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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 381

Rachel Carson wrote The Sea Around Us as a kind of paean to the ocean and as a way to explain the complexity of the ocean to non-scientists. Published in 1951, The Sea Around Us was written before the modern environmental movement had really taken hold. Carson, who worked for the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries, wrote the book with poetry and science, and she intended to spark in her readers a sense of the fragility of the world's ecosystem.

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Much of Carson's writing is poetic in nature. For example, she writes about the ocean, "Crossed by colors, lights, and moving shadows, sparkling in the sun, mysterious in the twilight, its aspects and moods vary hour by hour." While her writing is based in science, it is also intended to sound like poetry. For example, in the excerpt above from chapter 3, Carson uses poetic devices such as alliteration (starting the words "sparkling" and "sun" with the same sounds) and repetition (repeating the word "hour"). Her words, especially those beginning with "s," also imitate the sounds of the waves on the shore and rushing in of the tide.

Carson approaches the sea in a way that makes it accessible to laypeople, not just scientists. She begins the book with the story of the sea's birth, almost personifying it. She then delves into the different layers of the sea. Her subject becomes approachable in the way she plumbs its depths for the reader. She explains each part of the ocean separately and takes apart its layers for the reader.

The author also emphasizes the interconnectedness not only of the different parts of the sea but also of all life. For example, in Chapter 3, she writes, "The surface waters move with the tides, stir to the breath of the winds, and rise and fall to the endless, hurrying forms of the waves." This sentence is poetic but also contains the idea that all of life is interconnected, and that even the surface of the ocean, which can seem placid, is subject to the deeper movements of the waves and tides. Carson emphasizes the way in which all living things in the environment are connected and the importance of protecting each part of the environment because the environment is composed of a delicate interplay of forces.

Form and Content

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 596

In The Sea Around Us, Rachel Carson lovingly leads her readers through a clear and scientifically careful history of the sea, from the first formation of oceans on the planet to the middle of the twentieth century when the book was written. The text is divided into three main sections: “Mother Sea,” “The Restless Sea,” and “Man and the Sea About Him.”

In part 1, “Mother Sea,” provides in eight titled chapters a history and description of the life found in the sea. In “Gray Beginnings,” Carson gives a scientific history of the origin of the earth’s oceans. In “The Pattern of the Surface,” the complexity of life in the surface waters is described: “Unmarked and trackless though it may seem to us, the surface of the ocean is divided into definite zones, and the pattern of the surface water controls the distribution of its life.” The chapter entitled “The Changing Year” describes the ways in which the surface waters are affected by seasonal changes, and “The Sunless Sea” describes life in the depths of the ocean and discusses advances in deep-water oceanography. Other chapters in this section provide a history of the scientific efforts to sound the bottom of the ocean and what was learned of its topography; describe the significance of sediment; chronicle the birth and life of oceanic islands; and, in “The Shape of Ancient Seas,” assess the evidence of former seas on dry land.

Part 2 of The Sea Around Us , entitled “The Restless Sea,” describes in three chapters...

(The entire section contains 977 words.)

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