Walden Two | Study Guide

B. F. Skinner

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Walden Two | Chapter 33 | Summary

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Summary

Burris and Frazier walk through the woods to a precipice called the Throne overlooking a quarry. Here, Frazier looks out over Walden Two and tells Burris about the many activities he is witnessing. He then describes the parallels of Walden Two with Christianity. He states like God he is sometimes unhappy with his children—in Frazier's case the citizens of Walden Two—but perhaps less so. He even, somewhat jokingly, compares himself to God. He says he considers the people of the community to be his children and he loves them.

Analysis

Burris is, not surprisingly, unsettled by Frazier's self-satisfaction and bloated sense of importance. Frazier feels he has done a better job of creating a holistic society than any created by God or the teachings of Jesus. However, Burris admonishes Frazier by reminding him the competitive society outside of Walden created him and his plan for Walden Two. Therefore, the world outside must possess a sort of grace, the ability to improve itself. Burris says, "You are the fruit of the system which you condemn as unfruitful." Frazier's religious views are those of an atheist or secular humanist. His comment even Jesus presumed to be God indicates non-messianic understanding of the Christian mystery, and Burris does not miss this point. There is the ongoing concern about free will and predestination. This is why Frazier claims Walden Two is more in keeping with the Christian view of creation than the evolutionary concept. Walden Two's citizens are able to exhibit free will of a sort, but it is at the expense of having their behavior constantly modified by the presence or absence of reward. This is the foundation of Skinner's operant conditioning.

The symbol of the Throne appears and is another Christian or at least religious reference made in the story. As we saw in Chapter 3 with the Ladder, originally referred to as Jacob's Ladder, there is a thread of religious communalism that weaves through the community. This is not surprising since the majority of planned communities in the 19th and 20th centuries were based on religion. It is also notable we are at the highest physical point in the story. We are looking down on the community from above. This is therefore the pinnacle or climax of the story. From here we can only descend to some possible resolution. Burris must either accept or reject Frazier as he is.

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