Desert Solitaire Notes – Amanda Marshall


Desert Solitaire

Written by Edward Abbey


The First Morning:

  • Page 4: reminds me of Karongwe
  • Page 7: “Paradox and Bedrock”, is anthropomorphism a bad thing? He describes that he want to be rid of the human tendency. To see nature for what it truly is instead of through his human lens. An altruistic goal, but is it possible? Forcing human impressions is not how we should look at other life, but it is also vital to understanding and wrapping our mind around behaviors and concepts.
    • Calls the sun a “flaming globe”. What it actually physically is.
  • Page 8: Wants to understand the Ravens before “Aliens”, Maybe we should understand out own planet/culture/life, before taking on others?


  • Page12: The park workers and Abbey are very similar. Outdoorsmen have a lot in common.
  • Page 13: Would anyone around here be accustomed to true silence? There is always the whirring of the air conditioner, cars, or conversations in the background.
  • Page 14: “I doubt if all the smoking censors of Dante’s paradise could equal it.”
  • Page 15: We are also separated from the world visually, not just auditory. We limit our view of the world with our lights. Our eyes adjust to only see what we illuminate, not the entire panoramic picture.

The Serpents of Paradise:

  • Page 20: Abbey points out, what is the point of a ranger killing an animal in a wildlife reserve? If they can’t live here than where can they live? He moves the snake instead of killing it.
  • Page 24: Respect the life in all living things, not just humans. They have intrinsic value.

Cliffrose and Bayonets:

  • Page 41: He would not kill the rattlesnake but had no problem killing the rabbit
  • Page 45: “Much the same could be said of the tamarisk down in the canyon, of the blue-black raven croaking on the cliff of your own body. The beauty of delicate arch explains nothing. For each thing in its own way, when true to its own character, is equally beautiful.”
  • Page 45: “If Delicate Arch has any significance it lies, I will venture, in the power of the odd and unexpected to startle the senses and surprise the mind out of their ruts of habit, to compel us into a reawakened awareness of the wonderful – that which is full of wonder.”

Cowboys and Indians:

  • Page 107: Comments on a common human behavior. Reacting to prejudice by being prejudice toward others and those “below” you
  • Page 112: Who wants to live forever? But everyone to his own
  • Page 120: Sleeping outside sounds nice
  • Page 121: Being outside keeps him from feeling too lonely. Cramped in the trailer makes it worse. Hard to feel lonely when you have the whole spans of the outdoors to explore. Being inside is a reminder of what he left behind.
  • Page 132: Poverty = higher birth rate, applies to native Americans as well


  • Page 144: “The desert is a land full of surprises, some of them terrible surprises. Terrible as derived from terror”
  • Page 146: The pristine looking streams are the dangerous ones.
  • Page 157: What does a toad have to sing about?
  • Page 159: “There is no lack of water here, unless you try to establish a city where no city should be.” All about perspective, and why push the environment beyond its limits?

The Moon-Eyed Horse:

  • Anything can be made to do unnatural things when abused

Down the River:

  • Page 191: “We are indeed enjoying a very intimate relation with the river”
    • Not something you get from a car or a television screen
  • Page 193: Abbey seems like he would buy into conspiracy theories
  • Page 198: Newcomb mentions that Abbey has a wife. Abbey hasn’t brought her up before. Did they get a divorce?
  • Page 200: “What Churchill spoke of as “bloody peace”- could we bear it for very long?
  • Page 209: “A pioneer destroys things and calls it civilization.”
  • Page 210: “No, wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread.” – Powell


  • Page 246: Seeing places before “things go wrong”

Episodes and Visions:

  • He has an interesting relationship with tourists
  • I wonder what the park look like now
  • I know some black Mormons and have always wondered if that “Ham” rumor was true

Terra Incognita: Into the Maze:

  • This was around the time of the Vietnam War
  • They did not test their limits. They left at the possibility of rain
    • Unlike the inexperienced dead tourist

Bedrock and Paradox:

  • A bittersweet ending
  • Change is hard. Leaving a place is difficult
  • Even though Abbey is an extremist against civilization/society, he is looking forward to going back

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