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Rachel Carson's Silent Spring is justly remembered as a landmark in the history of modern environmentalism. It is, however, a more complicated text than cultural memory tends to acknowledge. Blending conservative and traditional elements with more progressive and pioneering ones, Silent Spring is marked by a complexity that extends to its reception and legacy. This article argues that-in a seeming paradox-it was the more conservative elements of Silent Spring that allowed it to be considered a revolutionary book. Carson carefully constructed her argument in ways that facilitated its initial acceptance. But those same decisions made it easier for supporters to de-emphasize its more radical implications, even as they granted it revolutionary status.