Morality as a guide and impetus for action is a central theme of The Monkey Wrench Gang. Throughout the novel Abbey uses the characters’ decisions and actions to demonstrate that there is no universal morality; instead, we all operate on different scales of morality that vary based on the individual. No single person will share the same set of morals with another, so in order to work together to achieve a common goal, certain concessions must be made. We can see the conflicting moralities of individuals play out between Doc Sarvis and George Hayduke when they discuss strategies and regulations for their raids. Hayduke has recently returned from the Vietnam War, and though we don’t know much about his personality prior to his service, he tends to err on the side of violence and destruction. He is very much of the “whatever it takes” mentality, believing that there should be no regulations on their raids and that the gang should simply do whatever is necessary. Conversely, Doc has developed a softer kind of morality from his years as a surgeon, seeing pain and suffering up close and on a daily basis. He is vehemently against putting the lives of those not involved with the gang needlessly at risk. The two clash about this early on but ultimately agree to follow through with Doc’s stance against personal violence.

Machine Anthropomorphization

The themes of The Monkey Wrench Gang

(The entire section is 505 words.)

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.