Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The Monkey Wrench Gang is an indictment of the forces of modernization and industrialization that the author detested for not only altering but also desecrating the wild and open landscape of the Southwest. Abbey is both a nature writer and a political critic, celebrating the glories of the wild and the natural, and castigating the corporate culture of the United States for its devaluing of nature and wildness in favor of conformity and profits. This picaresque adventure updates the early Western form— the lone hero, the one-on-one shoot-out, the pure heroine—substituting a quartet of lusty anarchists dispensing frontier justice through midnight raids. In the money-wrenchers’ universe, the conservatives are the ones who cut a swath of devastation across the landscape; the gang’s maneuvers are presented not as destructive but as attempts to restore order. Although The Monkey Wrench Gang can be read as a rollicking adventure, it has been adopted by radical members of the environmental movement as a call to action.