Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In Sea and Earth: The Life of Rachel Carson, Philip Sterling puts the life and accomplishments of Carson into the social context of her times. The story begins on June 4, 1963, when Carson was testifying before a Senate subcommittee regarding the use of pesticides. After this brief introductory chapter, Sterling flashes back to 1907 in Springdale, Pennsylvania, where Carson was born and spent her youth. The Carson acreage, in the lower Allegheny Valley near Pittsburgh, was among the unspoiled areas not yet ravaged by industrial growth. Carson is revealed as a quiet, thoughtful child who enjoyed being alone and reading. Her developing fascination with nature is described, and samples of her early writing are included.

World War I and worsening economic conditions in the United States form the backdrop for Carson’s childhood years, while her college days at Pennsylvania College for Women were overshadowed by the Great Depression. The reader is made aware of the impact of these worldwide events on Carson’s life.

While an undergraduate, Carson came under the influence of biology instructor Mary Skinker. Although her interest in writing had been a long-term career thrust and there were few opportunities for women in science, Carson changed her major from English to biology. Later, after the death of her father and her completion of graduate work at The Johns Hopkins University, Carson worked as a marine biologist under Elmer Higgins at...

(The entire section is 486 words.)