Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness is the work for which Abbey is best known and by which he is most frequently defined. It contains his views on a variety of subjects, from the problems of the United States Park Service to an angry indictment of the evils of technology masquerading under the guise of progress. No voice is more eloquent in the praise of America’s remaining wilderness nor more vitriolic in attacking those who would exploit and destroy it for profit.
In the introduction to Desert Solitaire, Abbey informs his readers that he has combined the experiences of three summers spent as a park ranger at Arches National Monument into one for the sake of narrative consistency. He writes that the first two summers were good but that the last summer was marred by the introduction of industrial tourism. For Abbey, the tourist in the automobile (worse yet, in the huge recreational vehicle) spells the end of the wilderness spirit. Abbey’s ambivalent stance toward the tourists, ostensibly fellow lovers of the outback, reflects the work’s central dichotomy. Abbey’s eloquent voice describes the beauty of the desert landscape, only to pause on the intrusion of industry and commerce into one of the last remaining wilderness areas in the United States.
The first sentence of Desert Solitaire declares, “This is the most beautiful place on earth.” Although Abbey believes that the wilderness is as close as...
(The entire section is 1137 words.)
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