Chapter 1 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 443

The book opens with a chapter titled “A Fable for Tomorrow”; the author intends to offer an instructive lesson. Beginning with a picturesque description of a small town in America, Chapter 1 abounds in detailed imagery. This town is tucked away in a countryside that is peppered with beautifully flourishing farmland.

The farms are teeming with life. Regional vegetation includes crops that are grown for food production and plants that decorate and enliven the landscape. Every season offers a varied yet thriving view for those who traverse the roadways. The area is both visually appealing and alluring. The animal life in the region exists in abundance. Animal life flourishes on the land, in the sky, and on the sea. Again, the life forms reflect animal species that coexist in natural habitats and those bred for human consumption. There is a superabundance of life in the town and the surrounding area.

Visitors to the region contentedly tour the area, stopping to hunt or fish. Others journey to the region for exploration. These visitors engage in sight seeing and appreciative observation. The mere vibrancy of life is magnetic for these travelers. In fact, the region seems so ideal that the reader is lulled into a false sense of security.

Abruptly, this paradisiacal view quickly shifts, and the author presents a vision that is in stark contrast to that of the unblemished town. All outward aspects of the town undergo a drastic and horrifying metamorphosis. The landscape becomes a dreary and dismal skeleton of the region described at the outset of the chapter. Gone are the glorious visions of life in abundance. They are replaced by visions of utter decay and destruction.

In this altered view of the town, animals simply die. Both livestock and wildlife perish with no apparent cause. People, too, begin to suffer from mystifyingly noxious diseases. Afflicted ones die within hours of falling ill. Death settles like a plague on the land. Moreover, even the animals that survive fail to reproduce. These animals are alive but their fecundity is replaced by utter sterility. The inhabitants of the town search for the origins of the lethal epidemic, but they discover nothing. Neither science nor superstition can explain the tragedy.

In the closing paragraph, the author explains that the depiction of the town is largely fictitious. Then she adds another clarification: although this actual town does not exist, the tale is based in reality. The portrayal of the town is a composite description of characteristics that exist in many towns. Like this town, there are actual locations that experience unexplained death, illness, and misery. Then she promises to offer an explanation for this freakish phenomenon.

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Chapter 2 Summary