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Walden Two

B.F. Skinner

Chapters 26-28

Chapter 23-25

Chapters 29-31

Summary

Chapter 25

On the way back to his room, Burris comes upon a middle-aged women sitting on a lawn chair in front of the main building. This, he thinks, is his chance to find something wrong. If anyone is likely to be unhappy at Walden Two, it is a middle-class housewife with too much time on her hands. He asks the woman whether she is happy, but she brushes off his question and tells him that she is well-fed and healthy, and that is what matters. She has a good job, friends, children and grandchildren, a pinochle club, a flower garden, and ample time to rest. Burris decides that he has had enough of snooping around. It is clear that the people of Walden Two are happy.

Chapter 27

Later that evening, Frazier, Castle, and Burris are walking across the lawn when a caravan of four or five trucks drives in front of the main building. Frazier tells them that the trucks contain the returning members of Walden Six, a new community that is being populated by Walden Two members. Waldens Three, Four, and Five have been established independently. A crowd of Walden Two and Walden Six members heads into the building, and Frazier, Castle and Burris follow them. Frazier wants Burris and Castle to meet the architects, but he is unable to push his way through the crowd to see them.

Instead, they sit down in a nearby lounge to talk about the problems of expansion. Burris wonders whether rapidly integrating new members into the community would ruin it. Frazier replies that the rate of integration will have to be determined experimentally. In any case, if each Walden community "fissioned" every two years, it would take less than thirty years to incorporate the entire country. Currently, however, the Office of Information is trying to limit publicity about the community in order to prevent a rush of new members and hastily planned new communities. Frazier mentions that Walden Two is a powerful local economic and political force, and eventually it will be able to use that power to push society at large in the directions it wants. Democracy is not a priority. Members of the community have choice in their own lives, but they neither want nor have a voice in government. The Planners and Managers are not omnipotent, however. They have limited terms of service and no greater privileges than the average member.

Castle says that Walden Two may seem to function by the principles that Frazier has outlined, but it may in reality be maintained by Frazier's personal leadership alone. Frazier retorts that, although he was its founder, Walden Two is now mostly independent of him; in fact, many members of the community barely know who he is. Heroes and hero-worship are strongly discouraged. History is not taught to the children of Walden Two because it has no relevance to the present. During their conversation, Frazier tries repeatedly to get the attention of the architects, but to no avail.

Chapter 28

While dressing on Sunday morning, Castle tells Burris that Frazier is skilled at discussing the practical issues of Walden Two but seems to be avoiding discussions of larger issues like freedom, responsibility, and dignity. After breakfast, the group plans to attend the Sunday service. However, before it begins, Frazier pulls Burris aside and invites him back to his personal quarters. In contrast to his meticulous planning of the community, Frazier's own room is a mess. Papers, books, and dirty clothes are scattered everywhere. Frazier asks Burris to tell him what he thinks of Walden Two. Would he join? Burris is undecided; he sees nothing wrong with the community, but he cannot yet commit himself to joining it. Frazier then surprises Burris by asking him how much of his hesitancy is due to Burris's distaste for Frazier as a person. When Frazier gets no response from Burris, he explains that he is probably the least perfect person at Walden Two. Although he planned the community, he cannot really be part of it. He is too much a product of the outside world: ambitious, selfish, jealous, and a complete personal failure.

Commentary

Burris's encounter with the middle-aged woman in Chapter 26 is a turning point in his view of Walden Two. Until this conversation, he is sympathetic but skeptical. Walden Two seems like a good thing, but all he has really seen of it is what Frazier has shown him. After Chapter 26, however, his struggle turns inward: convinced that Walden Two is "for real," he will be forced to come to a personal decision about whether or not he will stay.

In Chapter 27, we begin to see Frazier's grandiose side. His discussion of the expansion of Walden Two is fanciful at best, but he nevertheless revels in the possibility of turning the entire United States into a collection of Waldens within thirty years. It is clear that he takes pride in being the mastermind behind such a possibility. At the same time, however, he has designed a community in which hero-worship is strongly discouraged--so much so that Frazier himself cannot even get the attention of the community's architects.

In Chapter 28 we delve deeper into Frazier's character. Having invited Burris to his personal quarters, Frazier reveals that he is ambitious, jealous, and competitive; he is, in fact, all of the things that a member of Walden Two is supposed not to be. For the first time, the tension between Burris and Frazier comes to the surface. It has been clear since the beginning that Burris has never had a great deal of respect for Frazier and that Frazier is aware of his distaste, but this chapter is the first one in which both of them admit it. Interestingly, this heart-to-heart comes soon after Burris has decided that Walden Two itself--Frazier aside--is a legitimate success.

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May not be important, but...

by Funky-Train, September 03, 2013

On your character summary, you wrote that Barbara Macklin is Rodgers' girlfriend, but they're officially engaged. I think this is a significant detail, because Steve introduces his girlfriend, Mary Grove, informally as "my girl." This shows an immaturity in Steve, whereas Barbara and Rodgers view their relationship seriously.

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