Action and Reaction: Henry David Thoreau's Influence on Edward Abbey

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Walden and Desert Solitaire As similar as “Civil Disobedience” and The Monkey Wrench Gang are in terms of themes and activism, Thoreau’s influence on Abbey is most pronounced in the comparison of Thoreau’s greatest work, Walden, and Abbey’s personal desert meditation, Desert Solitaire. The publication of Desert Solitaire first drew critics’ eyes to Abbey’s connection with Thoreau, and it caused Abbey to be labeled “a road company Thoreau” by Clifton Fadiman (Cahalan 163). From that point in his career, Abbey was often equated with Thoreau, and though it took many years, Abbey “encouraged the use of ‘the Thoreau of the American West’ as a blurb on the hardback jacket of Beyond the Wall” (Cahalan 163). Abbey would quickly change his mind about this comparison to Thoreau, but it has followed him, for good reason, throughout his career. Beyond the texts’ similarities in construction and subject matter, they are grouped together as “Solitude and Backcountry Living” in Thomas Lyon’s “Taxonomy of Nature Writing” (278), and they both reveal the authors’ personas and great truths about modern society and natural living. Walden and Desert Solitaire head down the trail toward natural truths together from the very beginning in terms of their organization and set up. Both works are separated into several vignettes that express the personal experiences of the writers. Nestled within each of these chapters are themes of man’s communion with the natural world, modernization, and the freeing effect that can come with isolation. Both texts also have a similar introduction that sets up the vignettes and gives the reader an idea of the author’s state of mind and reason for writing. Thoreau begins with, “When I wrote the following pages, or ... ... middle of paper ... ...ench Gang. New York: Rosetta Books, 2003. Print. ---. Preface. Beyond the Wall: Essays from the Outside. New York: Holt Publishing, 1984. Print. ---. Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1968. Print. Bishop, James. Epitaph for a Desert Anarchist: The Life and Legacy of Edward Abbey. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995. Print Cahalan, James M. Edward Abbey: A Life. Tucson: U of A Press, 2001. Print Lyon, Thomas J. “A Taxonomy of Nature Writing.” The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Eds. Cheryll Glotfelty and Harold Fromm. Athens: U of G Press, 1996. 276-281. Print. Scheese, Don. “Desert Solitaire: Counter-Friction to the Machine in the Garden.” Glotfelty and Fromm 303-322. Print. Thoreau, Henry David. “Civil Disobedience.” Bedford: Applewood Books, 2000. Print. ---. Walden. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2004. Print.

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