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Walden Two | Symbols



After arriving at the community and getting a guided tour of the garden and grounds with Frazier, Burris and his group are introduced to the Ladder. It is a terraced passageway that leads from the area for children to other public rooms. It is also the logical route from the ground-floor areas to the upper level and therefore is used throughout the story. Frazier tells them it was once called Jacob's Ladder, since the angels, or children, would go up and down the passage. This is one of many biblical references in the story, and it implies a spiritual underpinning for what appears to be a secular community.

As we see with the Throne symbol and Frazier's comparison of himself to God, there is an inclination to grasp the unfathomable. The direction in which Walden Two is going has not been traveled. Therefore, Frazier seems to feel godlike in his pursuit. He is creating a new human being. The only comparison B.F. Skinner appears to have for the truly transcendent new community is Christianity, but this of course does not dovetail with a purely scientific, mechanistic approach to developing a community.


Later in the evening of the first day, the group uses the Walk, a wide hallway flanked here and there with rooms for reading, music, and conferences. There is plenty of natural light, and as we learn in Chapter 6, people like to amble through the corridor even on a beautiful day. Burris even comments on this in Chapter 30: "The reading rooms and lounges were all occupied, in spite of the clearing weather." This structure is a major artery of the community, and many conversations and meetings take place there throughout the story. Like the Ladder, it serves as a physical manifestation of the self-sufficiency of the community and its independence from the rest of the outside world. In addition it provides a connection with the natural world by way of its glass wall. Like Thoreau, who felt the act of walking was vital for a transcendental experience, the inhabitants of Walden Two are able to visit with one another or think quietly while moving through the Walk.


No other symbol in the story carries as much spiritual weight as the Throne. This natural structure appears in Chapter 33 and in the final chapter. Frazier leads Burris upward through a wooded path to a ledge the community refers to as the Throne. Its sheer height unnerves Burris, and it overlooks most of Walden Two, giving Frazier almost godlike oversight. At the Throne Frazier admits he feels godlike, and refers to the Walden Two inhabitants as his children. It is the throne of his hubris or self-importance. Frazier says he believes Walden Two is "closer to the spirit of Christian cosmogony than the evolution of the world according to modern science"(281). Burris also references the Throne when he returns to Walden Two to become a member of the community. He looks up at the Throne from below and does not see Frazier there. He has accepted Frazier's arrogance for what it is, and he knows indeed all will be fine with the choice to join the community. This natural object, which is really just a large rock jutting over a precipice, is given meaning that connects it not with an earthly realm but a transcendent, spiritual realm. It is a monumental object in its own right, but that feature is used to exemplify the height and weight of Frazier's behavioral achievement.

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