think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree.
Perhaps, unless the billboards fall,
I'll never see a tree at all."
of the Open Road" (1933)
-Thesis Approach 1
Chapter 1: Introduction; The Writer
-Abbey's Literary Credo 3
-Abbey's Critics 10
-The Brave Cowboy (1956) 13
-The Monkey Wrench Gang (1975) 16
-Hayduke Lives! (1990) 22
-The Wilderness 30
Chapter 3: Nature and The Machine
-The Juniper 36
-The Vulture 38
-Water and Rivers 40
-The Machine 45
-The Cities 51
-The Authorities 56
-Jack Burns 62
Chapter 4: The Monkeywrenchers! -Who They Are
-George Washington Hayduke 67
-Erika and the Earth First!ers 71
-Why They All Do It 76
-How They All Do It 82
I want to express my
sincere gratitude to:
-Professor Peter Quigley,
for introducing me to the world of Edward Abbey!!!
for thorough and thoughtful guidance of this thesis.
-Fellow students, for
fruitful discussions and relieving coffee breaks.
-Abbeyistas at Abbey's Web,
for interesting discussions and useful information.
-Friends in Louisville
Kentucky, for faithfully getting me books and articles all
the times the University bookstore, STUDIA, failed.
-Ingrid, for making this
-My wife Elin, for
bearing with me in my solitary study.
| This thesis is
printed on 100% recycled paper. Any copy of this
thesis which is not printed on recycled paper is
an unauthorized copy.
(Chapter three, p. 45)
Something huge and yellow, blunt nosed glass-eyed
grill-faced, with a mandible of shining steel,
belching black jolts of smoke from a single nostril
of seared metal, looms suddenly gigantically behind
the old desert turtle." -Hayduke Lives!
The Southwest has, up
until recently, represented the West and the frontier with
its open wilderness areas. Except for Native American
reservation areas, the Four Corners region has been
relatively uninhabited. However, after the second World War
this region became a military area with nuclear testing, as
well as a place where the mining and cattle industries
attracted a larger number of people. In the 1960s national
migration led to large planned-retirement communities. Ten
years later, lavish resort complexes emerged with golf
courses and other recreation facilities. Today, the
Southwest is increasing its population, with people moving
in from Mexico as well as from the West Coast, making
the area a conglomeration of people and cultures.
However, people who moved
due to overpopulation and unemployment have begun to face
the same problems here, and the cities still expand. This
increasing expansion has caused great concern among
environmentalists, who see the(ir) wilderness become more
and more cramped as people start to move in. And in
the wake of the migrants followed an increasing number of
industrial enterprises which became their greatest
concern. Because the increasing clusters of cities and
industries, with owners always aiming at obtaining a profit,
led to the destruction of forests, mountains, canyons, and
rivers, and threatened animal, human, and plant life.
industrial corporations, cities, and various machines, are
the main enemies in the novels. Their desecration of the
Southwest, and its inhabitants, is equated with the way
bulldozers can raze a landscape. And in the novels, the
machine becomes a symbol of the authorities and their
domination. Consequently, in fighting the bulldozers,
the Monkey Wrench Gang also fights the authorities. To
illustrate the tyrannical machines, the last two novels
introduce an image of a dinosaur. The image is used in many
raids where the Monkey Wrench Gang attack the machines, and
even to describe a helicopter that "clatter[ed] like a
pteranodon" (Abbey 1992b, 208). One of their countless
raids start as the four monkeywrenchers, spying on a
construction area, then look down at "the iron
dinosaurs" which "romped and roared in their pit
of sand" (65). Peering down at the monsters, they do
not feel sympathy as one might have felt looking at
creatures at the brink of extinction. Rather, they feel
considerably small and vulnerable with an "involuntary
admiration for all that power, all that controlled and
directed superhuman force" (65). The need to overpower
the creatures, strengthens the group's bonds.
Like brave knights, armed
with tools they approach the "green beasts of Bucyrus,
the yellow brutes of Caterpillar, snorting like dragons,
puffing black smoke into the yellow dust" (67). Their
mission is to kill the dragons and thereby save the pure
land. With the skills and precision of a surgeon,
Hayduke and his three friends "worked on the patient,
sifting handfuls of fine Triassic sand into the
crankcase..." (75). Doomed to die, the machines are
at the mercy of the knights who continue their deed by
draining oil, letting the machine "bleed its
lifeblood... with pulsing throbs onto the dust and
sand" (76). They fight "Him. Her. It. The Thing.
The Dragon. GOLIATH from GOLGOTHA, the giant from the
place of skulls. Tyrannosaurus" (Abbey 1990c,
243). The dinosaur image is emphasized with their animated,
"clanking apparatus... tough red eyes... armored
jaws," (Abbey 1992b, 227) and "a breeder
reactor for a heart" (54). The battle, however, results
in the crumpling of "steel flesh, iron bones" as
the engines fight "for life" (202). By the time
the battle is over, the eco-warriors have neutralized the
beast which is "spattered with what looked, at first
glance, like dried blood," until we learn it was
"[r]ed mud, perhaps" (Abbey 1990c, 168). And as
they leave their victim, the monkeywrenchers are impressed
by their "murder of a machine"
The machines' animated
qualities, open for an extensive use of metaphors in the
novels. And using the dinosaur image, makes them as
vulnerable as any other animal. 65 million years after
dinosaurs became extinct, The Monkey Wrench Gang and Hayduke
Lives! express the wish of an elimination of the dinosaurian
machines. The following quotation from Hayduke Lives!
illustrates the creature's unmistakable sign of weakness:
"The trail... resembled that of a dying dinosaur,
unable to lift its butt from the ground, dragging itself
toward extinction with awkward but heroic effort"
(249). The phrase: "doomed dinosaurs of
iron," suggests that one day the machines will be
defeated (Abbey 1992b, 78). And at the end of Hayduke
Lives!, GOLIATH, the Giant Earth Mover, is forced over a
canyon rim and falls, with its "spider eyes" still
blinking, down to the canyon floor (268). Its fall is
illustrated in the following passage.
sank down and down into the deep time of
geologic history - from Jurassic into late
Triassic, from late Triassic into early
Triassic, ricocheting off the Hoskinnini Tongue
and the Cutler Formation, shattering itself
finally upon the floor of Lost Eden Canyon, the
unyielding monolithic fine-grained rock of the
Cedar Mesa Sandstone deep in the Permian Age,
250 million years ago." (287)
The way the immense drop
of the machine is described, reminds of a movement in slow
motion. It is as if it will never reach the bottom. And to
top it all, GOLIATH plunges into the abyss accompanied by
the American "national anthem blaring out" from a
tape-recorder in the wheel house (286). This remark suggests
that a final downfall of the machines, will end modern
civilization. The passage takes us back through history to
the Mesozoic era. With this fall, the ring is
completed and the machine ends its days in the sandy canyon
floor in the same place where dinosaur fossils have been
In The Brave Cowboy, the
dinosaur image is absent. However, the fearsome
machine is still present. This time it is represented
by driver Hinton's large rumbling truck carrying
technological fixtures into the Southwest. Together with the
other "similar diesel monsters" in the novel, the
truck represents all the qualities the driver opposes (Abbey
1992a, 41). Hinton wants "peace, order, and the
reassurance of human voices" but finds it nowhere (41).
And in the novel the machine, with its "forty tons of
steel, iron, rubber, glass, oil, a cargo of metal," is
contrasted with the "mere thing of flesh that drove and
was driven by it" (136. My emphasis.). The disparity
between them results in the powerful machine overrunning the
weak, sick, and miserable trucker trying to steer it. And at
the end, Hinton, aware of something, or somebody, in the
middle of the road, "fought with the machine for a
thousand feet before he could bring it to a full stop"
The thought of machines
controlling humans was not taken seriously by a great number
of people in the 1950s. And the novel expresses
concepts "that were very unusual for that time,"
as author Charles Bowden says in Eric Temple's documentary
video of Edward Abbey (Temple 1993, 12 min.). But in
Bowden's opinion, the criticism of the industrial and
commercialized society "was not casual or flip, it was
gut level" (12 min.). In the two latter novels, the
Machine is much more complex than in The Brave Cowboy. By
now, the whole society has become more dependent on
machines, and their technological potentials. In these
novels, people have reached a stage where they act according
to the machines. And as the authorities start
monitoring everybody's move with the help of computer
technology, the freedom of the individual is
threatened. The Gang, for instance, is forced to pay
in cash when they want to buy equipment, since credit cards
would leave a "documented trail" of their
activities (Abbey 1992b, 61).
Unfortunately, there are
only a few who realize that they are being run "not by
a human... but by a machine driving a human" (Abbey
1990c, 91). This realization has various effects on people.
Seldom is troubled by nightmares. In The Monkey Wrench Gang
a machine is personified as the Director of "The
Dam." Seldom is seized by the machine who wants to
transform him into "one of us" (Abbey 1992b, 213).
|Captured by a
"superstructure... murmuring the basic
Seldom is ready to be scanned (212). Four
green bulbs winked in the Director's frontal
lobes. The voice changed again, becoming clipped
and cryptic, clearly Oxfordian.... The Director
issued his orders to invisible assistants, who
bustled about Smith's paralyzed body.
"Good. Imprint the flip-flop circuits on
his semi-circular canal. Below the ear drum.
Right. Five thousand volts should be
sufficient. Attach sensor wires by
strontium suction cup to his coccyx. Firmly.
Plug the high-voltage adapter into the frontal
sockets of his receptor node. The head, idiots,
the head! Yes - right up the nostrils. Be firm.
Push hard. Quite so. Now close circuit breakers.
Thank you.... Well now Smith," The Director
said, "- or should we call you (heh heh)
Seldom Scanned? - are you ready for our
Unable to free himself,
Seldom fears the terror that is about to take place.
However, he wakes up just in time before the Doctor turns
the switch that would brainwash him. The chapter warns and
dramatizes how the authorities have the power and ability to
make unsubmissive individuals obey their commands.
To emphasize the
technological and mechanical difference between the
individual and the Machine, the Machine's dialogue is
written in, what used to be, regular computer print, i.e.
square letters. The Machine's impersonality is expressed
through the Director's harsh tone and scientific language.
The Machine, however, is more complex than what the
technical machines will ever be. Doc Sarvis fears the danger
of authoritarian institutions joining forces and using
machines as a medium for their greedy struggle for
development. To him, it will be like "a Martian
invasion, the War of the Worlds," bringing with it
chaos and destruction, and turning the nation into a police
state where only corporate interests are looked after (Abbey
1992b, 142). Sarvis fears that the calm wilderness will be
turned into a world where "men...armed with riot
shotguns, tear gas, launchers, helmets and face shields,
emerge[s] from the machines..." (Abbey, 1990c, 249).
The consequence of the machine's "broad highway of
progress, improvement and development," is desecration
of both land and people (25). Its rough trail shows
"flat trademarks... overturned earth, broken and
jumbled sandstone slabs, torn sagebrush, mutilated and
slowly dying trees" which only result in the downfall
of the area (25).
man is home anywhere, for all big cities are
much alike. But a country man has a place where
he belongs, where he always returns, and where,
when the time comes, he is willing to die."
- A Voice Crying in the Wilderness.
In the three novels, the
cities represent The Machine's "home," a cold
place of sickness, corruption, and pollution which results
in mental chaos. These urban jungles, represent and
accumulate all negative values, as opposed to the wilderness
areas described earlier in this chapter. The Brave Cowboy
expresses the worry of the cities expansion into their
surrounding areas. This apprehension is expressed through
Jack Burns who, in the first chapter of the novel, makes his
way to Duke City, the fictional name of Albuquerque New
Mexico. Burns' first encounter with civilization is
the barbed-wire fence that runs in " an unbroken thin
stiff line of geometric exactitude scored with bizarre,
mechanical precision over the face of the rolling
earth" (Abbey 1992a, 11). The barbed-wire with its cold
and hard forms is opposed to the broken lava rock terrain of
"scattered patches of rabbitbrush and tumbleweed"
of the wilderness (11). In addition, its sharp-edged and
clean-cut form mirrors the people who live within suburban
boundaries. Burns is surprised to find nothing but rubbish,
broken and defective objects while riding towards the
outskirts of the city, as he would not waste things in such
a manner. Mounted on his horse Whisky, he passes a
"cardboard house trailer resting on two flat tires, a
brush corral, a flatbed truck with dismantled engine, a
water tank and its windmill with motionless vanes, a great
glittering heap of tin cans; no men or sheep visible"
(13). This dead and sick area which meets his eye, is a
strong counterpart to the harmonious, living world which was
depicted at the beginning of the chapter. The two pass
"other signs and stigmata of life," and find rusty
tin cans and other sorts of garbage everywhere which made
them sure "they were nearing civilization" (14).
The garbage and heaps of trash mirror the wasteful life in
the city. Burns, in contrast, tidies up after himself,
making sure his camp is clean for the next time he might
pass by. Another contrast to the "zone of silence"
in the canyon landscape, is the sound of the city (15). Note
how the noise from the city is described in the following
|... though he
could not see the city he could hear it; a
continuous droning roar, the commingled
vibrations of ten thousand automobiles,
tractors, airplanes, locomotives, the hum and
whine of fifty thousand radios, telephones,
television receivers, the vast murmur of of a
hundred thousand human voices, the great massive
muttering of friction and busyness and
mechanical agitation. (15)
The passage builds up like
a massive sound picture starting with the thundering roar of
the vehicles, continues with the smaller noisy technical
inventions, to the buzzing sound of people talking, and ends
with the tiny, but still mumbling sounds of all kinds of
activity. The distant hum of the city drowns almost all
other sounds as Burns rides on towards Duke City. A few
crows "squawking anxiously" cause a "fine
haze of dust" to filter "down from the trembling
leaves" (17). A neighborhood is described as being
neat, but dead as its surroundings of
sunflowers" (19). As if imprisoned, "the women
remained indoors and stared out with pale bleak faces"
towards the prim fences that separate the houses from their
neighbor (19). Maintaining an orderly exterior, the
buildings, made of "cement or brick or cinder blocks
with a stucco finish" rather than of organic materials
such as lumber, only house soulless people (19). In this
ghostlike town of hypocrites, Burns passes "a big new
graveyard laid out like a model housing project," and
"a big new housing project laid out like a model
There is no doubt that the
novel express dismay to the cold and artificial suburbs. The
portrayals predict the future when we see how residential
areas are planned and built today. We often see large
impersonal residential areas planned and rapidly built which
lack a pleasant atmosphere. Today the soulless outskirts are
no better than the dead downtown areas in the city. And in
the skeptic Brave Cowboy, what happens in the cities happens
in "an underground poker game, in the vaults of the
First National Bank, in the secret chambers of The Factory,
in the back room of the realtor's office during the
composition of an intricate swindle" (13). The
activities in the downtown areas of Duke City are kept
secret, as if they were criminal activities. This culture of
secrecy, dishonesty, and betrayal is set in the city, making
it an obscure place. The defective urban culture in The
Brave Cowboy is also pictured in the scene with the
cancer-sick truck driver, Hinton. Coming from the East, he
drives into the Southwest in a truck carrying new technology
in "ACME Bathroom Fixtures!" under the ironic
motto "America builds for tomorrow!" (41).
Addicted to Dexadrine, an anti-depressive and
amphetamine-containing drug, Hinton stops for coffee at a
"chrome-plated neonized redbrick restaurant" and
is served by a waitress with a big wen in her face (41). The
dialogue between them is insignificant, illustrating the
townspeople's lack of ability to communicate. The fact that
Hinton comes to the Southwest from the East, imposing goods
based on false premises, illustrates the notion of how many
South westerners felt the region was run over by laws,
regulations, and technological disasters planned by the
politicians and other know-hows in Washington.
The city is also a
dreadful place in The Monkey Wrench Gang. In this novel the
over-crowded cities have increased their amount of noise and
pollution. Doc Sarvis' patients in "Sick City" are
both drug addicts and impotent (Abbey 1992b, 120). The towns
have grown into cold centers where the twinkling neon lights
and tall buildings have replaced the stars and the rocky
monoliths. Their blocks, steep like slickrock cliffs, have
become poor imitations of the real canyon landscape outside.
In the following passage Doc and Bonnie are driving his
Lincoln Continental into the same town Jack Burns entered
about 25 years earlier. On the road are "stripped-down
zonked-up Mustangs, Impalas, Stingrays and Beetles,"
cars that bear names that suggest living creatures (Abbey
1992b, 7). Doc and Bonnie advanced, in thoughtful silence,
toward the jittery neon, the spastic anapestic rock, the
apoplectic roll of Saturday night in Albuquerque, New
Mexico.... Down Glassy Gulch they drove toward the
twenty-story towers of finance burning like blocks of radium
under the illuminated smog. (Abbey 1992b, 8-9)
The two are stunned by
what they see as they enter Albuquerque. The whole area is
pictured as a cold, polluted, and artificial town, and in
great contrast to an eloquent area described a few pages
further out in the novel. Out there the "Vermilion
Cliffs shine pink as watermelon in the light of the setting
sun, headland after headland of perpendicular sandstone;
each rock profile wears a mysterious, solemn, inhuman
nobility" (23). In The Monkey Wrench Gang there is no
life or hope in or for the cities. Many of the smaller
cities and towns that were built on prosperous dreams of
wealth and fortune following the development of different
projects have become ghost towns. One such town is Glen
Canyon City where "a sign at the only store says,
"Fourty [sic] Million $Dollar Power Plant To Be Built
Twelve Miles From Here Soon"(Abbey 1992b, 26).
However, as the narrator
explains: "Glen Canyon City (NO DUMPING) rots and rusts
at the side of the road like a burned out Volkswagen
forgotten in a weedy lot to atrophy... Many pass but no one
pauses" (26). The dream of a dynamic city is shattered
as no one wishes to live within the city borders. While the
Southwest once had been a place where asthmatic people from
the urban cities in the East would be sent to recover, it
now offers nothing but filthy air. As described in the
novel, the city of Albuquerque was already experiencing
periods during the day "when schoolchildren were
forbidden to play outside in the "open" air, heavy
breathing being more dangerous than child molesters"
(Abbey 1992b, 193). In addition to the increasing amount of
pollution, which is emphasized in the novel, the book also
mentions the fact that chemicals are added in food and
drinks. Having breakfast at "Mom's Café"
all, but Doc, "drank the chlorinated orange
"drink," ate the premixed frozen glue-and-cotton
pancakes and the sodium-nitrate sodium-nitrite sausages, and
drank the carbolic coffee" (185). As these quotes
indicate, people in the cities are being poisoned by the
polluted air they inhale, as well as by the toxic food they
eat. The consequences of these poisonings are presented in
Hayduke Lives!. The accumulation of decay, from the garbage
and sickness in The Brave Cowboy, to the pollution and
lifeless cities in The Monkey Wrench Gang has terrible
consequences. The city population now suffer from mental and
physical strains. In Salt Lake City:
evening traffic flowed through the slush and
grime of Sixth South and State Street.
Horns honked in forlorn desperation, anxious for
stable, dry straw and feed stall; sirens wailed
like banshees from Hell; giant jets screamed
through the smog above, their landing lights
aglare, the pilots popping pills. (Abbey 1990c,
In this city, cars,
streets, and people, are all influenced by each other, and
depressive state is noted by the desperate sounds they all
make. In George Hayduke's fantasy, however, the cities, once
gone, will become a place where "sunflowers push up
through the concrete and asphalt of the forgotten
freeways," and where "the Kremlin and the Pentagon
are turned into nursing homes for generals, presidents and
other such shit heads" (Abbey 1992b, 88-89).
planetary industrialism" the doctor ranted
on - "growing like a cancer. Growth for the
sake of growth. Power for the sake of
power..." -The Monkey Wrench Gang
positioned in the cities and administrating the machines,
are the novels' ultimate enemies and concern. The power of
such enormous political machines is alarming. The
authorities are powerful because, as Seldom states,
"they own the guvmint, George, you know that. They own
the politicians, the judges, the Tee Vee, the army, the
po-lice. They own ever' damn thing they need to own"
(Abbey 1990c, 121). In order to develop and progress
"it feeds" on churches, stores, hospitals, public
transportation, and public parks choking their own ability
to develop as independent parts of the society. In Doc.
Sarvis' opinion, it is reminiscent of a global kraken,
pantentacled, wall-eyed and parrot-beaked, its brain a bank
of computer data centers, its blood the flow of money, its
heart a radioactive dynamo, its language the technetronic
monologue of number imprinted on magnetic tape. (Abbey
Again The Machine is
animated, and again is the description merciless. The image
of a "global kraken," is used to continue the idea
of the authorities as a monstrous machine. While the
association to computers and such, emphasizes the
authorities' technological dimensions. The portrayals of the
authorities are quite different in the three novels. In The
Brave Cowboy, question are raised concerning the conflict
between the modern urbanized social institutions, and the
rights of the individual. In the novel there is no room for
those who do not want to submit themselves to the
constrictive laws of the establishment. Jack Burns is
arrested for vagrancy and for not willing to adopt to the
rules of this society. The Brave Cowboy was written during
the Cold War when the United States' fear of communism was
at its peak. Anyone who did not submit to American law and
order were at once suspected of being anarchists, who were
"against all government" and "worse than
In The Monkey Wrench Gang
and Hayduke Lives!, the individual is no longer able to run
away from the authorities as Jack Burns tried to do in The
Brave Cowboy. Rather, he has to fight them to secure his/her
individual rights. The authorities, who have fought
different wars outside U.S. territory, are now confronted by
a domestic enemy bringing the battlefield to their own
ground. However, in order to handle this new enemy, the
authorities have become more subtle in their behavior. The
C.I.A. and the F.B.I. use infiltrators in order to uncover
what they see as criminal activities among the
monkeywrenhers. In addition, honesty as a virtue has been
replaced by the desire for profit. In the two novels, the
authorities are characterized as egocentric and false.
In The Monkey Wrench Gang
the authorities announce that the bridges being built are to
enable people to get more easily from one place to another.
The truth is, in fact, that the bridges are not built to
help people across the canyons in their small cars, but to
get heavy machinery to various natural resources and to
empty these. This illustrates a common assumption that
authorities, by holding back information or through
misinformation, manage to bypass regulations that most
certainly would have been opposed if their true objectives
had reached the public. Even though some people do what they
can to protest or even ecotage against planned development
projects, too many people are not informed about scheduled
construction work. Too often the "media though
invited... fail[s] to appear" because the powerful
governmental or industrial corporations control the media
and decide on whatever event they are to cover (Abbey
1990c,239). "The decisions," we are told "are
made discreetly, quietly, by a few important people meeting
on the golf course, in the boardroom, at lunch.... A few
brief phone calls to the appropriate TV, radio and newspaper
bureau chiefs settled the matter" (Abbey 1990c, 239).
By controlling the media, the authorities can choose between
information that can be broadcasted, what must be
suppressed, or deliberately distorted by telling lies
"that easily become[s] religious dogma in the
bureaucratic mentality" (Abbey 1990c,190). However,
whenever the authorities do talk, their spokespersons tend
to use persuasive argumentation, which is another
characteristic feature of the authorities. Note how Bishop
Love, in the following passage, makes a political reversal
of Martin Luther King's famous "I have a dream..."
speech, turning it into an argument in favor of unlimited
|I have a
dream, my friends. I have a dream of America for
Americans, where never again will a single
square foot of our land be locked up for selfish
elitist preservationists but where everything
will be accessible to everybody in their own
automobile and where industry can move in
unhindered for the spirit of free enterprise
that made America what it is today to provide
jobs for everyone that's willing to work
wilderness playgrounds for greedy extreme
elitist Sahara Clubbers and other wild dangerous
animals. I have a dream, my friends, of America
where people come first - up with people! -
people and industry and jobs and unlimited
opportunity for anybody with the guts and the
glory to take advantage of America's glorious
opportunity for everybody. That's my
dream, my friends... my dream of the America I
used to love and the America I expect to love
again. That's my dream, my friends. What's
yours? (Abbey 1990c , 260)
This passage shows a line
of argument that is often used by politicians who are more
concerned with their own political ambitions than with the
lives of the people they represent. In his speech, Bishop
Love calls for people to support his vision of a prosperous
society. And he uses phrases of patriotism, such as
"America for Americans," which unite the crowd of
listeners. He also identifies an enemy, the "Sahara
Clubbers," which makes it easier for the crowd to know
where to set their aim. In addition, Bishop Love talks about
"the spirit of free enterprise," "unlimited
opportunity," and "loving America," which are
phrases that immediately attracts attention, and in most
cases, approvals. Part of the discussion between the
environmental movement and the authorities, is about how to
estimate the value of people versus property.
Environmentalists believe that there is nothing as valuable
as a biological diversity, in which human beings also
belong. The authorities, on the other hand, favor the view
that property and machines are most valuable and important
since they form the basis of economic growth, which in turn
is a necessity for human development. The following scene
from The Brave Cowboy, illustrates how the authorities value
machines and people differently. When Jack Burns damages a
helicopter, his action is condemned by Air Force General
Desalius. "[W]hat have you done to my helicopter,"
he roars. And continues:
nonsense true that that jail breaker, that scum,
that common vagrant, shot down my helicopter?...
I'll blast him off the face of the
earth!... Why I'll burn him out with napalm.
I'll cook him with phosphorous!... By god, I'll
drop an atomic bomb on the bastard! (Abbey
According to this passage,
it seems that it is easier for the authorities to justify
killing or neutralizing people than letting their machines
be damaged. Thus, the value of machines and property is
considerably higher than the lives of people, and in the
novels the disparity of the penalties for damaging machines
and damaging people is significant. Hayduke, busy
dismantling a bulky Caterpillar, wonders about the $30,000
down payment on the heavy equipment. "What were
the men worth?" he asks, and wonders whether people are
"[g]etting cheaper by the day, as mass production
lowers the unit cost" (Abbey 1992b, 73-74). As long as
people are not respected or valued as human beings, a
dominant authority will continue to let them be of secondary
importance. In such a society there are no options left for
those who do not want to submit themselves to the dominant
paradigms. Such a Machine will do, and indeed does, what it
can to control its population, and any member of such a
civilization is "...caught in the iron threads of a
technological juggernaut, [a] mindless machine..." as
Doc Sarvis notes (Abbey 1992b, 54). In the novels, it seems
that it is only the Gang, and a few others, who are alarmed
by the authorities' quest for "progress."
"The only folks want this road," Smith says to
Bonnie, "are the mining companies and the oil companies
and people like Bishop Love. And the Highway Department,
which their religion is building roads" (Abbey 1992b,
dream" is to straighten every curve, flatten every
surface until the earth itself becomes smooth as a modern
high-speed highway (Abbey 1992b, 66). The megalomaniac
Bishop Love supports this dream, and wants to develop the
canyon plateaus by "building golf courses and swimming
pools and condominiums and selling hot dogs and postcards to
a million tourists a year" (Abbey 1990c, 135).
Doc Sarvis reflects on the authorities enormous desire for
profit and development of "effort-gigant machines, road
networks, strip mines, conveyor belt, pipelines... ten
thousand miles of high tension towers and high-voltage power
lines, the devastation of the landscape" (Abbey 1992b,
143). He realizes that what "all that
backbreaking expense and all that heartbreaking insult to
land and sky and human heart" amounts to, is just
"to light the lamps of Phoenix suburbs not yet
built" (144). And due to this greedy yearn for growth,
Bonnie is bewildered to notice that a corporations "had
to build a whole new power plant to supply energy to the
power plant which was the same power plant the power plant
supplied - the wizardry of reclamation engineers!"
(144). Growth is "the spread of the ideology of the
cancer cell" (186). The comparison between authorities
and cancer cells is not farfetched. The purpose of them both
is growth, and in order to become larger and more powerful,
they kill from within. Additionaly, they are very difficult
to get rid of once they have started to grow and spread. The
result, however, is the "death of the host" (Abbey
1988, 21). In The Monkey Wrench Gang and Hayduke Lives!, the
demand for growth, results in inflationary development
projects such as building "three bridges to cross one
river" (Abbey 1992b, 98). If we want an enduring
wilderness, it is important to challenge the growth ethic,
and since accessibility fuels consumption; it is the
increasing development and production of goods that has to
be stopped. The authorities like to argue that everything
scarce is valuable, and that it should be developed for the
common good. There is a general agreement that e.g. granite
in itself has no economic value because there is so much of
it, while gold being rare is extremely valuable. However,
the authorities seem to have forgotten, or fail to notice,
that much of the wild landscape is now becoming scarce, and
the value these areas hold reaches new heights every time a
wilderness area is turned into a development project. In
order to save what is left of individuality and wilderness,
the authorities' ideology and mentality has to be changed.
In the three novels, there is a major distinction between
"the good guys," who understand and stay in
harmony and in league with nature, and "the bad
guys." One of the many who does not share any
comprehension of the abundant landscape is Sheriff Johnson's
looked around at the sun-splashed cottonwoods
trembling with golden light, at the twisted
junipers and tall spears of yucca on the slopes,
at the blue rock beyond the spring, at the
mountain and immaculate sky roaring above him.
"This godawful stinkin place. Huh,
Morey?" (Abbey 1992a, 242-3)
Being alien to the
wilderness obstructs one's respect and understanding of it.
Here the operator fails to notice the value if the
"sun-splashed cottonwoods," or the "blue rock
beyond the spring." Instead the insecure operator finds
it barren and empty of concepts from his world. The
wilderness thus becomes a foreign sphere, the "other
world," which civilization feels obligated to master
Abbey, Edward: ---. 1954.
Jonathan Troy. New York: Dodd Mead.
---. 1984. Beyond the
Wall. New York: Henry Holt and Company.
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Life at a Time, Please. New York: Henry Holt and
---. 1989 (1973). Cactus
Country. Amsterdam: Time Life Books.
---. 1990a (1968). Desert
Solitaire. New York: Touchstone Book by Simon &
---. 1990b (1989). A
Voice Crying In The Wilderness. New York: St. Martin's
---. 1990c. Hayduke
Lives!. Boston: Little Brown and Company.
---. 1991 (1977). The
Journey Home. New York: Plume.
---. 1992a (1956). The
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---. 1992b (1975). The
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---. 1993. "Earth
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---. 1994. Confessions of
a Barbarian: Selections from the Journals of Edward Abbey,
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---. 1995. The Serpents
of Paradise. Ed. John Macrae. New York: Henry Holt and
Austin, Mary. 1980 (1903).
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Dave Foreman. Boston: South End Press.
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C. List, Belmont Calif.: Wordsworth Publishing Company,
Foreman, Dave and Bill
Haywood eds. 1993b (1985). Ecodefense: A Field Guide To
Monkey Wrenching. 3rd ed., Chico California: Abbzug Press.
Frank, Sheldon. 1975.
"Wilderness." National Observer, 6 September,
Hargrove, Eugene. 1993.
"Ecological Sabotage: Pranks or Terrorism?"
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C. List, Belmont California: Wordsworth Publishing
Lives!." 1989. Publishers Weekly. 17 November,
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(1985). "The Poetry Center Interview." Resist
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Hepworth and Gregory McNamee. Tucson: Harbinger House.
Hopkins, Virginia ed..
1993. Insight Guides: American Southwest. Singapore: APA
Jeffers, Robinson. 1989.
"Vulture", The Norton Anthology of American
Literature. Ed. Nina Baym et al., 3rd ed. Vol 2., New York:
W.W. Norton and Company, p.1250.
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"Defending what you love: an interview with Edward
Abbey." Sun. 27 June, p. 3-8.
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Environmentalism. Durham: Duke University Press.
Manes, Christopher. 1990.
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Civilization. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. Martin,
Michael. 1993. "Ecosabotage and Civil
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Tactics. ed. Peter C. List, Belmont Calif.: Wordsworth
Publishing Company, p.255-265.
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McClintock, James I. 1994.
Nature's Kindred Spirits. Madison: University of Wisconsin
Nash, Roderick F. 1989.
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---. 1994. "Why
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Quotations. 4th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Ronald, Ann. 1988 (1982).
The New West of Edward Abbey. Reno: University of Nevada
Solheim, Dave and Rob
Levin. 1989 (1985). "The Bloomsbury Review
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Reader in The Brave Cowboy." Western American
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In the novel the
Director's dialogue is written in a font called
"Machine," which I have tried to copy.
This name refers to the
Sierra Club, a conservative environmental organization
founded in the 1890s, by explorer and naturalist John Muir.
It is interesting to
draw a parallel from the engineers' dream to a verse in the
Bible, by St. Luke, which reads that: "Every valley
shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The
crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways
smooth" (Luke 3:5). Having the this in mind, it may
seem that the developers have adopted the verse. (The verse
is from The Holy Bible; New International Version. 1978.
London: Hodder and Stoughton.)
above foot notes refer to areas in the text above,
the specific notations were lost in formatting.
can be obtained from the author.