How Is Nature Represented in ‘The Monkey Wrench Gang?’

Abbey is an American author who is well known for the advocacy he has extended on various environmental issues, as well as, criticism of different public land policies. His novel “The Monkey and Wrench Gang” is always cited as a great inspiration by various radical environmental groups. The plot is about a group of environmentalists who try their best to traverse the American West and reverse the human encroachment onto that part of the United States.

“The Monkey Wrench Gang,” is a novel that is proactive about taking care of nature, especially during these times of rapid industrialization; nature is being destroyed at an alarming rate. Notably, the story constantly associates itself with the echo-anarchist movement, and is greatly inspired by it. It is also important to note that, the movement is in full support of the perceived pandering of the governmental environmental regulations that tend to support the direct protection being extended to natural areas, and interests that have been threatened.

The Monkey Wrench Gang, in itself, is a novel that tends to influence the reader into looking at the extent to which industrialism has affected our environment. The book will most likely spark some emotions amongst individuals with a passion for the environment. The story is mostly about the fictional exploits of four eco-saboteurs who try putting all of their efforts into dismantling the way the industrial development has encroached into nature in the Four Corners region of the American Southwest. The four members of the gang include; an Albuquerque doctor, a Jack Mormon river guide, a Vietnam vet, and the doctor’s artistic New Left girlfriend who is also a nurse. The four go against all odds to protect the natural environment of the American Southwest during their trip on a raft through the Grand Canyon. The main target of their plans is the Glen Canyon Dam, which also symbolizes the epitome of industrialism. However, they nearly get into trouble in their plans as they uproot surveying stakes, derail coal trains, and destroy bulldozers. They attract unwanted attention from Bishop Love, who is the head of the San Juan County Search and Rescue Team and a local developer too.   

The plot goes on with the gang advancing and now heading for bigger targets. However, they are nearly caught and had to move faster so as to avoid being captured. Nature is shown clearly in the way the author describes in detail the desert canyons of Southern Utah. The description captures the openness, beauty, and harshness of that environment, which could easily get the reader into sympathizing with the gang and support them in their course.

On the other hand, the novel also puts into use a symbolic device that is utilized throughout; there is a varying degree of symbiosis with nature possessed by the antagonist protectors of economic interests, as well as, the protagonist saboteurs. The general public has also been involved in this conflict of interest; they are accused of not caring for their environment, unseeing and also untouched by the surroundings they exist in. it is important to note that, this symbolism explains the existence of an underlying law of nature, of which the larger part of the society remains ignorant while the main characters are aware. The portrayal of the biodiversity and topography of the American Southwest, as if being observed by a loving naturalist, explains the environmental theme in the story. The presence of various human activities in such a cool environment seems to violate the rational order. Notably, humans try to keep cool from the desert heat while the rest of the animals only have to be shaded up or wait under the earth surface for cooler temperatures.

It is important to note the way the main characters are being guided by a set of principles provided to them by the law of nature. Despite the fact that the main characters appear to act violent, they do not harm fellow human beings. As a matter of fact, they only direct their frustrations towards things and property, but not people. This brings into question on whether violating the law could actually be excused if the end results are positive. On the other hand, these four characters are from different backgrounds and hence live in different places; however, they discover that they all hate the destruction of nature in the region known as the American West. They see the destruction as having emanated from industry as well as the humans manipulating the environment that they live in.


One of the four characters, George Washington Hayduke proclaims that his job is now to save the wilderness because he does not see anything else that is worth saving. He then becomes the pioneer of the “eco-tage”, which is also known as “monkey wrenching”. This involves the usage of various tools of industry to demolish the infrastructure of industry, all in the name of the environment and nature conservancy. He has become extremely anti-dams, anti-mining, anti-tourism, pro-conservation, pro-guns as well as pro-booze.

As the story continues, Hayduke is then joined by three other environmentalists, who then head out to try and destroy or eliminate the techno-industry. They go on their quest by risking their freedom in the name of fighting for the environment. As I had mentioned earlier, their main aim was in destroying the Glen Canyon Dam, which blocks the Colorado River. The rest of the activities they engage in include blasting power lines, disrupting strip mines, and put sand into the fuel tanks of the many bulldozers.

The main argument laid down by the gang is that, civilization tampers with nature, hence the need for the gang to violate civilization. However, it is important to note that no human being is injured during all this. As a matter of fact, they all manage to scamper for safety once the gang set. The group also smashes and hits machinery, leaving it to explode. They fight a battle against the double lane highways, the economic principle of shareholder profit, as well as, the economic delusion of unlimited growth and also other developments. It is also worth noting that, the book came to be liked by a number of several other conservationists. They adored the way Abbey portrayed the characters as others like Hayduke single handedly tried to rescue the environment he loved. These book lovers had a lot of similarities with Hayduke. They were especially drawn to direct attention. The states that had deserts became their preferred zones to launch attacks, while biodiversity was what drove them to such extremes.

Their platform also included a wilderness designation for the moon and negative population growth. As reform environmentalists, they try to use direct action or guerilla tactics to achieve their cause because they cannot be heard otherwise. The idea of Earth First! came to be opened by the story in Abbey’s novel. With the way Abbey passes the message across, it is clear that environmental politics may be influenced by literature and also produced by it. The Monkey Wench Gang has been written with a touch of American environmental writing.

Edward Abbey is a touchstone for those in the radical environmental arena. In describing the other characters, Seldom Seen hooks up with Bonnie Abbzug, and when the four meet up on a river-rafting excursion, they then go on an environmental rampage of astonishing magnitude. Notably, there is nothing; no bridge, bulldozer, or even a member of the area's Search and Rescue team is safe from the monkey wrenching activities of the gang members or the four ecoterrorists.

The author fully describes the destruction of industrial equipment in detail that an environmentalist would love. Firstly, the four cut wires, pour syrup in gas tanks, and pour sand in the engines in a construction site. The rest of the missions involve driving some of this equipment into lakes, doing away with an oil drilling station, pulling up survey stakes, and also rolling boulders over pick-up trucks. Notably, they try their best to avoid confrontation with the authority whenever there is trouble. They disappear into the rugged terrain of the Southwest. This is a land of desolate wastes evident with stunning plateaus, mountains, as well as rivers. Abbey describes beauty in its most natural form that even the most hardened soul will eventually feel a real kinship with the environment.

The novel, as a masterwork of complexity, has several themes that balance without missing a beat. One of these themes carrying throughout is the ferocity of nature. In my view, Hayduke is an individual who is nature personified. This is from his a little bit scary appearance, the ability to become one and in tandem with his environment, and also his displeasure with the evil going on around him, especially on the environment. Moreover, he is an individual who seems to be unrelenting in his quest to stop the destruction of nature. This is shown clearly by the fact that he is even willing to use harsh means such as violence against those who go against his views on the environment. However, to some extent, the three remaining characters act as a restraint on Hayduke, but they still represent other stages of humanity that have been far removed from nature. Notably, Seldom Seen Smith is also involved in some of George's wild escapades for the reason that he is closer to the environment. Bonnie and Sarvis, on the other hand, tend to oppose many of George's plans or methods due to the fact that they live in the city. In all these, Abbey appears to say that the farther some people get away from the wilderness, then the less they become willing to do the necessary so as to prevent the rampant destruction of the environment as currently witnessed.

In conclusion, "The Monkey Wrench Gang" can said to be an American classic. It embodies the right amount of distrust of authority figures, rugged individualism, and old-fashioned violence that Americans love very much. However, there arises a problem with the book only if some of the environmentalists try to pull a Hayduke on their own and actually harm the population. “The Monkey Wrench Gang,” is a novel that is proactive about taking care of nature, especially during these times of rapid industrialization; nature is being destroyed at an alarming rate. Notably, the story constantly associates itself with the echo-anarchist movement, and is greatly inspired by it. it is important to note that the movement is in full support of the perceived pandering of the governmental environmental regulations that tend to support the direct protection being extended to natural areas and interests that have been threatened.