Critical Context

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 266

The Sea Around Us was Rachel Carson’s second book, after Under the Sea Wind (1941), which was neglected in its first edition because it came out just before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that began the United States’ involvement in World War II. The Sea Around Us quickly became a best-seller and was followed by The Edge of the Sea in 1955. Carson’s greatest book, Silent Spring, was written to inform and warn the world about the dangers of DDT and other pesticides. It was published to great controversy, as pesticide companies tried to suppress the information. Carson, who was conducting her own private fight against cancer, had to endure many harsh attacks, many of which questioned the validity of her scientific findings simply because she was a woman. Nevertheless, Silent Spring proved itself to be accurate and had much to do with the passing of legislation to protect the environment from dangerous pesticides. Moreover, its author received many awards for her service to nature and society.

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Carson’s last book, The Sense of Wonder (1965), was the first written specifically as a children’s book. She began it for her grandnephew Roger, whom she had adopted after his mother died, but the book was not published until after Carson’s own death in 1964. All of her books, however, can be recommended for young people as models of good writing, good science, and a responsible and caring attitude toward the environment. Rachel Carson was one of America’s greatest science and nature writers and is also an inspiring figure in the history of women in science.

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