Rachel Carson's Silent Spring was written to show the way that pesticides hurt the environment. Carson shows how the toxins in pesticides can travel through the food chain to kill animals who don’t linger near them such as birds, including eagles. She explains that toxins can cause cancer in humans by hanging out in fat cells where they break down and affect other cells in the body. Carson closes the book by offering natural alternatives to pesticides that will allow for safer food and air.
Throughout the book, Carson uses a number of literary devices to further drive home her message.
Fable: The first chapter of the book explores the juxtaposition of two worlds. In one, nature is healthy and thriving and in the other it is diseased and dead. The fable that Carson creates forces the reader to consider how to avoid the diseased world in favor of a safe and happy existence. Carson herself ends the story by asking, “What has already silenced the voices of spring in countless towns in America?”
Metaphor: Writers use metaphors to compare scenarios and things to well-understood concepts to further drive home the image. In the first chapter, Carson writes:
It was a spring without voices. On the mornings that had once throbbed with the dawn chorus of robins, catbirds, doves, jays, wrens, and scores of other bird voices there was now no sound; only silence lay over the fields and woods and marsh.
Pairing this with the title of the work, Silent Spring, Carson is hammering the point that the very objects that make nature “sing” will be replaced with silence if pesticides are allowed to reign.
Imagery: Carson uses imagery throughout the book to show, rather than simply tell, how important and beautiful nature can be and to encourage readers to preserve it. She writes, “In autumn, oak, and maple, and birch set up a blaze of color that flamed and flickered across a backdrop of pines.” The reader can picture the nature she describes.