Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Week 2 Prompt 1

Madison Kraemer
Dr. Adam Johns
English Composition 0200
17 September 2014
Edward Abbey: Misanthropist or Not?
            Throughout the book, Abbey not only blatantly writes his negative feelings towards humanity, but also flaunts his use of it. At one moment he writes how he does not want to “see another of the tool-making breed for a long time,” but at another he describes how he “hopes to discover something different, to renew [his] affection for [himself] and the human kind[…],”(Abbey 154-155). Abbey is  confused and unsure on his views of mankind ,but through his writings and adventures, he strives to become a misanthropist.
            On Right Diagnosis, misanthropy is defined as an exaggerated or irrational hatred of mankind. Some of the signs of misanthropy are feeling of panic, feeling of dread, anxiety, rapid heartbeat and many more. Specific causes of misanthropy are ADHD, epilepsy, bipolar disorder and more neurological disorders. Abbey may be experiencing some of these signs because he is living in the wilderness alone, secluded from any type of human interaction. I believe that the cause of misanthropy for Abbey is due to a bipolar disorder since he constantly contradicts himself throughout the book.
Abbey does express his hatred of mankind on certain things but not everything. In the chapter “Down the River”, Abbey goes on tangents about his hatred towards humanity and mankind; “[…] the foul, diseased and hideous cities and towns we live in, the constant petty tyranny of automatic washers and automobiles and TV machines and telephones-! Ah Christ!,” (155). But what Abbey does not realize is that even though his points are valid and logical, they make him out to be a hypocrite. For instance, Abbey writes about his life in a trailer which contains an electric stove, fridge, electricity, running water, etc. He also writes about his use of a rubber raft, ores, pots and pans, and raisins while on his adventure down the river. These products are all man made and they contradict his personal views on what he sees as “mankind”. What Abbey does not understand is that if he rids himself of all man-made products then he will have an extremely difficult time surviving in the wilderness.
On the other hand, Abbey does make decent points about how corrupt our world and humanity really is. In the chapter “Polemic: Industrial Tourism and the National Parks”, Abbey expresses his belief that industrialism will destroy what is precious and valuable to this world, the wilderness. He writes “Powerlines now bisect the scene; a 100-foot pink water tower looms against the red cliffs; tractstyle houses are built to house the “protectors”; all natural campsites along the river are closed off while campers are now herded[…],” (46). Abbey's use of this quote sets a prime example of how humanity is now taking the beautiful parts of nature and turning it into an industrialism and tourism attraction.
 In the end, I do believe Abbey has a strong hatred towards mankind, but his hatred is difficult to comprehend due to his contradictions. He has a good heart and a strong passion for nature that we should all have. Abbey needs to understand that if he wants to be against humanity and mankind, then he needs to rid himself of everything man-made, which means, no trailer, gas stove, bacon, pots and pans, etc. He needs to build his own shelter, make his own utensils, and harvest his own food in order to not be a hypocrite and be the misanthropist he strives to become.
Works Cited
Abbey, Edward. Desert Solitaire; a Season in the Wilderness. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1968. Print.
"Types of Misanthropy." - N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2014.


  1. The idea of Abbey wanting to become a misanthrope is interesting and your position in this paper is clear. There are several places where this paper could have been cut down though. I don't think that the extended definition of misanthropy and the symptoms was necessary to understand the argument, and I think that saying he had bipolar disorder may be a stretch considering there is no medical evidence suggesting that could be true. Therefore, the second paragraph can be omitted altogether.

    It may also be unfair to say that Abbey doesn't realize that he is contradicting himself. Part of his misanthropy could stem from the realization that he is also swallowed up by human constructs. Instead of focusing on that, I would look at how else you could interpret the quote you used in the third paragraph, which I think could be very useful to your argument.

  2. The claim that he's trying to become a misanthropist is an interesting idea. Why, though, do you think this is his goal?

    Attempting a medical diagnosis is interesting but dangerous. It's interesting because you're attacking the book from a different angle. It's dangerous because we Abbey gives us many signs (for instance, see what Jayani said in class about the moon-eyed horse) that much of what he says can't be taken at face value. If he's recreating himself as a character, aren't you diagnosing the character rather than the author? Or is that your intention?

    RE: his hypocrisy. I don't think anyone would disagree with you that he's in danger of hypocrisy. But you assume that he has no idea what he's doing: "What Abbey does not understand is that if he rids himself of all man-made products then he will have an extremely difficult time surviving in the wilderness." There are various tongue-in-cheek moments (for instance, when he & Newcomb discuss just staying on the river, and realize that they can't because they're running low on bacon grease) when it's clear that he is at least aware of his own hypocrisy. Also, how does this topic relate to your diagnosis of him as bipolar? It seems like you're making multiple arguments.

    In the last two paragraphs you don't really make any headway toward demonstrating a particular argument.

    You argue the he is *trying* to become a misanthropist; you argue that he is a misanthropist because he's bipolar (note you already are contradicting yourself, because you first view misanthropy as a choice, and then as a symptom); you argue that he's a hypocrite. You never really clarify which of these points you're *really* trying to make, and so the whole is less than the sum of the parts.

    Sam's feedback is useful - not identical to mine, incidentally, but parallel to it in important ways.


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