Desert Solitaire

Outside of the Protective Lenses

 

in Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire

 

Technology is quickly connecting human to human across countless miles. Life experienced strictly in nature is now seen by many to be not only unnecessary, but a sign of ignorance and stubbornness. However, in the narrative Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey attempts to reveal how important secluding one’s self in nature can be to the mind, and a sense of respect for the self and nature can evolve from residing in a harsh local. In a man versus nature setting, nature is powerful, but man is adaptive and may learn and exist with respecting his surroundings.

An example of how others in the technology society now perceive those that immerse themselves in such places as the desert is apparent in the following quote:

Revealing my desert thoughts to a visitor one evening, I was accused of being against science, against humanity. Naturally I was flattered and at the same time surprised, hurt, a little shocked.  (…)  But how, I replied, being myself a member of humanity (albeit involuntary, without prior consultation), could I be against humanity without being against myself… (Abbey, 305)

Many wish only to perceive the world from the view found behind a pane of glass. A true experience of a desert, along with many other experiences, must be observed with time and persistence. Oftentimes the study of the world around a person must even require them to temporarily, and in some cases permanently, forego involvement with other humans.

            The desert is a harsh place for both humans and the indigenous flora and fauna of the area. By observing the hardy condition of plants and animals found in the Arches National Monument of Utah, Abbey leads the reader to discern that a human living in the area would become similar. As can be interpreted from the last chapter, a person more in touch with nature would be much more competitive in the technological society after adjustment than a person that separates themselves from the world by panes of glass (such as vehicle windows). Abbey finds himself longing for the “the crackle of clamshells on the floor of the bar in the Clam Broth House in Hoboken. [He] long[s] for a view of the jolly, rosy faces on 42nd Street and the cheerful throngs on the sidewalks of Atlantic Avenue.” (Abbey 331), and one can see how he easily balance his two worlds. Both Abbey’s desert world and technological world have some of the same harsh events like death, as seen in the chapters “The Dead Man at Grandview Point” and “Bedrock and Paradox.” His ability to handle these issues with great tenacity is evidence of the hardening his mind has received by life in the desert.  

            Though seen as a stubborn effort to push away technology and the company of others, immersing one’s self in the nature that surrounds them proves to be very beneficial to the adaptive human mind. Whether by surviving in a thirsty desert, relying on a plain for food, or exploring a dense and dangerous jungle, the primitive side of a person can be helpful in many situations. However, if more of the lives of humans is spent observing the world behind protective lenses, less of the world is going to be experienced.

by lain myers

 

 

 

 

“We need the possibility of escape as surely as we need hope.”