Emotional Writing Takes Flight
Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring is famous for unveiling the dangers of the pesticide DDT to the environment. The book is credited to have brought about the ban for DDT in the U.S. in 1972. As a fish and wildlife major, I was intrigued and appalled with this reading. Imagine, 65,000 red-winged blackbirds and starlings poisoned by farmers in 1959! Emotional writing is lackluster without the facts, but Carson supplies these very well and is therefore extremely credible.
Carson opens chapter 8, And No Birds Sing, with a letter from a housewife to a leading ornithologist. The housewife describes the lack of birds in her area where they used to be plentiful and how the local children were asking about the birds. This personalize the introduction of the chapter, and grabs the reader’s attention right from the start.
Carson goes on to state that certain species are American symbols, such as the robin and the bald eagle. She describes their declines in detail and invokes a sense of patriotism in the American reader. The reader then feels a pull of empathy for these special birds.
The deaths of the birds of all species are described very vividly, down to fits and convulsions. The reader is overwhelmed with a sense of righteous anger or sorrow over their deaths. A claim for justice shouts between these lines.
Carson uses quotes from every-day people to depict what is going on.”Pigeons are suddenly dropping out of the sky dead,” and “You can drive a hundred or two hundred miles outside London and not see a single kestrel,” are quotes that give vivid visualizations to the reader and personalize the chapter.
Last, but not least, Carson strikes fear into the reader by revealing the dangers to human beings from DDT. This is done by describing a situation in California of workers who nearly died from handling treated foliage.
Carson does not hold back on the language she uses. Words such as death, killer, and poisoned are not covered up, but are brought to light and used to provoke strong emotional appeals.
Personally, I believe that it was the use of emotional writing that led Silent Spring to become such a success. Facts alone would not have gotten the message across in such an effective manner. What do you think?