In this “fable,” which is chapter 1 of Silent Spring, Rachel Carson’s lays out two contrasting scenarios, one idyllic and the other apocalyptic. Beginning with an unnamed town in America’s heartland, the narrator describes a lovely, flawless environment. There are farms, forests, orchards, foxes, and deer. All kinds of trees and flowers “delight” the traveler who passes through. More than anything, there are abundant birds, and people come to fish in the clear streams.
Abruptly in the middle of the second paragraph, the narrator switches to distressing images of blight, evil, maladies, and death. Not only plants and animals became ill and died, but children were also “suddenly stricken . . .” The third paragraph consists of the now-famous description of the “silent spring” of the title.
It was a spring without voices . . . [N]ow there was no sound; only silence . . .
The narrator continues by describing the contrast of death and decay that have befallen the various features mentioned earlier: the young animals did not survive, the fruit did not grow, and the streams were “lifeless.” Reiterating the silence, the narrator says the landscape was “deserted by all living things.” Furthermore, they mention a “white granular powder” that had fallen. These calamities were not the result of any evil spell, however; “the people had done it themselves.”
In the chapter’s final paragraph, the narrator explains that this is not a real American town, but it could exist in America or another country. All the catastrophes have not yet occurred simultaneously in one place, but each of them has happened somewhere. In this paragraph the narrator switches to first person:
I know of no community that has experienced all the misfortunes I describe.
This helps make the “fable” believable. The narrator cautions against the real possibility of the imaginary becoming real. Finally, they ask what has silenced the voices, and state that they will try to explain.