Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang: Novel Analysis

In heir defense of nature, the Monkey Wrench Gang use radical, counterproductive methods to prove the importance of preservation against an overpowering human phenomenon. George Hayduke, the extremist of the gang, is a Vietnam veteran who returns to the Southwestern desert after the war and is astonished that unspoiled land he values is under attack by industrialization. Hayduke’s goal becomes vivid””My job is to save the fucking wilderness. I don’t know anything else worth saving’ (Abbey 229). Hayduke’s vision is merged with three other ecowarriors who share the same disgust of mainstream society.

The others include: Seldom Smith, a wilderness guide and river boat operator, Bonnie Abzug, a New England wasp and feminist, and Doctor Sarvis, a general surgeon who enjoys vandalizing billboards. The American people “rolling along on their rubber tires in their two- ton entropy cars polluting the air we breathe, raping the earth to give their fat indolent rump-sprung American asses a free ride,” aggravate the gang (Abbey 146). But their aim is attacking things and property, not people. In this way, activism remains morally distinct from terrorism.

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The symbolism of destroying cons of economic growth shows the presence of a fundamental law of nature, of which the gang is aware, and of which mainstream America is ignorant. The Monkey Wrench Gang ventures out into the country and wilderness of Utah and Arizona where they wreak havoc to roadside construction sites, pouring sand into the fuel tanks of bulldozers, cutting hydraulic valves, and driving expensive equipment off canyon rims. They cut down power lines, disrupt strip mining sites, and sabotage an oil drilling platform.

Throughout the novel, the gangs central plot is to blow up the Glen Canyon Dam, which serves as a critical ymbol of industrialism. Abbey uses the Glen Canyon Dam to explain the devastating environmental effects of maximizing shareholder profit and increasing capital gains. To Seldom Smith, ‘the Glen Canyon plugged up the heart of his river, the river of his heart” (Abbey 66). “You remember the river, how fat and golden it was in June, when the big runoff came down from the Rockies? Remember the deer on the sandbars and the blue herons in the willows and the catfish so big and tasty and howd they bite on spoiled salami? ” (Abbey 34).

Abby’s capturing tone throughout the gang’s experience in the nature of the Southwest brings the reader a sense of attachment to the environment. What a typical audience may know as the land of desolation, Abbey describes containing stunning plateaus, mountains, and rivers”beauty in its most natural form. While Abbrs overall message may appeal to environmental issues, the Gang’s specific actions are too radical to gain support from the average environmentalist. Severely breaking the law and substantially hindering conventional society (damaging road networks, strip mines, conveyor belts, pipelines, loading towers, and power plants… too far out. Choosing illegal ways to battle industrialism causing ruckus in the line of production only damages the Southwest. Take the Gangs sabotage of the train for example. They used demolition charges and dynamite to explode a bridge supporting a train filled with coal. The entire 60 car train collapsed into the canyon. The railroad estimated total costs of the attack to be about 2 million dollars. This does not include the two week shut down of the power plant that depended on the shipment of coal, the additional costs needed to generate excess power, and the ollution of 60 cars worth of coal spread across delicate countryside.

For Hayduke and his radical pals to be successful, they must find a way to gain the support of mainstream society. Their extreme anti-dams, anti-mining, anti- tourism, pro-conservation, pro-guns mentality can be achieved by taking less radical actions. Take Robert Redford’s the Milagro Beanfield War for example. The battle Joe Mondragon fights is almost identical to the Gangs”the wilderness once offering men a plausible way of life is subject to rapid development and change. When politicians and business interests plan to usurp the town’s water, Joe resists the water restrictions and plants his beans.

With support of the entire town, Joe’s goal of environmental preservation destroys the powerful state interests. In comparison to the Monkey Wrench Gang, preserving the environment against industrialization and development presents many challenges and entirely preventing industrialization in the modern day world is simply unachievable. Without a doubt, human civilization violates the land. And the aggression by the Gang is a direct response”the need for them to violate ivilization.

Yet the Gang’s response through destructive means is counterproductive to the overarching goal of preserving the environment. Abbeys Monkey Wrench Gang is certainly a novel that leaves the reader with a sensitive feeling toward the extent of industrialism’s detrimental effects on the environment. Instead of beautiful rivers, canyons have been left to motionless bodies of murky green effluent, dead, oil summed wastelands (Abbey 120). The Southwestern landscape has been devastated by high-tension towers and high- voltage power lines, the destruction of Indian homes, the poisoning of fresh ater reservoirs.

But while extremist views and actions of the gang may appeal to less radical activists, in terms of preserving the environment, they are only counterproductive and destructive. Regardless, the way Abbey passes the message across makes it clear that environmental politics may be influenced by literature and also produced by it. Abbey, almost embodying George Hayduke’s radical views, is successful in getting his message across. Nature is being destroyed at an alarming rate and the novel is a piece of Southwestern America that voices the importance of environmentalism.


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