesticides on Wildlife. Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery, 15(1), 50-53. Retrieved August 6, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/30136866 

  • In this article, Christal Pollock, takes a look at Carson’s Silent Spring in a 21st Century stand point. Although Carson was not the first to take awareness to the use of pesticides, Pollock, as well as others, surely agree that Carson’s approach was definitely more heard with all the discredit Carson received, Pollock makes it a point that it only gave her and Silent Spring more public awareness. Pollock takes a look at what these dangerous chemicals have done within the later years, and highlights that he feels it would have been worse if Carson hadn’t written Silent Spring. Pollock emphasizes Carson’s idea of the birds no longer chirping, to where birds’ eggs are growing thinner now, resulting to hatching failure. Pollock preaches that she hopes people these days will raise their voices like Carson and take action when toxicity can be diagnosed. She wishes to keep the public aware, following in the footsteps of Rachel Carson. 

Smith, M. (2001). “Silence, Miss Carson!” Science, Gender, and the Reception of “Silent Spring”. Feminist Studies, 27(3), 733-752. doi:10.2307/3178817

  • In this article, the author, Michael Smith, states his stand point on Carson’s controversial work of Silent Spring. Unlike most, Smith sees her as a threat because she is a woman. He argues that Carson received these threats because she was a woman, “an independent scholar whose sex and lack of institutional ties placed her outside the nexus pf the production and application of conventional scientific knowledge” (Smith, 2001). Smith highlights that with all the controversy surrounding Carson’s bold accusations about the environment, no one has yet to scrutinized the gendered nature of the criticism received. Smith believes that not only is the conflict of her work between human and nature, it is also male versus female. Michael Smith also goes as far to examine the criticism Carson has receive. He highlights that they are all written by men who call her emotional and an amateur. This article is different from the others that are out there because Smith focuses on a different outlook.

Discussion Questions 

 How can you see gender as a contributing factor to the hate and discredit Carson received from writing Silent Spring?  

 In your opinion, what does a “Silent Spring” mean to Carson, and secondly, what does it mean to you? 

 Do you think Carson’s use of a fictional approach in the first chapter made her book more effective or less effective? Explain why. 

 

#pesticides, #climatechange, #science, #environmentalism, #insecticide

 

Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, By: Melanie Bess

 

This image displays one of the many different book covers used for the novel, “Frankenstein.” This novel was written in 1817 by the author, Mary Shelley. This image shows a representation of what Victor Frankenstein’s creature looked like.

Credit to: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/series/DT1/puffin-classics 

Core Text:

Shelley, Mary W. Frankenstein. New York: New York Post, 2004. Print.

Summary:

“Frankenstein” begins with letters written by a character, Robert Walton. In these letters, he wrote to his sister about a mission he had been on overseas. While overseas, Walton meets the creature created by Victor Frankenstein. The novel then jumps to the life of Victor Frankenstein, and his life in Geneva. Victor attended the university of Ingolstadt where he became passionate about discovering the secret of life. Through this fascination, Victor starts a project which took him months to complete. Through using old body parts and science knowledge, Victor brings to life a creature of his own. He quickly realizes this creature he created was not what he expected. Fasting forwarding throughout the book, Victor hears about the death of his brother who he believes was killed by his creature. As the novel continues, Victor takes a trip to the mountains to ease his grief where he later encounters his creature again. The creature admits to murdering William, but he tells Victor that he did so out of anger because he was left alone with no help about how the world works. After more deaths of characters that took place, Victor was determined that he was going to kill his creature that he created. While on his voyage, Victor meets Walton who was the one writing him letters in the beginning of the novel. Victor then dies of sickness and when Walter enters the room of where his body was laying, he sees the creature standing over him. The creature then says that since his creator has died, he can as well. So, he then sets off into the icy waters and dies.

This image displays a map of the real-life places that inspired Mary Shelley’s novel, “Frankenstein.” Most of the novel takes place in Switzerland where Shelley stayed when writing “Frankenstein.” Throughout the novel, Victor Frankenstein visits Germany, France, England, and Scotland.

Credit to: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/geography-of-frankenstein-180956964/

Resources:

  • Garrison, Alysia. “What ‘Frankenstein’ Can Tell Us About Climate Change.” Wbur, 4 May 2016, wbur.org/cognoscenti/2016/05/04/politics-literature-2016-election-alysia-garrison. Accessed 4 Aug. 2021. The year 1816 was known as the “Year without a summer” due to the features in natures that were seen throughout the world such as dark skies, record snowfalls, frozen rivers, and dead crops. Part of the inspiration for the novel, “Frankenstein,” by Mary Shelley was climate change and how this affected the environment as well as the world. We can see this same type of weather that was displayed during this time period in when the novel was written which is how we can relate this text to the topic of climate change. As this article describes the weather and environmental features that were displayed, it states, “The world was void, The populous and the powerful was a lump, seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, a lump of death.”
  • Laurence, Rebecca. “Why Frankenstein is the story that defines our fears.” The BBC, BBC, 13 June 2018, www.bbc.com/culture/article/20180611-why-frankenstein-is-the-story-that-defined-our-fears. Accessed 4 Aug. 2021.“Frankenstein,” also known as “The Modern Prometheus,” tells the story of a young philosophy student who is determined to bring a creature alive, although when he completes this task he quickly regrets his creation. This novel falls into the genre category of both science and gothic fiction as we learn about the dangers of playing God as well as abandonment and rejection of a human creature. As this 2018 article states, “The novel has been used as an argument both for and against slavery and revolution, vivisection and the Empire, and as a dialogue between history and progress, religion and atheism.
  • Wysession, Michael. “Frankenstein Meets Climate Change: Monsters of Our Own Making.” The Common Reader, Common Reader, 26 Oct. 2018, commonreader.wustl.edu/c/frankenstein-meets-climate-change-monsters-of-our-own-making/. Accessed 4 Aug. 2021.The topic of climate change plays a huge role in Mary Shelley’s novel, “Frankenstein,” 18 year old, Mary Godwin took a vacation to Geneva with her soon to be husband and their friends. The group of writers decided to have a competition to see who could write the best horror story, which is when Mary wrote “Frankenstein.” The dark and gloomy weather they experienced while on their trip was a huge inspiration to her novel. During that time, a huge volcano had erupted which was the cause of the bad weather. Due to the eruption, climate changes occurred globally due to over 100 million tons of sulfate aerosols that were ejected. The article states, “The 1816 summer in New England was cold and severe, with widespread crop failures and snows in July and August, leading to the well-known label of “the year without a summer.” This was the inspiration for Mary Shelley to write “Frankenstein.”

 Literary Analysis and Devices:

Genre:

The novel, “Frankenstein,” falls into the category of a few genres such as science fiction and gothic fiction. This novel can be considered gothic fiction due to its features of mystery, secrecy, and unsettling psychology as it tells the story of the monster created by Victor Frankenstein. Science fiction is seen as a genre in this novel, because it brings to life the idea of ways that science and technology can be progressed when used in different applications.

Literary Analysis:

The meteorological change that took place in the year of 1816, also known as “the year without a summer” influenced the novel, “Frankenstein,” by Mary Shelley. This period in time was full of dark skies, record snowfalls, rivers that were frozen, and dead crops. These features in nature can be seen throughout reading this novel. Shelley also used descriptive imagery alluding to this time period which stated, it was a “wet, ungenial summer” filled with “incessant rain.” Part of the inspiration in this novel came from the issue within nature, known as climate change. The impeccable weather that took place during this period in time, caused a 3-year meteorological catastrophe. This harsh weather, such as thunder, lightning, rain, and ice caps is seen throughout reading “Frankenstein.” Not only does this paint an image of scenery in the text, but it also creates a foreground of environmental problems as well as issues that arise in social, political, and economic conditions. As we read in the novel, Victor Frankenstein creates a monster whose birthday can resemble the early period in time that Paul Crutzen, a Dutch chemist, named the Anthropocene, also known as the geological age, where human activity became the leader of climate change. This brought to life the idea of the monster’s body which was able to be used as a simple source for many wrong endeavors seen in the environment such as, toxic sludge, costal erosion, land mines, chemical runoff, and extreme weather. This science fiction novel was inspired through the period in time where a disrupt environment took place through the change in global weather patterns, known as climate change.

During the time period, “A year without a summer,” the features in nature were very distinct. This image displays a scene from the novel showing gloomy weather through the dark skies that creates a stormy feel. As you can see above, the ships are turning on their sides creating a wicked, dark scene that is understood through reading the novel, “Frankenstein.”

Credit to: https://blogasenglish.wordpress.com/2016/04/05/the-sublime-frankenstein/

Literary Devices:

Personification– Victor Frankenstein’s creature is an example of personification. His creature was made up of inanimate object and body parts that were once dead which shows personification by giving something that is nonhuman the characteristics of a real human.

Simile– “No one can conceive the variety of feelings which bore me onwards, like a hurricane, in the first enthusiasm of success…” (Chapter 4, page 44). This sentence used by Mary Shelley exhibits the use of a simile through comparing feelings to a hurricane with using the word “like.”

Imagery: Mary Shelley added a lot of imagery throughout her novel to allow her audience to imagine what Victor Frankenstein’s creature looked like. She described this creature as having thin yellow skin that exposed the internal parts of the monster, as well as describing the once lustrous black hair that now made this monster look scarier. Imagery allows readers to deepen their understanding of the literature they are reading. Mary Shelley allows her message she is portraying in her novel to make sense to her reader through using imagery.

 Discussion Questions:

  1. If you were in the shoes of Victor Frankenstein, after creating his creature, what would you have done differently? Would you have chosen to abandon the creature like Victor, or would you have chosen to take it in as your own?
  2. Imagine you were given the chance to create any type of creature through the use of science and the environment around you. What would this creature look like? Would this creature have any special powers or ability to do things? How would you go about creating this creature?
  3. After reading the novel Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley, what do you think it means to be a monster? As you read throughout the novel, Victor Frankenstein created a monster who was released into the world. Victor did not like his creation and chose to abandon him. Why do you think he would have chosen to abandon his own creation? Do you think Victor Frankenstein is the true monster in the novel, or do you agree with Victor that his creation is the monster? Explain.