Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Hidden Pathos

Joe Weidman
Dr. Adam Johns
Seminar in Composition 0200
September 3, 2014
Smog and sunset mingle at the site of Mr. Graham’s “last flight” by the end of the chapter Rocks in Desert Solitaire. But do other forces aside from Graham and Husk duel in this story? Edward Abbey, the narrator of this story within “Rocks,” is a transcendentalist of the Thoreau breed, his single goal to unite with the wild arches and desert sands. Abbey is enthralled by the sunset, enraptured by the ripping desert wind, but when he must recede into the comforts of man or his habitations, he is repulsed. Abbey enumerates on the improvements to the national parks that could be made, discounting the automobile, tearing up roads, and ripping down modern campsites. Abbey’s naturalistic tendencies and this anecdote in the chapter “Rocks” coincide at two distinct points. Mr. Husk and Mr. Graham’s various uses of technology are shown as demons in this story, societal developments that brought about both of the prospectors’ dooms. Graham, the wealthy, helicopter flying, plane cruising landowner is loaded with Geiger counters and money, but nobody to extract the precious carnotite. Husk is another man of tools, using what Abbey hates most to search for ore, a pickup truck. Both men are also killed not by nature or the physics associated with the many cliffs on Graham’s lands, but by technology. Graham shot Husk with a gun, but Abbey would argue that if society would have stayed the way it was naturally, guns would have never been created for their deadly purpose. Abbey would also argue that “lightly attached to one another, weightless and free, the truck with its open door and Mr. Graham,” would have never, “went off all together into space,” (75) if the wretched “bloody tyrant” (52) of automobiles had not existed because humanity resided within nature alone. Because Abbey sees the technology of cars, guns, and planes as society impinging upon natural beauty, and because both men use these luxuries, this particular story proves his point, that society and its improvements-not nature-is the cause of human ruin. The displayed corruption of man and his technology when he uses nature for his own gain is blatant in this story as well, again proving Abbey’s point. Mr. Husk and his son hack and pick at outcroppings just to obtain samples of rocks to be mined, rocks that Abbey sees as irreplaceable abiotic desert nature. If only Husk were to adopt Abbey’s mindset and realize that this natural profit venture was in vain. Husk disregarded this naturalistic mindset, and instead, “All summer long Husk and his son toiled over the rocks” (71). This attempt to harness what Abbey views as holy and sacred not only subjects Husk to hard labor, but also he, “preoccupied-almost obsessed-with his work,” failed to notice little by little how his wife became “a little more irritable” (72). And Husk is not the only prospector depicted as greedy, inhuman, and obsessed, there are other examples of entrepreneurs in ruin because of their lust for carnotite. “Greenhorn treasure-seekers, went down the Colorado in a small motorboat,” but this expedition for mineral riches leads to a physical Cataract Canyon of rocks, and a figurative cataract canyon of demise (65). Charles Steen, a “beleaguered millionaire” from carnotite mining has a run in with fortune but ends as Abbey depicts, a vagabond who, “moved elsewhere; came back; moved again” (63). Even the miners who worked for the mine owners suffer from the human desires to use nature as they heedlessly absorb, “far more than the usual doses of alpha, beta, and gamma radiation” in the mines (65). The story within “Rocks” as well as other anecdotes prove human greed is and always should be in Abbey’s opinion, struck down by nature’s wild force of preservation whenever any prospector so much as scratches a rock in Utah. This story proves Abbey’s conviction on the destructive nature of technology and the destructive nature of human greed. A pathos lurks beyond the physical events of the story, a plea for preservation and a return to natural ways. Not only do two men compete for fortune in this horror story at the end of “Rocks,” but two ideologies duel for dominance. Mr. Husk and Mr. Graham are Abbey’s example of when technology and greed are mixed with a desired resource in nature and disaster results. Abbey asserts through this narrative that society as it presently is created by humanity is at fault, man’s ladder to the stars is to blame, his burning race for prosperity is the real sin, and that only through nature’s cleansing spirit can man find himself and truly become sinless.

Works Cited
Abbey, Edward. Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness. New York: Simon & Schuster Inc., 1990. Paperback Edition.

Prompt Response #: 1
Week#: 1


  1. Joseph,
    Overall, I enjoyed reading your essay. Your arguments on the destructive nature of technology and human greed are both supported very nicely by your evidence from the book. However, it would have been beneficial to focus on one particular argument and support it further. Personally, I would focus on the argument of the destructive nature of technology since it is more the more developed topic in this essay. The only other thing I would change is how the quotes were integrated. At times, they appeared to be very choppy. Other than that, your essay was very straight to the point with little to no fluff

  2. Is Abbey a transcendentalist? The relationship to Thoreau is clear - but not everyone would call T. a transcendentalist either. Is it important? If so, you should justify it. If not, why is it here? Overall, the introduction doesn't really establish a clear focus.

    The argument in the second paragraph is a little basic, and doesn't account for any difficulties - for instance, Billy Joe also dies, and Husk's wife does, in fact, end up making a lot of money. But the fundamental problem is that you're in danger of just arguing something obvious, rather than finding something less obvious and more interesting.

    Those problems persist through the rest of the essay - you say a lot of the obvious things, using the obvious details, while dodging any difficulties and complications in the story (Billy Joe's extended, mystical death), while also making no particular connection to other parts of the book.


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