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Humans In Their Environment Essay

Robert Gray, Arthur Miller and Rachel Carson are writers that each explores the 20th century interaction and relationship between humans and their environment. From their texts ‘The meatworks’, ‘North Coast Town’, ‘Death of a Salesman’ and ‘Silent Spring’ we learn of conflict between man and his environment-which can be everything from man’s surrounding area, conditions and influences. And this conflict harms both man and nature causing degradation, exploitation and destruction for nature whilst isolation, alienation and soulessness for man.

Robert Gray is a poet who is openly concerned about the state and truths of our human interactions with the physical and natural environments. Gray’s poems’ contain themes of a negative and depressing quality but his vivid use of imagery creates a response in the reader that is both thoughtful and dramatic. We see the results of man’s conflict with his environment- degradation, exploitation and destruction of nature, whilst also the isolation, alienation and soulessness it creates for man.

In ‘The Meatworks’ Gray focuses upon what he sees as the brutal and inhumane slaughter of animals. Gray is disgusted and possesses a negative opinion about our treatment and destruction of the natural environment and reveals his view on the timeless issue about the right for all living things to live an untroubled existence, we see this clearly in his use of many concrete images and figurative language. These vivid and concrete images he creates paint a picture of the degradation, exploitation and destruction of the beauty of the natural environment-its animals, whilst it also destroys himself within for witnessing these horrid acts, isolating, alienating and making him soulless. The horrid destruction of nature can be seen through the images ‘the pigs fear made them mount one another at the last minute’ This shows the pain, distress and suffering this brutality is causing the animals, they are in pure fear and petrified knowing that they will die, running on adrenalin to mate and procreate before death to ensure the continuation of their kind. Personification is used in great effect in his description of his activities- directly linking mankind to the killing and brutality he witnesses. Examples include, ‘arm-thick corkscrews’, ‘chomping bloody mouth-‘ and ‘shaped into a penis’.

These image enforce that man’s hand (arm) is responsible for these brutal acts, the corkscrews grinding the bodies. The ‘chomping bloody mouth’ is a metaphor reinforcing the greed of human consumption. And the image of the penis is to signify that these horrid acts are done specifically by man. Witnessing all this brutal killing destroys Gray within himself. When he was inside the surroundings of the meatworks he isolated himself, alienated from the others by the brutality and when outside in the beauty of nature he felt so soulless that in the natural setting he attempts to punish and cleanse himself from what he knows he had done wrong ‘I’d scoop up shell grit’; this substance is hard, showing his distaste and punishing himself. ‘And scrub my hands’, wanting to be cleansed of responsibility, like Pontius Pilate, but it does not fully release him from fault. The power of this poem inspires in the responder an attitude of shock and horror at the scenes depicted, sharing the revulsion of the persona.

Robert Gray’s ‘North Coast Town’ focuses upon what Gray sees as the destruction of our physical and natural environment-the spread of our destructive, ugly and horrid human development and spread of urbanization, which also creates the dehumanization, and alienation for man. Like ‘The Meatworks’ its message of disgust concerning the conflict between man and his environment is shown through strong images. For instance the horrid image of an exploited beach at the start of the poem is shown well with the use of its sensual words, the ‘sight’ of the Shell Station-an eyesore, the slushy ‘feel’ of the water at a tap, the disgusting ‘smell’ of the vandals’ lavatory, the unattractive ‘sound’ of a urinal and the horrid ‘taste’ of the floury apple. Other images that are created are the metaphor involving the car ‘car after car now’ showing the speed and strength of human development is closing in upon nature.

Furthermore the car is one of the major sources of pollution and destruction of our world, and its use is also intended to show that the car is the ‘vehicle’ for the spread of destruction. Travelling through the north coast town the persona further sees the unattractiveness and eyesores of human development before creating the strongest imagery in the last stanza, ‘The place is becoming chrome, tile-facing, and plate-glass: they’re making California’ its’ meaning is that they are creating and copying something that is a culture change and totally unnatural to these surroundings. But the persona has left the strongest message for his final line, ‘Pass an abo, not attempting to hitch, outside town.’ This line shows the dehumanization and alienation the spread of development has created. This lonely soul is dejected and isolated with his world and culture having been destroyed within his own land. . The power of this poem inspires in the responder an attitude of shock and horror at the scenes depicted, sharing the revulsion of the persona.

The extract from Rachel Carson’s book ‘Silent Spring’, in the stimulus booklet, similarly to Gray, looks at the destructive effects man has on his environment. Carson outlines a scenario in a fable in which a town in America gradually kills itself. The death ‘Everywhere was a shadow of death’ has nothing to do with war or natural disaster but with man’s carelessness and lack of foresight into the world around him ‘The people had done it themselves’. ‘On the mornings that had once throbbed with dawn chorus of robins, catbirds, doves, jays, wrens, and scores of other bird voices there was now no sound; only silence lay over the fields and woods and marsh.’ This quote alone gives a massive contrast, we see the hype of activity the nature used to be to contrasted to the stillness and silence created through the destruction of human development.

In this piece written in the 1960’s, Rachel Carson gives the world a wake-up call about the destruction of our natural world, it is a fable, and as such with any fable it gives a moral lesson- that man’s conflict with his environment is wrong, with degradation, and destruction of nature, which also harms and affects man. The power of this piece inspires in the responder an attitude of shock and horror at the events depicted, sharing the revulsion of the persona.

Arthur Miller’s ‘Death of a Salesman’ focuses upon the affects of the environment on man in the ever-lasting conflict between man and his environment. Willy Loman is a man that hindered and a victim of his environment that has been created by other men. The environment is both the physical, and social environment he endures, living in America at a time of consumerism, heightened capitalism and the rapid urbanization of the cities and towns. Through this consumer and capitalism driven society he lives in the ideal of the American Dream, where people will work hard and amass money and enjoy a comfortable lifestyle. But this capitalist system of free enterprise and big business undoubtedly had it rewards. Yet it was not without its problems too, and in Willy Loman we see a man who has fallen foul of this system. Willy is painfully a victim of this system, he is ‘worked out’ and completely loyal to the system, but is bewildered at his lack of success.

His failure creates a dejected, isolated, alienated and soulless man completely confused with illusions. In this time of great urbanization and development Willy Loman is also affected by his physical environment. In a poignant moment in the play we see him planting seeds in his back yard in a last futile effort to leave something of value behind, but his efforts are hindered by what is said in Arthur Miller’s stage directions’ ”angry glow of orange’ ‘apartment houses around the small, fragile-seeming house’. This metaphor by Miller shows that through the conflict between man and his environment it resulted in human urbanization and this hurts even man, with Willy Loman completely constrained by his environment on all sides ‘We don’t belong in this nuthouse of a city. We shouls be mixing cement on some open plain…’ The power of this piece inspires in the responder empathy and sympathy, and see the wrongs of the results of this conflict between man and his environment.

Robert Gray, Arthur Miller and Rachel Carson are writers that each explores the 20th century interaction and relationship between humans and their environment. From their texts ‘The meatworks’, ‘North Coast Town’, ‘Death of a Salesman’ and ‘Silent Spring’ we learnt of the conflict between man and his environment. And this conflict can harms both man and nature causing degradation, exploitation and destruction for nature whilst isolation, alienation and soulessness for man.


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