Edward Abbey’s book The Monkey Wrench Gang is a fictional book about 4 characters that are trying to save the environment. Throughout the story of this book Abbey gives the 4 main characters all wild personalities. The actions of the characters within this novel give representation to the “Eco-terrorist” movement throughout the book are extremely radical. The characters bring great destruction to infrastructure and destroy things for fun. Although this book is fictional the message provided from the action of the characters and plot represent environmentalist Abbey’s political point of view.
The four main characters personalities within this book are all very different. Although these characters have their differences throughout the book they band together as misfits and bring destruction wherever they see fit. All of the destruction and demolition is not for nothing though, these characters share a common love for the environment and in their own way purge the land the way they see fit.
The first character introduced within this novel is Doc Sarvis, a middle aged man and academic. Sarvis a man with a medical doctorate enjoys the hobby of “highway beautification”. In the very first pages of chapter one Doc Sarvis is found on the side of a highway preparing to burn down a billboard. Sarvis enjoys this hobby because he enjoys being able to drive and enjoy the scenery, billboards are not something he enjoys gazing upon throughout his travels. “With a five-gallon can of gasoline he sloshed about the legs and support members of the selected target, then applied a match. Everyone should have a hobby.” (1) I concur with Doc Sarvis’s appreciation for nature on his drives through the country, I to enjoy the scenery and foliage and billboards and other structures obscure my view I enjoy this quote being at the beginning of the book because it really does well in setting the tone of the book and how it will unravel. The doctor’s political point of view is displayed well through one of my favorite quotes in the book, “We are caught,”Continued the good doctor,” in the iron treds of a technological juggernaut. A mindless machine. With a breeder reactor for a heart.” (64) This quote really says a lot about the book and about the environmentalist movement in general. We are all caught up in the development of the “modern world” where technology rules, and mother nature is dying. Doc Sarvis is the brains of the crew being an educated man and displays his knowledge throughout the book.
The second character to be introduced in the novel is the brute of the bunch. Hayduke, a younger man than Doc Sarvis and whole lot less brains and whole lot more brawn is the second member of the gang. “What’s more american than violence?” Hayduke wanted to know. “Violence, it’s as American as pizza pie.” (156) Hayduke a Vietnam War Veteran was captured by the Vietcong the last year of his four year deployment during the war. Hayduke also loves the environment and enjoys destruction of infrastructure. Hayduke also is a man who loves his beer. “Hayduke opened another can of beer. He was always opening another can of beer. And always pissing.” (103) “He drank another beer as he drove along. Two and a half six packs to Lee’s Ferry.” (25) Hayduke has an appreciation for nature but contradicts his fondness for the environment by littering his beer cans out his car window. “Tossing his empty beer can out the window, Hayduke races North, towards the Indian Country. By now you can tell Hayduke is a bit reckless and this next quote really displays it. “He was indeed a menace to other drivers but justified himself in this way: If you don’t drink, don’t drive. If you drink, drive like hell. Why? Because freedom, not safety, is the highest good. Because the public roads should be wide open to all- children on tricycles, little old ladies in Eisenhower Plymouths, homicidal lesbians driving forty ton Mack tractor-trailers. Let us have no favorites, no licenses, no god damn rules for the road. Let every freeway be a free-for-all.”(33) Although Hayduke’s actions may seem senseless and thoughtful, at the end of the day this “simple minded” savage of a man knows what he’s in it for. “Hayduke thought. Finally the idea arrived. He said, “My job is to save the ****ing wilderness. I don’t know anything else worth saving. That’s simple right?” (203)
The third character to be introduced in the novel is Seldom Seen Smith. He also differs greatly from the two first men. SMith is a Mormon man with multiple wives who’s fondness for the environment lies with the rivers and mountains. Although not as much of a brute as Hayduke, Smith too enjoys the hobby of “Monkey-wrenching”, or destruction of infrastructure. “The blue death, Smith called it. Like Hayduke his heart was full of a healthy hatred.” (36) Smith’s love for the mountains and rivers is shown in his introduction in chapter three when he plots the destruction of the Glen Canyon Dam. “They stared at it. The dam demanded attention. It was a magnificent mass of cement. Vital statistics: 792,000 tons of concrete aggregate; cost $750 million and the lives of sixteen workmen. Four years in the making, prime contractor Morrison-Knudsen, Inc., sponsored by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, courtesy U.S. taxpayers.
“It’s too big”, she said
“That’s right honey,” he said “And that’s why.”
“There’s a way.”
“I don’t know. But there’s got to be a way” (37)
The last character to be introduced in the novel is a women by the name of Bonnie Abbzug. Bonnie and Doc Sarvis throughout the novel share a complicated relationship. Bonnie used to work for Doc Sarvas but they now share an interesting affair relationship. Bonnie is a young 28 year old women who also enjoys the hobby of “highway beautification.” Bonnie is given a hard tine frequently by Hayduke who initially refuse partnership in the gang with a woman. “No ****ing girls,” he hollered. :this is a man’s work.” (69)
Though all 4 of the main characters personalities are very different they all work well together sharing a “healthy hatred” for infrastructure and its detrimental effects on the environment. Reading through this novel as a fictional story is quite enjoyable and highly recommendable but it contains a much deeper message. Edward Abbey’s compassion for nature is displayed in the fictional tale of these characters in the American mid west. Abbey knows that the construction of the modern world and infrastructure has both fragmented and destroyed the natural world. This story is action packed and very exciting which makes it easy and very enjoyable to read. Although the action of these characters may seem a bit radical, and quite illegal; the idea of “Eco-terrorism” is compelling. Instances in real life of “monkey-wrenching” have taken place all over the world where environmentalists have brought about destruction and protest to construction sites.