Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 462

Most of my wandering in the desert I've done alone. Not so much from choice as from necessity—I generally prefer to go into places where no one else wants to go. I find that in contemplating the natural world my pleasure is greater if there are not too many others contemplating it with me, at the same time.

Illustration of PDF document

Download Desert Solitaire Study Guide

Subscribe Now

As the title of his book indicates, Abbey is drawn to the desert as a place of solitude. Part of the attraction of the southwest wilderness for Abbey is its indifference to the humankind, its ability to endure on its own in stoic strength despite what people do. In contrast to a relentlessly social and noise-filled society that shouts constantly of its own importance, the desert offers a countercultural alternative. Listen in the above passage to the echoes of Thoreau's Walden; like Thoreau, Abbey explains why he has spent so much time alone in a wilderness setting. If Thoreau goes to Walden Pond from choice, to confront life, and to feel he has truly lived before he dies, Abbey insists his journey is from necessity—he doesn't seek solitude so much as an experience of nature that requires solitude. As some critics have noted, too, there is irony in the way Abbey's eloquence about solitude has brought ever more crowds to his southwest deserts.

If industrial man continues to multiply his numbers and expand his operations he will succeed in his apparent intention, to seal himself off from the natural and isolate himself within a synthetic prison of his own making.

If Abbey's book is a song in praise of the natural world as he experiences it in the desert—stark, raw, and vital—the enemy to the desert is the industrial world "man" has built. Abbey is...

(The entire section contains 462 words.)

Unlock This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this Desert Solitaire study guide. You'll get access to all of the Desert Solitaire content, as well as access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

  • Summary
  • Critical Essays
  • Themes
  • Characters
  • Analysis
  • Quotes
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial