In "A Fable for Tomorrow," Rachel Carson uses a fictitious town. Why?  

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Part of what makes Carson's work a landmark in ecological literature is that she is able to present both what is and what can be.  The opening chapter does this.  She opens with this idyllic setting where there is a sense of mutual interdependence and ecological harmony between all animals.  This is something that Carson uses as an example of how things can be.  It is set into stark contrast with the vision that is altered of the town, a setting in which death and unexplained ecological breaking is evident.  In bringing both views into the reader's mind, Carson is attempting to make clear that both are real and sustainable. The first view is the vision that should be kept in the forefront of our minds as our goal, an ideal that is worthy of pursuit and one needed for our own survival.  The other one is the reality that exists in "countless towns," and one that has to motivate individuals into actions.  If she does not present both visions, there is significant question as to the nature of the challenge and what the end result should be.  It should be noted that Carson is one of the first voices of the environmental movement, a voice that was not finding much in way of support at the time.  Additionally, she presents both views and offers explanations to show that this is not a situation that lies outside the control of human beings who can do their own ecological part to make sure that which is present is a future that is ecologically sound for all creatures.

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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“A Fable for Tomorrow” was intended by the author Rachel Carson to serve as a warning for the overuse of pesticides in the eco-system. Published in 1962, the town described in the essay initially epitomizes the small towns of another time when everything seemed in perfect harmony with nature. The animals survived in the natural world with the beauty of the flora surrounding them.

Describing a paradise, the birds found food in winter; the deer grazed hidden in the misty morning; the fish swam in the unsullied, clear water.  This was life as God intended it to be.

Through the use of pesticides, man altered the balance of nature.  Not only did the vegetation and animal life suffer, but the doctors were overwhelmed with the odd diseases that came into their offices. The herbicides and insecticides skewed the environment.

Carson’s argument portrays the lack of reproduction which the “white powder” impacts.  The chicken lays eggs but do not produce chicks. The birds were either dead or migrated to another site. No fruit, bees, or other animals could sustain life.

The problems presented in the imaginary town find roots in other real locations where incidences like those in the essay have actually occurred.  Carson describes the blight of the white power or pesticides as an evil spell that settled on the community. She never denotes exactly what the actual “evil spell” is in the fable. Using the metaphor of the evil spell, the author explains it is a mysterious malady that wipes out entire flocks of sheep and herds of cattle. Man has done this to himself.

No witchcraft, no enemy action had silenced the rebirth of new life in this stricken world…A grim spectre has crept upon us almost unnoticed, and this imagined tragedy may easily become a stark reality we all shall know.

Carson’s purpose is not to deride the American public; rather, she hopes that awareness of the problem will stop the immoral use of a product that can induce such harm to man and his world.

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