By Jay Parini
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Looking back on her choice, in an address delivered in 1954 ("The Real World around Us," included in the 1998 collection Lost Woods: The Discovered Writing of Rachel Carson, edited by Linda Lear), Carson wrote, "I had given up writing forever, I thought. " Carson graduated from the Pennsylvania College for Women magna cum laude in 1929. " At periods during her graduate study, Carson worked at the Marine Biological Laboratory, in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, which furthered her interest in the ocean and provided rich source material for her later books about the sea.
Her mother died in 1958. Carson herself suffered from a number of physical problems, including an ulcer, debilitating arthritis, a painful eye infection, and chief among them, breast cancer, for which she had been initially misdiagnosed and inadequately treated. She underwent a mastectomy and radiation treatments while 32 / AMERICAN WRITERS she was researching and writing Silent Spring. The book is a testimony to her mental and physical courage. Carson's final decision to write Silent Spring was spurred on by a letter written to the Boston Herald by a local writer and editor, Olga Huckins.
A critique of industrial culture's destruction of the natural world and its creatures is at least implicit through all of her writing. Encouraged by her mother, Carson began composing stories at an early age. Her first published work came when she was ten, in St. Nicholas magazine. A popular children's magazine of the time that featured the work of young authors, St. Nicholas also published such wellknown literary talents as William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edna St. Vincent Millay, E. E. Cummings, and E.