Spring 2014 • English 120 • Section 7225 Instructor Karl Sherlock

Study Questions: Silent Spring


Get into groups of five and discuss the following.

Question 1

As an introduction to her book, Silent Spring, what does Rachel Carson accomplish in  writing "Chapter 1:

A Fable For Tomorrow"?  What ideas, attitudes, or arguments does it introduce?  For a modern fable of

your own, about one of the following topics, and be prepared to discuss how the moral of your fable is



global warming


the global (or national) economic crisis




gay marriage


the war in Iraq (or another conflict in which the U.S. is involved)

Question 2

Why does Rachel Carson quote Jean Rostand at the end of Chapter 2, "The obligation to endure gives us

the right to know"?  Form a position in your group on

a.) exactly what the obligation to endure is, and

b.) what gives us the right to know anything.

Select another contemporary topic, problem, or conspiracy about which you feel strongly that you have

"the right to know."  What do you have the right to know about and why?  What limits on knowledge (if

any) have been placed on your ability to know the facts or the truth?  Why (or why not)?

Question 3

What is the primary method Carson uses to sequence this Chapter 12:  chronological, spatial, or emphatic?

Find specific evidence of this method in the chapter. (Note: You may find instances of all three sequencing

techniques, but only one is the dominant sequencing method.)

Question 4

Find places in "Chapter 12" where Carson accomplishes the following:


states (or implies) her main topic in this chapter


states (or implies) her main argument about that topic


explains (not illustrates) in more specific language one aspect of the main topic


explains (not illustrates) by defining in more specific terms one aspect of her main argument


uses factual support for her argument


uses outside reliable opinions or insights

What parts of "Chapter 12" do you consider to be the most intellectual and detailed in their discussion of

Carson's topic?  Why?

Question 5

The reactions to Rachel Carson's book in 1963 were vituperative and concerted efforts to discredit her

science and her standing as a member of the scientific community.  In writing this book, does Carson

insinuate a conspiracy or cover-up about the dangers of pesticide use?  Were the contemporary reactions

to it a conspiracy or cover-up?  Why or why not?  In what ways does the story of Michigan State University

professor Dr. George J. Wallace (Dying To Be Heard) contribute to your answer?

Question 6

Based on your examination of Silent Spring, collaborate on a definition of the word "conspiracy."  (Do not

consult a dictionary.)  Name three criteria you would use to establish whether or not something is a