Edward Abbey's Great American Desert Essay

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Edward Abbey's Great American Desert

Environmentalist and desert-lover, Edward Abbey in his essay “The Great American Desert” warns readers about the perilous dangers of the American deserts while simultaneously stirring curiosity about these fascinating ecosystems. He both invites and dissuades his readers from visiting the deserts of North America through the use of humor and sarcasm. In this essay, he is rhetorically successful in arguing that the open spaces of the undeveloped deserts are sacred places in need of respect and protection through his clever use of pathos and logos.

Born in Home, Pennsylvania in 1927, Abbey worked as a forest ranger and fire look-out for the National Forest Service after graduating from the
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The articles purpose is to inspire enthusiasm and love for the deserts but at the same time make visitors cautious and wary of these harsh environments. He both educates and entertains through listing both real and mythical creatures who reside in the desert. Wild and unruly lists of toxic flora and fauna both alarm and attract new readers and possible desert visitors. Additionally, he uses humor, irony, and sarcasm to argue that open, undeveloped spaces should be cherished and protected on behalf of all the creatures, plants, and historically rich places that define the American west.
His argument is rhetorically successful because he appeals strongly to his reader’s emotions and logic. Through the use of pathos, he invites the reader into his conversational style essay. The opening line states, “In my case it was love at first sight,” as if the reader is joining him for casual conversation around the campfire on a clear, star-studded desert night. Abbey comically offers advice on avoiding venomous creatures and insects, like the Walapai Tiger, and also on how to pack for a hiking expedition, which he both recommends and cautions.

In other instances of pathos, he includes the reader in his wilderness-protecting mission by declaring, “Nevertheless, all is not lost; much remains, and I welcome the prospect of an army of lug-soled hiker’s boots on the desert trails. To save what wilderness is

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