Walden Two | Study Guide

B. F. Skinner

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Walden Two | Chapter 5 | Summary

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Summary

A discussion of human physical appearance dominates this chapter. Burris, very taken by the physical beauty of the women at Walden Two, asks Frazier if the community's choice to populate Walden Two with beautiful women was deliberate. Frazier replies it was not. The discussion then turns to attire. Frazier explains the manner of dress at Walden Two is practical, with a nod to fashion but without being restricted by it. He also adds the importance of the community staying "in constant touch with American life" and culture. The last part of the chapter describes the treatment of children, and the group observes a girl's birthday party.

Analysis

Burris's attitude toward women can appear sexist. However, this story was written in 1948 with no hint the action takes place in a different year. At that time American society was still very much male dominated, and comments Burris makes would not have been viewed as disrespectful. He even compliments the guide, Mrs. Meyerson, about her beauty in front of the group. Frazier makes it clear superficialities are not a part of Walden Two and even politics is not enjoyed there. He emphasizes the pragmatic underpinnings of the community. For instance, he states like Thoreau, who felt dressing was a social convention that could be neglected, Walden Two's inhabitants dressed for comfort and practicality and avoided "conspicuous consumption" (30). Castle questions their pragmatism when Frazier says the community dresses up for special occasions. Castle says he doubts such an act would have occurred at Thoreau's Walden. Frazier counters this by stating Thoreau sought isolation from the outside world.

Frazier shares some of the dress and cultural practices are for the benefit of the children, who should be comfortable mingling in the world outside Walden Two. Frazier defends himself against Castle by arguing certain types of clothing are merely symbols of class or state. This is why party dresses are hardly ever worn. The community approves of cleanliness and neatness and wears clothing that is not as susceptible to fashion trends like sweaters or blouses. He also says a "shabby" appearance would not occur at Walden Two because it is a sign of "weariness."

At the end of the chapter, Burris observes Frazier beaming at the sight of a seven-year-old girl having her debut party. This appears to be a comment on Frazier's absolute dedication and passion to the community.

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