Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dona Brown


This thesis examines how Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose and Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang have been molded by water scarcity and in turn have shaped the discourse about water. Angle of Repose offers a reliable history of water in the West, showing how the myth of the garden permeated the lives of people who made the journey West at the end of the nineteenth century. Stegner’s narrative of the building of the West shows what comes of humanity’s desire to change the environment by making the desert bloom. The Monkey Wrench Gang complements Stegner’s Angle of Repose as a counter culture narrative. Abbey exemplifies the environmental theory of deep ecology that values nature for its own sake, not for its potential for human use. Deep ecology offers a philosophical account of our relation to nature that emphasizes that ecosystems are an interconnected web of relations existing in balance, and that humans should respect this balance, and not mess with it, for both practical reasons and because of the inherent rights of animals and ecosystems to exist.

Literature forms an essential part of our cultural understanding. Focusing on two writers, this thesis offers an analysis of the literary arts, where our descriptions and narratives of water are as central to confronting our societal challenges as the facts of science and history. Literature expresses our lives, our hopes, our dreams, and our fears. It provides the narrative framework we live within. Aridity is the unifying property of what we consider to be the West. This elemental fact shapes and is shaped by the way that we think about water in the region’s literature.



Number of Pages

91 p.