Dr. Adam Johns
English Composition 0200
2 September 2014
"Rocks": An Analysis
Throughout his novel, Abbey repeatedly illustrates his interesting relationship with booming industry, especially with regards to its interaction with nature. “Dislike” would be a light way of putting it. “Arch-enemy”, a more accurate one. That being so, it’s only fitting how he illustrates how industry and ambition lead to ruin in the chapter “Rocks”, much of which is a story of two men whose ambitions in mining lead to their downfall.
It’s made quite clear that Abbey views excessive industrial growth as a threat to nature and detrimental to human decency, and the best demonstration of this idea would be in the chapter aptly named “Polemic: Industrial Tourism and the National Parks”, a twenty page tirade on the subject. Much of the chapter is dedicated to criticizing industrial tourism, especially in the sense that it cheapens the value of the outdoors. But at times, he argues that it not only harms nature, but human decency itself. Take the Chamber of Commerce for example, who he accuses “look into red canyons and see only green, stand among flowers snorting out the smell of money, and hear, while thunderstorms rumble over mountains, the fall of a dollar bill on motel carpeting.” (Abbey 50) You could argue that it’s true, or argue that it’s not, yet that isn’t really the point. This passage neatly spells out Abbey’s point: that this industrial growth and disregard for nature corrupts human decency, that their ambitions pave way for avarice.
So why would the chapter not named “Rocks” be so important to understanding the actual chapter “Rocks”? The previous chapter’s focused on a different issue, namely the state of national parks, and that being so, the corrupting nature of industry was merely a side note. “Rocks” elaborates on that idea, through short apocryphal stories about the uranium boom. They start out tame enough, not exactly the grittiest or most tragic of tales. The first starts out with a detached account about man who becomes a millionaire and receives threats over it. Another recalls a man who discovers a uranium deposit by accident. (Abbey 63) And that’s where the success stories end. Every story after that is a story of failure and disappointment, of people losing their fortunes to their ambition. And that’s where Husk’s story comes in.
Husk’s story is the real “meat” of the chapter, seeing as most of the chapter is dedicated to it. It’s no surprise, then, that all the other points mentioned before culminate into the story of Husk, and their journey from ambitious prospector to charred corpse at the bottom of a canyon. The story starts out simple enough: an ambitious man with a lovely family tries his luck at prospecting. Things seem to going his way; he strikes a deal with a man and forms a company. His partner would locate the ores, and he would search them out on the ground. Yet failure after failure brings about a change in him, who became “preoccupied — almost obsessed — with his work”. (Abbey 72) His wife become distant, yet he ignores it in favor of his work with “anxious eagerness despite the heaviness in his heart”. (Abbey 72) He becomes consumed by his work, and the story ends with the death of him, his treacherous partner, and his son. The story is noted to be apocryphal, a story about a man who stakes everything and loses everything. In the end, he’s portrayed as another man betrayed by his own ambition, another victim of the industrial booms.
Works CitedAbbey, Edward. Desert Solitaire; a Season in the Wilderness. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1968. Print.