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1 Walden Two: A Behaviorist Utopia walden two begins, like so many other utopian novels, with a journey. In the year 1945, a cynical professor is approached by a former student who has just returned from military service. The student, Rogers, reminds his professor of a utopian community he once mentioned in class. One of the professor’s fellow graduate students, a man called Frazier, had always been planning to establish a community.Together they discover that Frazier actually followed through with his plan. Excited about the actual existence of a utopian community in their neighborhood, they write to the community and arrange for a visit.A few days later, a group of six—Professor Burris, his colleague Castle, Rogers, a fellow soldier from the war, and the two younger men’s girlfriends—set out on their utopian adventure.Their goal is Frazier’s community, Walden Two. Reaching the community,located “about thirty miles from the largest city in the state” somewhere in rural America (11), involves no more than a train and then a bus ride.The visitors find themselves stranded along the highway: “An hour later our bus passed over a small bridge and hissed to a stop. We were left standing at the side of the road as the bus drew away in a popping roar” (11). Before they can decide what to do, they are greeted by a man who had been napping while waiting for them. This is Frazier, the founder of the community and their central guide throughout the novel. The group continues its trip in a station wagon by leaving the main highway,driving through farmland, and finally crossing a “creek on a small wooden bridge” (12). Among gentle slopes, young pines, and a small pond they discover buildings of a “functional style” (12), which are, as Frazier informs them, part of Walden Two, a commune populated by roughly a thousand people. The visitors have arrived in Skinner’s version of utopia. At the end of their short visit, three of them will join Walden Two, while three will return to the outside world.At the end of the novel we understand that the book was written by Burris, chronicling his development from cynical professor to useful new community member. 01.1-40_Kuhl.indd 3 3/29/05 4:00:25 PM 4 . b. f. skinner’s walden two Walden Two as an American-Style Utopian Community Using a typical utopian strategy, Skinner presents his community as seen through the eyes of a group of visitors who are not (initially) part of the utopian world.1 There are, however, several aspects of this introductory section of Walden Two that are noteworthy. First, Skinner places his utopia in the here and now rather than transferring it to a distant place or time.Second, he does not present a society of gigantic proportions but rather a community of a thousand members living on a farm. Third, reaching utopia does not involve a time machine, dream, or space craft in Skinner’s novel but simply a train, a bus, and a station wagon. Walden Two is thus a classic example of what Robert Plank calls the modern “shrunken utopia.” The description of the Walden Two community, once the visitors have arrived, follows in a similar vein. The overall impression is of a pleasant summer resort, with various forms of the word “pleasant” appearing, as Kenneth Roemer has noted, at least forty-four times in the course of the novel (144). The utopians are shown drinking tea, engaging in intelligent conversation, and expressing an interest in the arts. In a typical passage, Burris describes a scene before him: “These were delightful people. Their conversation had a measure and cadence more often found in well-wrought fiction than in fact. They were pleasant and well-mannered, yet perfectly candid; they were lively, but not boisterous; affectionate, but not effusive” (24). The description of happy and self-contained people is typical of utopian fiction, yet Skinner goes beyond the implicit reference to standards of utopian fiction by drawing explicitly on utopian images—and writers—that would have been familiar to an American audience: “‘One advantage of cooperative housing,’ Frazier said, ‘is that we can deal with the weather. Edward Bellamy tried it, you remember. The streets of his Boston of the future were to be covered when it rained’” (19). In Walden Two, the main buildings are connected by covered passageways, which was more feasible than Bellamy’s plan...


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