Seminar in Composition
Dr. Adam Johns
September 2, 2014
Desert Solitaire: “Rocks”
A continuous theme throughout Abbey’s Desert Solitaire is nature versus man. Not necessarily a survival story, instead the industrialization of nature. Abbey, very pro-environment one could easily say, goes about his theme in many a ways. Most blatantly, in the chapter “Polemic: Industrial Tourism and the National Parks,” in which he argues the sheer nature of any tampering with the national park system and even goes as far as to lay out a solution to the “gradual destruction” (pg.57, Abbey) of the national park system. Whereas the argument of ‘Rocks’ was more of a metaphor for the same theme and was purposed to accomplish the same appeals to the reader as in ‘Polemic’ but in a smaller scale.
Where Abbey goes all in, in his attempt to scrutinize the movement of corporate America’s tampering with national parks in ‘Polemic,’ he seems to slow down and take a breath with the story of the Husk family in ‘Rocks.’ This change of narrative, I believe is out to give more relation between the reader and the book, in turn, a subtle rhetorical tool that shines in what can be a slow autobiography. Though a short story, the Husk story hooks the reader with a grounded premise and dynamic characters of Albert Husk and Mr. Graham. Their friendship and partnership is one that is very relatable to a large audience and their goal of wealth is one that everyone shares.
As we are introduced the characters to the story, readers can make a quick connection to the Husk family, as they seem to be poster-children for an average family trying to live ‘the American dream’ at least. Mr. Graham represents, in today’s standards, somewhat of a young, rich entrepreneur, on the rise in this booming uranium business. Even from the get-go of the story a small detail can get overlooked, “all the children took to Mr. Graham at once except for Billy-Joe” (pg. 69, Abbey), while the other two Husk children are just filler in the story it is this detail the gives a clue into some importance to the little boy. This one small detail would be foreshadowing for the true purpose of the characters and story in the end.
When the plot begins to unwind it becomes easily apparent that some of the characters, like industrialists in ‘Polemic,’ have lost sight of main factors. In the case of Husk, he loses the realization that he is doing this work for his family but it quickly becomes and obsession and he grows farther away from his wife and kids. During his rant in ‘Polemic,’ Abbey notes that “it is apparent, then, that we cannot decide the question of development versus preservation” (pg.48, Abbey), in short he making a claim that the national park system is in existence to give a way for people to explore but instead of letting people do just that, the government needs to shove some roads and new jobs. Basically, fix a problem that is not actually there.
Although it is not blatant corporate versus nature, the Husk story shows how far greed and obsession can take a man or in this case two. Where, Husk and Graham were the corporations and money makers in this story. As a result of their incompetence, came Billy-Joe – the national parks; who becomes the survival story that Abbey never wanted. These two chapters present the same argument, “industrial tourism is a threat to the national parks” (pg.51, Abbey), in the form of literal versus rhetorical to the purpose of the novel as a whole.
Abbey, Edward. Desert Solitaire; a Season in the Wilderness. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1968. Print