The monkey wrench gang as a work illustrates several personal parallels which both deepen as well as elaborate upon the inherently human nature of the world in relation to how it’s treated by it’s inhabitants. I don’t necessarily mean that the earth is by our definition sentient, of course; simply that on a much larger scale, much like the way a human will respond negatively when it’s mistreated; so does and so will the planet. Not only will it respond, it’ll accomplish this in ways directly contradictory to the means by which humanity is used to recognizing any sort of retaliatory behavior: simply by introducing the absence of it’s own abundance. What I mean when I say ‘ways directly contradictory to the means by which humanity is used to recognizing any sort of retaliatory behavior’ I’m referring to most other living things’ usual response of hostility & aggression at the prospect of being seriously threatened.
A specific and yet subtle tool is used throughout Abbey’s work which I believe parallels this same nature of a more withdrawn response as a result of constant battering by an opposing force. As a novel, this work bursts with an abundance of dialogue; so that one as a reader becomes heavily embedded in each character’s specific idiosyncrasies as well as their own internal thoughts and feelings the same way one might be able to hone in on these amidst an actual face-to-face interaction. Now, while these might sound like one’s average, run-of-the-mill qualities of a work which merits publishing, if one takes care to notice the syntactical structure of almost any instance where 2 or more characters land themselves in a voracious back-and-forth, litanies which separate themselves from what one would otherwise characterize as adequately descriptive language for a novel become increasingly apparent.
“Your plans? What do you mean your plans, you ignorant, pig-headed, self-centered schmuck.”
And in response, “I’m not sure I trust him.”
Again, almost immediately following, “A pair of weirdos. Eccentrics. Misfits. Anachronisms. Screwballs!”
“Now now, they’re good boys.”
It’s both these repetitive vocal litanies as well as the consistently terse, punctuated responses which meet them that directly parallel the planet’s reaction to widespread destruction among its natural resources and other forms of fruition. Just as these sentences batter and bash and berate the other conversationalist with what almost comes across as a kind of verbal assault, only to be met with a minimalistic, almost-disappointingly-lacking response; so do earth’s inhabitants, and earth’s only retort as a result is a morbidly scarce version of itself. This parallel serves to illuminate Abbey’s work’s overall focus on humanity’s strange & faulty relationship with the more than human world.
It’s this seemingly human reaction of the planet to negate it’s own life-giving and ever-reproducing nature as a result of rampant abuse by those species which primarily inhabit it that both unites as well as juxtaposes the separate personal tales of the members of the monkey wrench gang. Just as the earth reacts in a ‘human like’ way to how it’s treated, so do the members of the monkey wrench gang as the happenings of the novel take their course. This near-anthropomorphization of the earth as a human-like being (or at least one with certain human-like tendencies) takes care to highlight the undeniably human qualities of the members of the group as they interact with one another. Consequentially this leads to a more nuanced understanding of both these individuals as islands unto themselves as well as their roles and relations to one another among the group, which additionally deepens the experience of the novel, as it centers upon this group and it’s happenings within.