The Monkey Wrench Gang

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The Monkey Wrench Gang
First edition cover
First edition cover
Author Edward Abbey
Country United States
Language English
Genre Anarchist, novel
Publisher Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
Publication date
August 1, 1975
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
Pages 352 pp (hardback edition)
ISBN ISBN 0-397-01084-2 (hardback edition)
OCLC 1256794
LC Class PZ4.A124 Mo PS3551.B2
Followed by Hayduke Lives

The Monkey Wrench Gang is a novel written by American author Edward Abbey (1927–1989), published in 1975.

Easily Abbey's most famous fiction work, the novel concerns the use of sabotage to protest environmentally damaging activities in the American Southwest, and was so influential that the term "monkeywrench" has come to mean, besides sabotage and damage to machines, any sabotage, activism, law-making, or law-breaking to preserve wilderness, wild spaces and ecosystems.

In 1985, Dream Garden Press released a special 10th Anniversary edition of the book featuring illustrations by R. Crumb, plus a chapter titled "Seldom Seen at Home" that had been deleted from the original edition.[1] Crumb's illustrations were used for a limited-edition calendar based on the book.[2] The most recent edition was released in 2006 by Harper Perennial Modern Classics.

Plot summary[edit]

The book's four main characters are ecologically-minded misfits — "Seldom Seen" Smith, a Jack Mormon river guide; Doc Sarvis, an odd but wealthy and wise surgeon; Bonnie Abbzug, his young sexualized female assistant; and a rather eccentric Green Beret Vietnam veteran, George Hayduke. Together, although not always working as a tightly-knit team, they form the titular group dedicated to the destruction of what they see as the system that pollutes and destroys their environment, the American West. As their attacks on deserted bulldozers and trains continue, the law closes in.

10th Anniversary edition (1985) from Dream Garden Press, with illustrations by Robert Crumb

The book was praised for its erudition, flair, down-home wit, and the accuracy of its descriptions of life away from civilization. Abbey made the West his home and was a skilled outdoorsman.

From a 21st-century viewpoint, the Gang in some ways bears little resemblance to the modern media's portrayal of environmentalists — the book's characters eat a lot of red meat, own firearms, litter the roadside with empty beer cans and drive big cars. (Abbey's habits were reportedly similar.) Abbey's politics are not "bleeding heart", and most of the characters dismiss liberalism: they attack American Indians as well as whites for their consumerism, and hold little regard for the Sierra Club. (Despite occasional contradictory evidence, Edward Abbey considered himself a liberal--"I'm a liberal, and proud of it," he wrote in Abbeys' Road.)

For the Gang, the enemy is those who would develop the US Southwest — despoiling the land, befouling the air, and destroying nature and the sacred purity of Abbey's desert world. Their greatest hatred is focused on the Glen Canyon Dam, a monolithic edifice of concrete that dams a beautiful, wild river, and which the monkeywrenchers seek to destroy. One of the book's most memorable passages describes Abbey's character Seldom Seen Smith, as he kneels atop the dam praying for a "pre-cision earthquake" to remove the "temporary plug" of the Colorado River.

The book may have been the inspiration for Dave Foreman's and Mike Roselle's creation of Earth First!, a direct action environmental organization that often advocates much of the minor vandalism depicted in the book. Many scenes of vandalism and ecologically-motivated mayhem, including a billboard burning at the beginning of the book and the use of caltrops to elude a group of vigilantes, are presented in sufficient detail as to form a skeletal how-to for would-be saboteurs. The actions are presented in a larger than life format, because much of what Hayduke, and the rest of the characters in the story face are larger than life obstacles that require larger than life approaches. The types of actions are said to have influenced the formation of environmental organizations such as Greenpeace and the Earth Liberation Front.[citation needed]



  • Hayduke Lives – Continuing the story from where The Monkey Wrench Gang left off.

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations[edit]

As of 2012, a film adaptation of the book, to be directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, was being planned.[3] The film rights holders for the book filed suit against the producers of Night Moves, charging that the film's plot is significantly similar to the story of book. [4][5]

References in other media[edit]

In his book Screw Unto Others, George Hayduke states that Edward Abbey was his mentor, and mentions The Monkey Wrench Gang as the origin of the term monkeywrenching. Hayduke says The Monkey Wrench Gang inspired environmentalist David Foreman to help create Earth First!.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ AbbeyWeb: The Monkey Wrench Gang
  2. ^ AbbeyWeb: The 1987 Monkey Wrench Gang Calendar
  3. ^ "The Monkey Wrench Gang (2013)". The Monkey Wrench Gang (2013). Retrieved 8/1/11.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  4. ^ Gardner, Eriq (September 14, 2012). "Producer Launches Legal War Over New Eco-Terrorist Film Starring Jesse Eisenberg". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 26, 2013. 
  5. ^ Patten, Dominic (September 15, 2012). "Night Moves Director, Producers, UTA Sued By Edward Pressman & Edward Abbey Widow For Copyright Infringement". Retrieved July 26, 2013. 
  6. ^ Screw Unto Others, p. 77

Further reading[edit]

  • Cassuto, David N. "Waging Water: Hydrology vs. Mythology in The Monkey Wrench Gang." ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and the Environment 2.1 (1994): 13–36.
  • Slovic, Scott. "Aestheticism and Awareness: The Psychology of Edward Abbey's The Monkey Wrench Gang." CEA Critic 55.3 (1993): 54–68.

External links[edit]