Edward Abbey Analysis

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

What is the explanation of Edward Abbey’s failure to find “divinity” in natural landscape in the West?

At what is Abbey’s anger directed in Desert Solitaire? Is it under control and therefore effective?

Judging from this essay or your familiarity with Abbey’s later writings, how do you account for the decline in his work after Desert Solitaire?

Some people consider puns and word play a low and weak form of humor. Is this true of Abbey’s assertion “I am not an atheist, but an earthiest”?

Desert Solitaire is not found among the many books for sale in the shop at Arches National Park. What could account for this apparently purposeful exclusion? Is it justifiable?

To what extent is Abbey a kindred spirit of Henry David Thoreau?


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Bishop, James, Jr. Epitaph for a Desert Anarchist: The Life and Legacy of Edward Abbey. New York: Atheneum, 1994. For biographical information and analysis.

Cahalan, James M. Edward Abbey: A Life. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2001. A definitive biography that sets the record straight on Abbey, showing that much of the myth surrounding him was self-created and self-perpetuated.

Hepworth, James, and Gregory McNamee, eds. Resist Much, Obey Little: Remembering Edward Abbey. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1996. A collection of essays by such writers as Wendell Berry, William Eastlake, Gary Snyder, and Barry Lopez; it is also useful for three personal interviews with Abbey, which shed light on the author’s attitude toward his work.

Loeffler, Jack. Adventures with Ed: A Portrait of Abbey. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2002. A personal reminiscence by one of Abbey’s closest friends.

Loeffler, Jack. “Edward Abbey, Anarchism and the Environment.” Western American Literature 28, no. 1 (1993): 43-49.

McCann, Garth. Edward Abbey. Boise, Idaho: Boise State University Press, 1977. Though dated, provides a useful discussion of Abbey and his works through 1975.

Quigley, Peter, ed. Coyote in the Maze: Tracking Edward Abbey in a World of Words. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1998. Features sixteen essays about Abbey.

Ronald, Ann. “Edward Abbey.” In A Literary History of the American West. Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1987. Provides a cogent commentary on his work and an assessment of its significance.

Ronald, Ann. The New West of Edward Abbey. 2d ed. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2000. An excellent unified analysis of the man and his works. With an afterword by Scott Slovic.

Sandlin, Tim. “Nightmare Abbey.” The New York Times Book Review, December 11, 1994, 11.