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P A U L T . B R Y A N T Radford University Echoes, Allusions, and “Reality”in Hayduke Lives! Hayduke Lives!, Edward Abbey’s last novel, is an apparently simple but actually complex amalgam of social satire, environmental protest, antic language, ironic ambiguities, and playful fantasy. Outrage is mixed with absurdity; profound archetypes are intertwined with the most trivially comic; idealism and cynicism travel arm in arm ; soaring poetic language crashes repeatedly into the rubble of egregious puns; the most absolute conviction in belief and behavior is constantly undermined by the ever­ present narrative voice of an authorial figure who may be sympathetic but remains detached, an observer who is always interested, sometimes fasci­ nated, but never totally committed. Every character in the novel, every group, every viewpoint, every idea carries within itself the deliberately planted seeds of its own deconstruction. Everything except nature itself is called into question. Constantly the text reminds the reader that it is text—language—a verbal construct drawn from and resting on a long, well established, always self-conscious literary tradition. By clearly stating, from the title itself onward, that this novel is a sequel, and by again presenting Jack Burns, a figure in so many of his novels, Abbey builds all of his own previous works of fiction into that tradition, but the insistence on the text as conscious literary construct is even more pervasive, depending quite openly on asso­ ciations with a wide range of other texts. This continuous, often ironic, 312 Western American Literature sometimes obtrusive insistence on textual echoes and allusions does much to set the tone and determine the effects of Hayduke Lives!. All of the major figures of the novel—Doc Sarvis, Bonnie AbbzugSarvis , Seldom Seen Smith, Jack Bums, Bishop Love, Hayduke himself, and the others—are carefully kept from becoming the fully developed, well rounded characters one would expect in “realistic” fiction. They are kept just across the line into caricature, reminding us constantly that we are dealing with a “mythical” story. This approach is especially effective for Abbey’s subject (what Henry James would call his donnée) because the actuality of environmental conflicts in the modern American West is often so extreme that caricature is difficult if not impossible. How, for example, could Abbey have caricatured a James Watt? What could he have over­ stated about the Exxon Valdez? As a literary artist, Abbey was confronted with the challenge of a subject in which hyperbolic exaggeration to the point of absurdity could become, overnight, mere reportage. In an earlier paper, “Edward Abbey and Environmental Quixoticism ,” I have tried to show, among other things, that Abbey is an environ­ mental moderate whose fiction has drawn heavily on the literary tradition of Don Quixote, as well as the popular tradition of the Lone Ranger. In Hayduke Lives!, the Quixotic figure of Jack Burns again appears, a thin, aged man riding a tall, bony horse and living by an apparently outdated, idealized vision of the world, mixing the absurd with the heroic. The only direct reference to the old Spanish knight errant, however, is the comment on Doc Sarvis’s “quixotic opposition” to the activities of large corpora­ tions (169). Direct allusion to Don Quixote has yielded, in this final novel, to a clearly stated association with the Lone Ranger. The literary classic, in this instance, has yielded to popular culture, but the clear—indeed insisted upon—connection through allusion continues. And the poignant mixture of nobility and absurdity is present from Burns’s first appearance. His horse is an old gelding, off-white, with “mangy patches on flank and shoulder, feet like frying pans, one loose shoe, a Roman nose, long and yellow teeth,” a distant approximation of the famous Silver, the “fieryhorse with the speed of light,” much diminished by age. Jack Bums suffers, too, in the passage of time: The man seated on the sagging middle of the horse’sback wore wrinkled darkblue riding pants smeared with bacon grease on thigh and hip, high boots with rusty spurs, a dirty baggy once-white shirt of weird design (no collar, double row of buttons up the front), the dusty black scarf (of anarchism?) tied about...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 311-322
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
Archive Status
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