Edward Abbey’s essay Down the River reveals his strong belief that the existence of life revolves around nature itself. Abbey conveys these views through syntax, imagery, and his choice of structure. Abbey’s varying detail and syntax in the first half of the passage conveys an amazement toward nature. He states while gazing at the lion that there was a “mutual curiosity: [he] felt more wonder than fear”.
His unexpected reaction to the mountain lion when they shared “mutual curiosity” implies that man is not alone in this journey towards knowledge, and there is a deep connection between man and nature. He varies the syntax from short to complex sentences with distinct differences in clauses. He states that later on they “see no mountain lions,” and the following sentence in a series presents all of the other wildlife that has been observed in great detail instead of the lion. He describes these plants and animals with enthusiasm and also calls Aravaipa “full of life” and extremely “beautiful”.
The impression is that even though the lion that drew the explorer in is nowhere to be seen, there is still a vast amount of beauty in the desert. The structure is meant to contrast the two types of nature, urban nature and nature in Aravaipa. We see an immediate switch in tone when Abby says, “We stumble homeward over the stones, and through the anklebone-chilling water. ” Abbey displays a hint of bitterness towards his home that is so bad even the journey to get there is torturous.
He discusses the stars and how they seem to fade when he leaving the desert, as if the world he is used to has no stars, no beauty, no life. Abby then states that the memories of the beautiful desert are enough to keep him satisfied for days to survive the “urban life”. Nature is so rich in details and relationships and so wonderful and mysterious that it is impossible to completely understand it. This incomprehensibility can provide an unlimited source of learning that will eventually redeem us from a lifeless urban existence.