Silent Spring First Three Chapters Overview Essay

Rachel Carson uses her book Silent Spring to highlight and promote evidence that chemical pesticide is dangerous for the natural environment, wildlife, and humans. She criticizes both chemical industry and public officials who claim that pesticides are safe, never questioning the validity of those claims. The first chapter of silent spring is written about a typical American town that has suffered a series of plagues. In the beginning the town works together in harmony for both humans and nature but then the town takes a turn for the worst.

She says that some evil settles on the town causing illness and death. In the end of the chapter Rachel admits that, “This town does not actually exist, but might easily have a thousand counterparts in America or elsewhere in the world. I know of no community that has experienced all of the misfortunes I describe. Yet every one of these disasters has actually happened somewhere, and many real communities have already suffered a substantial number of them. ” (Carson, 1962) The second chapter of silent spring begins to describe the nature of chemical poisons and how they conflict with natural processes.

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Carson has been careful in not identifying the source of trouble in chapter one until this point. She targets the massive release of synthetic poisons as being the cause of not only these short- term incidences but also as having more disastrous long-term consequences. This is where she introduces her analogy after which the book it titled. She equates pesticides to atomic radiation; although it is invisible it is known to have deadly side-effects many of which do not appear until after much time is passed.

Silent Spring Overview, Essay 1. In chapter three some properties of these new pesticides are described, showing what makes them so much more dangerous than pesticides used before. These new pesticides have a greater potency than the old ones. They also have a much slower decomposition rate and tend co concentrate within fatty tissues. She goes on to explain how the poisons affect both animals and birds and also how they may be effecting people. They do this by depositing themselves within fatty tissues where they build up and are magnified.

The reason that these chemicals are seen as safe is that people and animals are poisoned over a long period of time. So instead of seeing ill effects right away, poison passes through the food chain causing all sorts of problems. Liver disease, hepatitis, cancer and even death could be caused by the buildup of these toxins. Rachel points out that even though toxins may not show any danger in small doses, once they build up and accumulate in the body these levels are no longer small.

Creatures that are higher up the food chain such as predatory birds and large mammals like humans would be at a greater risk for accumulation. Rachel Carson’s role in writing Silent spring helped to change public opinion about harmful toxins such as DDT. Without her speaking out in this book it is unlikely that the public would have been aware of its harmful effects. Silent Spring Overview, Essay 1


Carson, Rachel. (1962). Silent spring. Boston, N. Y. : Houghton Mifflin Company.