Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Prompt 1: Desert Solitaire

Prompt 1: Desert Solitaire 

In "Desert Solitaire" Edward Abby uses the chapter Rocks to explore the flaws in humanity. He addresses humans’ greed one of the fundamental issues. In the chapter Abby tells the story of a man, Husk, and his son in search of uranium. They work for another man Mr. Graham who sleeps ends up with Husks wife when Husk starts to get too obsessed with his search for riches. In the end Husk his son and Mr. Graham all die. Husk dies because Mr. Graham shoots him, Mr. Graham dies trying to dispose of Husk which are both fitting ends. Husk was greedy about the uranium and ignored his wife so it’s fitting he is killed by a product of his greed and rejection, Mr. Graham. Mr. Graham wanted Husk’s wife for himself, so it was fitting for him to be killed disposing of Husk’s body, the product of his own greed.  Abby is making a point with these deaths by showing that greed is self destructing for humanity, but it is also what we build our society and lives around.
 He keeps adding to this idea while discussing rocks in more variety using short stories as a vessel for his opinions.  He talks about miners and companies who mine precious, useful, or just plain beautiful rocks and minerals. He goes into detail about different prospectors and their personal stories just like the story of Husk and Mr. Graham. They all have an underlying sadness for the loss of nature due to the seemingly malicious greed of human kind, but before all these stories he starts with more local innocent stories in order to compare the two. He uses one of the park rules as a jumping off point here. He explains that the rocks in the park are “protected by law” (Abby 61). Abby knows that without this in place the park would be picked over by people looking for a souvenir.  All the visitors would just want something small to remember the park by; that doesn’t seem so demanding a greedy, but it is harmful when looking at it from Abby's perspective. Abby explains we should just observe though and leave them where “god himself” and “nature” saw fit to put them. By starting off small and crescendoing to the story of Husk and Mr. Graham it forces the reader’s self-reflection more meticulous. We can see more clearly not only the destructive power greed has on the exploitive, cold hearted, obsessive villains of Abby’s stories, but on the everyday person who possess a little greed, but nothing we would every see as harmful and destructive.
Throughout the book Abby continues discuses the role natural cycle and how humanity ranks it next to profit on our list of priorities. In the beginning he talks about the sheepherders in the area that could not bear to lose one sheep to the coyotes, so they join in an all out war with guns traps, and chemicals against the predators. To this he says, “…the sacrifice of an occasional lamb, that seems to me a small price to pay for the support of the coyote population. The lambs, accustomed by tradition to their role, do not complain…” (Abby 31) He is explaining here the natural course of nature and how human interrupt it. The sheep and predator were just fine in their perspective roles of eating and being eaten. Now the people cause the only problem. Abby explains the Sheep are going to profit already very wealthy Sheepherders who wish to line their pockets more out of the ingrained greed we all seem to share. Humanity has put a price on nature, just like we always do, and now is more obsessed with obtaining the profit then acknowledging natural order. Abby fears for the downward spiral we have fallen into by allowing ourselves to take advantage of resources.

Abby’s goal in his novel is to discourage greed an encourage us to see nature as a “treasure not in money but in beauty” so that we will learn to respect it as it is not for what it’s worth (Abby 61).

Works Cited.
Abbey, Edward. Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness. New York: Touchstone, 1990. 


  1. First off I especially liked how you pointed out the relation of humans and the natural cycle, I personally did not think about that one. Also, I very much enjoyed your conclusion to the second paragraph, where I just mentioned greed and obsession, you applied it very well.
    There is not much to criticize on your essay, Olivia, but I think for what was a strongly supported argument you could use a stronger ending. I read the conclusion finding it to be an ending and not so much a full circle of the essay. I would suggest going back and refering to the Husk story one last time. But overall this is a very well rounded essay.

  2. There's far too much summarization in your first paragraph, although the argument itself is clear, if a little unfocused - is this really about *all* greed (as you imply) or is the greed more particular?

    The second paragraph is a little baggy as well. I found this interesting: "By starting off small and crescendoing to the story of Husk and Mr. Graham it forces the reader’s self-reflection more meticulous." A more focused version of your argument, then, would state that Abbey's purpose is to make us reflect upon our own greed, and possibly respond to it. Is that right? If so, you could have a greatly truncated and far more focused version of the first two paragraphs expressing that idea.

    I'm not really sure what you're up to in your discussion of the sheep. It seems like an extended tangent. I understand that it's about greed too, at least in a small way, but you're getting less focused as you go rather than more focused - this section isn't about self-reflection or about uranium mining, for instance. You want to develop your main argument, not stray from it.


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