Abbey's WebUp Title Contents

Somebody Has To Do It; Fighting the machine in Edward Abbey's
The Brave Cowboy, The Monkey Wrench Gang and Hayduke Lives!
by Tim Hope, University of Bergen English Department, September 1996 

"I 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."

"Song of the Open Road" (1933)
-Ogden Nash 

Contents page: Acknowledgments 
  •      Chapter 1: Introduction; The Writer 
               -Thesis Approach 1 
               -Abbey's Literary Credo 3 
               -Abbey's Critics 10 
  •      Chapter 2: The novels 
               -The Brave Cowboy (1956) 13 
               -The Monkey Wrench Gang (1975) 16 
               -Hayduke Lives! (1990) 22 
  •      Chapter 3: Nature and The Machine 
               -The Wilderness 30 
               -The Juniper 36 
               -The Vulture 38 
               -Water and Rivers 40 
               -The Machine 45 
               -The Cities 51
               -The Authorities 56 
  •      Chapter 4: The Monkeywrenchers! -Who They Are 
               -Jack Burns 62 
               -George Washington Hayduke 67 
               -Erika and the Earth First!ers 71 
               -Why They All Do It 76 
               -How They All Do It 82
  •     Bibliography 95 

I want to express my sincere gratitude to: 

-Professor Peter Quigley, for introducing me to the world of Edward Abbey!!! 
-Professor Ormverland, 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 thesis legible... 
-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)
"The Machine 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. (Hopkins 1993) 

The authorities, 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"  (mwg71). 

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. 

"GOLIATH 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 found. 

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" (293). 

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 message:  Power...profit...prestige...pleasure...profit...prestige...pleasure...power..." 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 program?" (213) 

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). 

The Cities 

"A city 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 passage: 

... though he could not see the city he could hear it; a continuous droning roar, the commingled vibrations of ten thousand automobiles,
trucks, 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 
"dead 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 graveyard" (21). 

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: 

…the 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, 149) 

In this city, cars, streets, and people, are all influenced by each other, and the filthy 
atmosphere. Their 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). 

The Authorities 

"A 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

The authorities, 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 1992b, 142) 

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 Communists" (176). 

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 development:

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
instead of 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: 

Is this 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 1992a, 257-258) 

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, 258). 

The "engenieers' 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 operator:

The operator 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 (292). 


Primary works:

Abbey, Edward: ---. 1954. Jonathan Troy. New York: Dodd Mead. 
---. 1984. Beyond the Wall. New York: Henry Holt and Company. 
---. 1988 (1987). One Life at a Time, Please. New York: Henry Holt and Company. 
---. 1989 (1973). Cactus Country. Amsterdam: Time Life Books. 
---. 1990a (1968). Desert Solitaire. New York: Touchstone Book by Simon & Schuster. 
---. 1990b (1989). A Voice Crying In The Wilderness. New York: St. Martin's Press. 
---. 1990c. Hayduke Lives!. Boston: Little Brown and Company. 
---. 1991 (1977). The Journey Home. New York: Plume.
---. 1992a (1956). The Brave Cowboy. New York: Avon Books. 
---. 1992b (1975). The Monkey Wrench Gang. New York: Avon Books. 
---. 1993. "Earth First! and the Monkey Wrench Gang." Radical Environmentalism: Philosophy and Tactics. ed. Peter C. List, Belmont Calif.: Wordsworth Publishing Company, p.252-253. 
---. 1994. Confessions of a Barbarian: Selections from the Journals of Edward Abbey, 1951-89. Ed. David Petersen. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. 
---. 1995. The Serpents of Paradise. Ed. John Macrae. New York: Henry Holt and Company. 

Works cited: 

Austin, Mary. 1980 (1903). The Land of Little Rain. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

Bishop, James jr. 1994. Epitaph for a Desert Anarchist: the Life and Legacy of Edward Abbey. New York: Atheneum. 

Bryant, Paul T. 1989. "Edward Abbey and Environmental Quichoticism." Western American Literature. May, p.37-43. 

Calder, Jenni. 1974. There Must Be a Lone Ranger. New York: Taplinger Publishing Company. 

Chase, Steve ed. 1991. Defending the Earth: A Dialogue Between Murray Bookchin and Dave Foreman. Boston: South End Press.

Foreman, Dave. 1991. Confessions of an Eco-Warrior. New York: Crown Publishing Group. 

 ---. 1993a. "More on Earth First! and the Monkey Wrench Gang." Radical Environmentalism: Philosophy and Tactics. ed. Peter C. List, Belmont Calif.: Wordsworth Publishing Company, p.253-254.

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, p.17. 

Hargrove, Eugene. 1993. "Ecological Sabotage: Pranks or Terrorism?" Radical Environmentalism: Philosophy and Tactics. ed. Peter C. List, Belmont California:  Wordsworth Publishing Company, p.250-251. 

"Hayduke Lives!." 1989. Publishers Weekly. 17 November, p.42. 

Hepworth, James. 1989 (1985). "The Poetry Center Interview." Resist Much, Obey Little: Some Notes on Edward Abbey. eds. James Hepworth and Gregory McNamee. Tucson: Harbinger House. p.33-44. 

Hopkins, Virginia ed.. 1993. Insight Guides: American Southwest. Singapore: APA Publications LTD. 

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. 

Loeffler, Jack. 1990. "Defending what you love: an interview with Edward Abbey." Sun. 27 June, p. 3-8. 

Lewis, Martin W. 1992. Green Delusions: An Environmentalist Critique of Radical Environmentalism. Durham: Duke University Press. 

Manes, Christopher. 1990. Green Rage: Radical Environmentalism and the Unmaking of Civilization. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. Martin, Michael. 1993. "Ecosabotage and Civil Disobedience." Radical Environmentalism: Philosophy and Tactics. ed. Peter C. List, Belmont Calif.: Wordsworth Publishing Company, p.255-265. 

McCann, Garth. 1977. Edward Abbey. Boise, Idaho:  Boise State University Press. 

McClintock, James I. 1994. Nature's Kindred Spirits. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. 

Nash, Roderick F. 1989. The Rights of Nature. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. 

---. 1994. "Why Wilderness?" Reading the Environment. ed. Melissa Walker,
      New York: W.W. Norton and Company. p. 75-82. 

Ness, Erik. 1990. "Abbey Lode."  Nation. 2 April, p.458-461. Partington, Angela ed. 1992 (1979). 

The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. 4th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Ronald, Ann. 1988 (1982). The New West of Edward Abbey. Reno: University of Nevada Press. 

Solheim, Dave and Rob Levin. 1989 (1985). "The Bloomsbury Review Interview." Resist Much, Obey Little: Some Notes on Edward Abbey. eds. James Hepworth and James Gregory McNamee. Tucson: Harbinger House. p.89-104. 

Tatum, Stephen. 1984. "Closing and Opening Western American Fiction: The Reader in The Brave Cowboy." Western American Literature. p.187-203. 

Temple, Eric. 1993. Edward Abbey; a Voice in the Wilderness. Videocassette. South Burlington: Eric Temple Productions, 58 min. 

Tompkins, Jane. 1992. West of Everything: The Inner Life of Westerns. New York: Oxford University Press. 

Twining, Edward S. 1979. "Edward Abbey, American: Another Radical Conservative." Denver Quarterly. 12, p.3-15. 

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.)

The above foot notes refer to areas in the text above, 
however the specific notations were lost in formatting. 
Information can be obtained from the author.

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