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Walden Two

B.F. Skinner

Chapters 35-36

Chapters 32-34

Analysis

Summary

Chapter 35

At lunch, the group learns that a community truck will take them to the bus that will take them to the train station. Frazier is mysteriously absent until the moment just before they board the truck. He shakes hands with everyone and quietly invites Burris to return to Walden Two. On the crowded bus, Burris is happy to be seated alone; although he has left Walden Two for the time being, he remains undecided about whether to return. In the waiting room of the train station, Castle rants about the flaws of Walden Two. Burris is unwilling to get into an argument, but he disagrees with almost all of Castle's complaints. When Castle gets up to find a restroom, Burris suddenly realizes that he has come to a decision after all: he will return to Walden Two. He checks his bag and heads for the door.

In the outside world again, in a park in the city, he comes across a newspaper article about a speech being given by his university's president. It is full of empty phrases about dignity, freedom, and initiative, but no concrete plans for improving society. He retrieves some essentials from the bag he has checked at the train station, fashions himself a knapsack, and begins to walk back to Walden Two. At a small newsstand, he buys a copy of Thoreau's Walden.

Chapter 36

The last chapter takes place outside of the main narrative. In it, Frazier and Burris discuss the very manuscript we have been reading. Burris wants to end it with the beginning of his walk back to Walden Two, but Frazier argues that there are too many things that could have happened before he reached Walden Two. He could have gotten tired halfway there and decided to turn back; he could have been caught in a downpour on the way and died of pneumonia; and so on. Burris agrees to finish the tale. In fact, he finished the walk to Walden Two over the course of three days and was met by Steve when he arrived. Steve told him that Frazier had predicted his return. Burris then looked up at the "Throne" where Frazier had compared himself to God and was glad to see that he was not there.

Commentary

In Chapter 35, Burris finally comes to a decision about Walden Two. The shock of returning to the outside world, with its crowds, pollution, and empty hopes for a better society, are enough to convince him that Walden Two, even if flawed, still provides a better life.

Chapter 36 is strange in several ways. First, it breaks out of the main narrative and shows Frazier and Burris discussing the proper way to end the manuscript we are reading. We learn that the manuscript is intended for publication through Walden Two's own Office of Information and that Frazier has played a significant role in producing it. The novel is, in effect, re-labeling itself as a piece of propaganda, but propaganda that is not afraid of pointing out at least some of the flaws of what is being propagandized.

Even more curious than this last-minute genre switch is the way the chapter deals with Burris's relation to Frazier. The last paragraph of the chapter (and the novel) is as follows: "Frazier was not in his heaven. All was right with the world." But this comes mere pages after we have learned that Frazier has a controlling say in the way the novel itself ends. Burris seems, on the one hand, to dislike Frazier enough that he thinks Frazier's absence makes Walden Two a better place; on the other hand, he knows that neither Walden Two and Walden Two the novel would exist without him. This tension is never resolved, and it makes the relationship between Burris and Frazier the most interesting one in Walden Two.

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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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