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Once there was a town in the United States of America where all living things existed in harmony. Thriving farms surrounded the town and every spring there were fruits and flowers in abundance. When people traveled to the area, they enjoyed the variety of plants. This was a land that was beautiful in spring and in winter. Suddenly, something happened to make everything start to die. No one could account for the strange kinds of symptoms people, birds, and animals started displaying. Many creatures died. Sometimes children would be outside playing and suddenly they would be stricken with something and die only a few hours later. People wondered what had happened to the birds. The birds that remained were often so sickly that they couldn't fly. Chickens still laid eggs, but the eggs didn't hatch. The apple trees put out blossoms, but no bees came to pollinate them. The countryside that once looked so pretty now looked dry and withered. People noticed a fine, white dust had settled all over the leaves and in the gutters of their houses. The problem with this land didn't come from witchcraft, but from the people themselves.

This is a scene that is only a composite. It never happened all in one place, but each of these events happened somewhere in the United States. This book will try to explain what has silenced the spring of many towns in America.


Rachel Carson begins her book with a scenario of the composite results of chemical poisons in the atmosphere. The tone is a storytelling tone. She begins, "There once was a town . . ." Thus, before Carson begins a non-fictional account of the affects of chemical poisoning on the environment and its creatures, she gives a sort of fictional image of what will happen if things keep going the way they have been. She chooses a small town in the heart of America. She describes the time of spring. She describes what the town was like before the poison and then she describes it after the poison. In this sense, Carson is using a very old narrative framework, the most famous example being the narrative of the fall which is described in the Judeo-Christian Bible. Before the fall into sin, Adam and Eve enjoyed the garden in complete harmony and bliss. After the fall, they were sent out of the garden and had to work for their food. Rachel Carson uses that very powerful narrative framework to describe the world as it exists in harmony and bliss before the fall into the massive use of poisons in the environment. Before that fall, people came to see the birds, the birds had plenty of various things to eat, children played happily, all the organisms of the earth from plants to insects to people operated in natural harmony. After the fall, things started dying from the bottom up, from insects to plants to people.

Cite this page:

Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on A Long Way Gone".