Rachel Carson is a renowned writer, ecologist, and scientist who dedicated her life to the conservation of the environment. Throughout her career as an editor in chief, marine biologist, and environmental activist, Carson continued to educate the public about the wonder and beauty of the living world. She emphasized humanity's power to alter the environment, but in "Silent Spring" she begins to challenge the traditional practices that disrupt the balance of nature.
Carson not only blames farmers for unnecessary violence towards the environment, reveals the dangers on pesticides to her audience, and blames higher authorities, for the damage to wildlife through the use of pesticides in order to persuade her audience to take action against the mistreatment and abuse of the environment. Through war like diction, Carson exaggerates the farmer's violence towards blackbirds, misguidance in the use of dangerous pesticides, and lack of emotion for bloodshed.
Aiming to weaken the pesticide users reputation, Carson introduces her main argument by referring to the "habit of killing" as," the resort to "eradicating" any creature that may annoy or inconvenience"(paragraph1). The word "eradication" is the word used by farmers to justify the use of pesticides. The farmers find it necessary to use dangerous chemicals for the sole purpose to wipe out a species entirely, a species who merely were an "inconvenience". The word "eradicate" is a euphemism used by the farmers to cover up the severity of pesticide use.
The word was meant to be less offensive, but ironically what the word implied was used to Carson's advantage. Carson instills fear among her audience at the farmer's lack of emotion towards bloodshed, leaving the reader to question who is to blame. Sparking the reader's interest, Carson introduces an authority, who she describes as having a direct affiliation with the farmers who were, "persuaded of the merits of killing by poison" (paragraph 2). The farmers are misinformed and act without reason, only following what was told to them.
The violence against blackbirds provides benefits or "merits" of death that outweigh moral reasoning and the consequences of using "poison". The war between an unknown authority and animals is a one sided one, which involves exterminating the helpless and the innocent with a substance that has deadly effects. Acting on orders, without emotion, farmers made the fatal decision and, "they sent in the planes on their mission of death" (paragraph 2). Carson uses the term "mission of death" to symbolize the authorities sending in soldiers in a war who are ordered to kill anything in sight.
Comparing a war to the farmer's actions brings memories of blood, fear, and endless suffering to the reader. Carson relates to the reader's experiences of war and uses the negative associations to connect it the farmers. Armed with planes, the farmer's "mission of death" resulted in the "deaths of over 65,000 victims of blackbirds and starlings". Carson writes that "casualties most likely gratified the farmers", that the deaths were the spoils of war. Just like a war, the birds were not the only ones caught in the crossfire.
Countless rabbits, raccoons, and opossums who had never visited a cornfield were disposed of and forgotten. As the war and mission of extermination intensifies, parathion's poison begins to spread, affecting everything it touches. Carson appeals to the audience's sense of guilt and urgency by using death imagery to show pesticide's potential to reach far beyond the destruction of nature's beauty and affect every animal, man, woman, and child. The destruction of pesticides is overwhelming, what was once a flock of colorful birds is eradicated, leaving behind the, "pitiful heaps of many hued feathers" (paragraph 5).
The viewer is subject to the imagery of pesticides, destroying a beautiful creature until not even a body remains. There is a play with emotions, a beautiful bird should not be the victim of greed and ignorance. A bird a symbol of the freedom and serenity in nature; for it to be targeted means that nature itself is under attack. Those who are innocent are able to see the beauty in nature and children often are drawn to forests and streams, but what prevents pesticides reaching, "boys who roam through the woods or fields" (paragraph 4).
Not only are animals affected by pesticides, but also blameless children who have always enjoyed nature as a place to explore and discover. Parents are immediately alarmed by the prospect of children being harmed and see pesticides as a threat to health, safety, and innocence. Nature is a part of childhood and it is imperative that parents protect what is precious to children. If it can reach children, it can reach anyone in the proximity of the, "widening wave of death that spreads out, like ripples when a pebble is dropped into a still pond" (paragraph 5).
The imagery of a pebble being dropped into a pond is like a large bomb, dropped and resulting in the disturbance of the peaceful and still pond. The ripples of the pebble symbolize pesticides reaching much farther than the targeted area, spreading through water sources and fields. The metaphor of the pebble and pond suggests that no matter how the problem may seem, it can spread and endanger anything or anyone. In order to stop the spread, the public must take action.
After analyzing the dangers and abuse of pesticides, Carson uses rhetorical questions to gain support from the audience against the questionable figures whose actions caused devastation towards nature. Carson involves the reader into her argument by directly addressing the audience and asking, "Who has made the decision that sets in motion these chains of poisonings? " (paragraph 4). Carson uses rhetorical questions to translate fear and guilt towards the harm of nature into feelings of urgency to know the authority's identity.
Carson directly addresses the audience to imply that she knows the answer to who is activating these "chains" of deaths. Using parallel structure, Carson continues to ask questions, "Who guarded the poisoned area to keep out any who might wander in? " (paragraph 3). Both the audience and author know the answer. No one. Neither farmer nor authority cared about the public's, audience's, or children's safety. He was entrusted power by the people and has abused it, he has made the decision to benefit himself, "He has made it during a moment of inattention by millions" (paragraph 5).
Whose fault is it really for causing it in the first place? Cason uses the phrase "inattention by millions" to point her finger at the very people she is trying to persuade. The ignorance towards nature has allowed power to be put into the hands of the untrustworthy. Carson uses the word "inattention" to suggest that the audience let the abuse of power happen, but now have a choice to take the power back and prevent the mistreatment of the environment. By revealing the harm to the environment and the harmful effects of pesticides, Carson convinces readers to take action against farmers and a higher authority.
Through the power of language, Carson appeals to the audiences emotions, logic, and ethics in order to persuade them to support her argument. Carson also informs the public about the importance and beauty of the environment and warns against its mistreatment. Through Carson's literary work, she ensures that the beauty of nature will remain. In modern times where life is disconnected from nature, it can be easy to forget all that the environment provided and still provides; but if everyone works together, this beauty can be protected and conserved for future generations.