The Monkey Wrench Gang takes place in the Desert Southwest. Most of the action is in southern Utah and the Arizona Strip (the land north of the Colorado River, but south of the Utah border). It takes place sometime in the early 1970's, before the end of the Vietnam War.
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There are really only four named characters in the book: George Washington Hayduke, Doctor A. K. Sarvis, Bonnie Abbzug, and Seldom Seen Smith. There are a variety of other, minor, characters that appear periodically.
George Washington Hayduke: Alcoholic, perennially angry, Vietnam Vet. Had been a medic in the Green Berets, and spent about a year as a POW. Hayduke is about 25 years old, and originally from Tucson. Edward Abbey based the character of George Hayduke on his friend Doug Peacock, a Vietnam War vet and naturalist.
Doctor Alexander K. (Doc) Sarvis: Fiftyish general surgeon from Albuquerque. He's a widower, and has adult children. He is politically conservative, and hates billboards. Doc is financially very healthy, and bankrolls all the actions in the book.
Bonnie Abbzug: Half Jewish, half Irish, from the Bronx, and almost 30. She worked her way across the US, finally ending up working in Doc Sarvis' office. She started living with after his wife's death. Nominally she's devoted to various "New Age" pursuits. Realistically, she never gives them any attention at all. Bonnie's major characteristic is boredom.
Joseph Fielding "Seldom Seen" Smith: A polygamist Jack Mormon with three wives in different cities: Sheila in Bountiful, Kathy in Cedar City, and Susan in Green River, Utah. He has five children. Seldom Seen calls himself a river guide (Back of Beyond Expeditions) and melon farmer. He's about 35. Seldom Seen may have been based on Ken Sleight.
There are a couple of other "Walk On's" - Bishop J. Dudley Love, who's in charge of the San Juan County Search and Rescue team (and has political aspirations). Bishop Love may have been based on Cal Black "Kemosabe" is an unknown masked man who seems to support Hayduke's actions.