Into The Wild

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“Happiness is only real when shared.” – Chris McCandless

The novel Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer, is a tragic story about a young college man named Chris McCandless. He escapes society and civilization, leaves his family and friends, and goes out on his own to live with the beautiful but harsh climates of nature.

Chris McCandless was an American hiker who also went by the name “Alex Supertramp”. He came up with the name himself in the midst of his travels, and believed that it would suit him quite well. After graduating from Emory University in 1990, McCandless hiked across North America to states such as Texas, California, Arizona, and Oregon. In his last hiking trip, he visited Alaska, which was in April of 1992.

Later on, he traveled to the Stampede Trail. Unfortunately, he didn’t bring enough supplies to keep him alive. Four months later on September 6th, McCandless’s emaciated and decomposing body was found by hunters on a bus. Apparently, he died of starvation.

Despite the great and vast adventures that McCandless experienced while escaping into the wild, he hurt his family and friends’ terribly because of his abrupt disappearance. McCandless is in his mid-twenties when he decides to cut off his family for good. McCandless’s parents (Walt and Billie) and one sister (Carine) are heartbroken of his perpetual absence.

In this novel, the themes of power, human rights, and self-government are present. McCandless has the rightful power to leave his society and family. He has the ability to go off on his own. McCandless is self-governing himself, and is essentially leaving any type of authority or government to tell him the “correct” way of living in the US.

McCandless has this natural power as a human. He doesn’t wish to belong to any society or civilization. In the novel, McCandless cuts his driver’s license with scissors, and removes his license plate from his automobile.

Is what McCandless is doing morally right? Is it alright to leave your family? Occasionally, he would meet up with other hikers around the continent, but he didn’t like intimacy or control. One couple named Jan and Bob Burres met McCandless in the summer of 1990. Bob offered to adopt McCandless, but McCandless immediately rejected the idea. This can symbolize McCandless’s enmity for belonging and affection between humans.

Along with Chris’s power to travel and hike on his own in North America, he also has the power to influence others during his travel. Chris is seen as an extraordinarily intelligent, fit, and compassionate man. Many of the travelers and hikers he encountered during his hiking adventures would often describe McCandless as a very inspiring and kind individual.

The people he encountered (like Bob and Jan) would offer him food, shelter, and even jobs near where they were staying. They would also offer him a ride to a nearby location. Chris would usually take up people’s kind offers like this, and in return, he would tell everyone of his love for nature and living off on his own, as well as his contempt for society.

With self-government, Chris has the rightful ability to look after himself. He does this by his survival tactics (such as hunting for game and the type of shelter he resides in throughout the days) and the survival materials that he takes with him (like food and clothing). Although Chris’s survival tactics weren’t the best, he still had some idea of how to take care of himself in the harsh climates he endured, such as in Alaska.

He didn’t want the responsibilities and expectations of society — he wanted to be off on his own. No human should be forced to live with society and any type of world civilization.

In the end of the novel, McCandless dies from starvation in Alaska. The relationships that Chris left and the new ones he established and cherished throughout his travels in North America were fascinating to read about in the story. It showed that Chris still valued connections with other humans, but not so much his own family. He also didn’t favor the concept of intimacy.

The main conflicts that Chris faced were the disconnection with his family, as well as the severe climates of where he traveled.

Indeed, there are advantages and disadvantages of being a member of society. Chris believed that society was filled with fake and materialistic individuals. He also believed that his father, Walt, was a fraud. He had an affair with another woman during his marriage with Billie.

With being a working member of society, you have many opportunities to be happy and enjoy life. Happiness and love, at the end of the day, is all that we cherish and desire for. Chris McCandless sought out for happiness and love in alternative ways than most people in society.