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The Brave Cowboy: Analyzing an Ordinary Contemporary Life

Edward Abbey’s second novel, The Brave Cowboy, is intensely vital of contemporary life. The book celebrates wide-open spaces and freedom by way of constant comparison to an adjacent reality: the hustle and bustle of the city. As the novel continues, we knowledge the challenges and constraints that Abbey connects with modernity, which Abbey deems unfortunate but unavoidable.

Abbey criticizes contemporary American life since he believed that wilderness need to go “beyond the human” (Minteer). In The Brave Cowboy, Abbey champions a all-natural atmosphere in which 1 can reflect without having distraction, one particular of the frequent themes in the book as he laments a developing dependence on mechanical elements. As Abbey expressed in an additional function in 1982, Down the River, a connection to the environment is sacred simply because “loyalty to the earth, the earth which bore us and sustains us, the only property we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need to have — if only we had the eyes to see” (Minteer). Abbey shows us that meaningful, private reflection is challenged by life led in an industrialized society he characterizes the earth as a living, teaching entity.

Abbey begins The Brave Cowboy with an ode to what he loved dearly: wide-open, undisturbed land. The prologue lovingly explores the beauty of the West, and a particular valley “where phantoms come to brood and mourn” (Abbey 7). Abbey describes the desert, writing “The river flows past the cornfields and mud villages of the Indians, previous thickets of red willow and cane scrub oak, through the fringe of the white man’s city […] beyond Thieves’ Mountain far to the south and vanishes at last into the dim violet haze of distance” (7). As quickly as the main character, Jack Burns, approaches the first indicators of civilization, Abbey introduces litter and detritus: “Horse and man passed other signs and stigmata of life: the petrograph of a wild turkey chiseled in the stone, a pair of tincans riddled with bullet holes of various caliber, brass cartridge shells, an empty sardine can dissolving in rust. They had been nearing civilization” (7). Abbey introduces a creeping sensation that decay is closing in on Burns as he gets closer to the city, and we even feels resistance from his horse as we get closer: “Whisky stepped onto the challenging asphalt, tossed her head and stepped back, fighting the reins” (25).

When Abbey introduces a city in The Brave Cowboy, he tends to make it clear that the buzz and bustle is damaging. He describes the city as “sunburnt” (124) and full of distractions, regularly referencing noise pollution and distracting city lights:

The gloom was far from full: the 4-lane highway that wound through the bottom of the pass was alive, crawling, itching with motor visitors — and endless procession of tiny points of light proceeding like beads on a thread via the darkness, passing and repassing, vanishing, reappearing, fed into the evening from apparently inexhaustible sources (267).

It’s not only the presence of city lights that lead to frustration, but the presence of any light that is manmade or artificial. It becomes the enemy, such as when the helicopter crashes, and the “big major rotor [was] nonetheless turning, winking light” in spite of its apparent failure: Abbey makes it clear that these artificial elements are never ever to be trusted (232). Previously, Burns is frightened by a flashlight in the desert although he tries to “lay low.” As Abbey describes: “Then he saw and almost felt a beam of light that swung rapidly in the air more than his head, danced over the leaves of the cottonwoods and disappeared” (203).

There are even colors that Abbey suggests are dangerously as well contemporary, and one of these is yellow. Yellow is a spontaneous and occasionally unstable colour. In reality, studies show that the overuse of yellow can be troublesome to the thoughts (Precision Intermedia). Yellow can impact concentrate and make it a lot more tough to concentrate, which coordinates with Abbey’s view of hugely disturbing city life. As an focus-acquiring, disturbing colour, it functions often in The Brave Cowboy: when Bondi appears outdoors the jail cell, Abbey describes the “yellow rectangles of lighted windows, all the multiple refractions of the great American night” (58). He references “yellow murk,” and also includes a strong description of urban life at the end of the novel: “The urban streets are a chaos of sound, colour, and movement: ‘Blue, red, yellow, flashing and dancing […] although the blue red yellow shrieks of neon” (280-281). These components distract the individual from the contemplation that Abbey believes is so essential.

In truth, Abbey does not only identify certain colors with artificial and all-natural elements, but he compares color palettes of the city to that of his preferred environment, nature. The city is often described as possessing disjointed, harsh color schemes or, conversely, getting washed of all color. The city appears to bustle but has no soul, while the desert offers beautiful vistas and surprising indicators of organic life. One particular of the most powerful descriptions of the countryside can be found when Burns travels the canyon: “Unexpectedly, the view opened wide and the whole western planet lay ahead of him: the canyon dropping down step by step like an imperial stairway for the gods, the gaunt purple foothills, the mesa rolling out for miles, the faint gleam of the river” (201). Even this tableau has the energy to transform the city into some thing stunning — at a distance: “The vast undulant city ten miles away, transformed by the evening dusk into anything amazing and grand and beautiful, a rich constellation of jewels glittering like the embers of a fire” (201).

Abbey tends to make it clear that modern, industrialized life is no location for contemplative believed. His protagonist finds peace and quiet in the desert, and seeks it as a refuge. Burns, even with out his sleeping bag and on the run, finds a moment of quiet comfort in his favored habitat: “He belched, lying on his back, and considered the possibility of not going following his mare and his equipment. […] Burns puffed once again on the pipe, watching the gray smoke drift up toward the stars” (200-201). Abbey writes that the silence of the desert is a “perfect dome” and treasures the “vast silence” that makes up “the desert and the river and the valley” (15). Nature connects every element, whilst the noise and commotion of the city is noticed as disjointed.

Lastly, Abbey emphasizes the importance of nature by obtaining it tower over artificial elements. Abbey describes the mountain’s presence, and in the beginning of the book, highlights its “must not be ignored” nature:

The mountains loomed more than the valley like a physical presence, a source and mirror of nervous influences, feelings, subtle and unlabeled aspirations no man could ignore that presence in an underground poker game, in the vaults of the First National Bank, in the secret chambers of The Factory, in the backroom of the realtor’s office throughout the composition of an intricate swindle… (19).

Abbey insists that nothing at all can overshadow the mountain, and that everybody feels it, whether or not they’re even actually conscious of it or not. The mountain is a penultimate function of the environment and is all-seeing, achieving a god-like top quality. Manmade features are dwarfed by the magnitude of the mountain, like when we see a truck traveling across the desert: “The distance and the silence, the grotesque disproportion between the small dark agitated object and its enveloping continuum of space and silence, gave its activity an absurd, pathetic air” (20).

Abbey, by rejecting his intense passion for nature and accepting that alter is inevitable, probably chosen a realistic conclusion to his novel. In it, Burns and his horse are hit by a truck filled with toilets. This jarring scene in which civilization comes into get in touch with with Burns’ peaceful, simple methods is an unforgettable message of the struggle for coexistence, and perhaps the futileness of these efforts.

Abbey’s ending to The Brave Cowboy holds a particular spot in history. Abbey’s environmentalist stance was component of a new movement that celebrated the person while warning about the damages our modern life could cause – usually irreparably – to wildlife. Some claim that his stance on the environment can be linked to nowadays “Anthropocene” movement, which indicates that, due to the impact humankind has had on plant and animal species, we have transitioned into a new era. Although the waters are muddied, and the debate continues, this situation points to one of Abbey’s greatest issues: that humans have broken our planet so drastically that we could be forced to close one particular chapter in natural history, and open an additional (Stromberg 1).

The Brave Cowboy illustrates the value of sustaining a constructive connection with nature, and not enabling modern life to poison our day-to-day. Even Abbey recognized that there is balance to be struck in our contemporary lives, stating that we required “moderate extremism” and “the ideal of both worlds” (Minteer). Abbey supported accountable modify, but seemed disappointed by what that meant in modern day life, stating: “Simply due to the fact humankind have the power now to meddle or ‘manage’ or ‘exercise stewardship’ in each nook and cranny of the globe, does not imply that we have a proper to do so. Even much less, the obligation” (Minteer). And while the city in The Brave Cowboy is observed as unsafe and distracting, Abbey’s message by means of his collective works is slightly more hopeful: that there is a possibility to coexist with nature although keeping our modern day lifestyles. This is far much more realistic, and appears as though it could be achievable. Whilst perhaps the intense rejection of all things modern is an unsustainable and unrealistic expectation, we can all take the time to appreciate the gifts that nature gives us: the capability of contemplative believed, breathtaking views, and freedom. Regardless of what happens to Jack Burns at the finish of the novel, the message is nevertheless clear: there’s bravery in never ever providing up.

Functions Cited

Abbey, Edward. The Brave Cowboy: An Old Tale in a New Time. New York: Harper Perennial Contemporary Classics Edition, 2016. Print.

“Business, Sales and the Globe Wide Net Are In Color.” Precision Intermedia. N.p., n.d. Internet. 12 Apr. 2017.

Minteer, Ben A. “Why Edward Abbey Nevertheless Matters.” Earth Island Journal 15 Might 2015: n. pag. Internet. 12 Apr. 2017.

Stromberg, Joseph. “What Is the Anthropocene and Are We in It?” Smithsonian 1 Jan. 2013: n. pag. Internet. 9 Apr. 2017.
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