Inventing Problems in In A Forest of Voices

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Inventing Problems in In A Forest of Voices

"Interesting title, nice alliteration, E.B. White, perfect." That's exactly what I thought upon finding "Sootfall and Fallout" in A Forest of Voices. I find it hard to write about another essay, so often there isn't really enough material to use and one is stuck criticizing turns of phrase or punctuation. But White, in this essay, gives the reader plenty of meat to chew, and much of it is hard to digest. His main point seems to be that radiation fallout must be stopped, because the current generation is buying atomic power with the lives of future generations. It is now 44 years since this essay was written, and many of White's concerns, and predictions, seem to have floated away like the dust he hates so much.

White's primary complaint appears to be the radioactive dust created by nuclear explosions and the problems that it creates.

I think man's gradual, creeping contamination of the planet, his sending up of dust into the air, his strontium additive to our bones, his discharge of industrial poisons into rivers that once flowed clear, his mixing of chemicals with fog on the east wind, add up to a fantasy of such grotesque proportions as to make everything said on the subject seem pale and anemic by contrast. (White p.494)

This doesn't stop White from adding his own, "pale and anemic" thoughts on worldwide pollution, and indeed like anemic blood that doesn't hold together, neither does his essay. White whines about the pollution, but comes up with no effective way to decrease it, except vague ideas about politicians becoming unconventional. As far as nuclear testing, part of White's wish has come true, in that nuclear testing is very rare, and...

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...mpact on future generations. Hopefully, the kids growing up there in ten years won't have to worry about bombs in their streets and soldiers segregating their neighborhoods. So all decisions have positive and negative impacts on the future. At the end of "Sootfall and Fallout", White worries about acid rain and its effects on the environment. I think that becoming incensed about issues that one cannot foresee or prevent is more destructive in the long term. The acid rain poisons the earth and the plants, but worrying endlessly poisons the soul and its acid etches the shape of indecision and paranoia. Both acids prevent the growth and understanding that are White's final goal.

Works Cited

White, E.B. "Sootfall and Fallout." In A Forest of Voices, Eds. Chris Anderson and Lex Runciman. Mountain View: Mayfield Publishing Company, 1995. 492-500.

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