Into The Wild - Alex Ramos        

Into The Wild Essay

Ramos I
Alex Ramos
17 February 2016
Admirable but Mistaken, Alexander Supertramp’s Virtue of Ignorance
In this concise little essay an attempt to show Chris McCandless’ inherently inconsistent way of thinking will be made. An attempt will also be made to show the story or “idea” of McCandless, as is known, to be a cautionary tale or tragedy, in opposition to the constantly put forth one of self-discovery (at least in terms of subjectivity). The goal of this essay is not to pillory Chris; admiration of him and identification with him have been merited. This essay’s only concern is to show his character to be one of study rather than impersonation, and why this view is intertwined with Jon Krakauer’s book.
Some will argue Chris, the teenage Tolstoyan’s (Krakauer 115) departure from society represents an attempt to find personal freedom and is a virtuous decision in and of itself. It is of no avail. He disregarded the wisdom that preceded him and this ultimately led to his own demise. Chris’ distaste for working within the system (Krakauer 113) led him (it seems) to believe he operated from what he thought was outside, or higher than society. Because of this he may have felt as if he was immune to the very judgement in which he supported. “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment” (Proverbs 18). This coincides with Tolstoy’s fourth condition of happiness, which is the “unrestrained fellowship with man and woman generally without

Ramos II
distinction of class” (Knowles 383). Chris’ lack of application of this is congruous to how he did not apply Tolstoy’s fifth condition, which was health, and seems to be largely a result of obedience to the others (Knowles 383). The disobedience to these conditions, Chris shows consistently and sometimes even contradictorily throughout the novel, not only deprived him of true happiness, (which must be self sufficient, wholly good, and has no evil mixed in it. And because the lack of fellowship is a lack of goodness it therefore has evil mixed in it and cannot lead to true happiness, but we need not delay) but did, in turn, led to the metaphorical and literal atrophy of his condition.
As is going to be demonstrated, the doctrine of ‘true happiness’, at least as Chris wants to believe but does not exercise, exists out of a cohesive set of irreducibly complex conditions. If this is so then the question then arises; What title has he to select parts of this doctrine for acceptance and to reject others? If the parts of the doctrine he rejects have no authority, neither have the parts he accepts, “If what he retains is valid, what he rejects is equally valid too” ( Lewis 41). This way of contemplation can lead to a mentality akin to Chris, which is that of impulse (or sentiment) over reason. This being the antithesis of what Chris supposedly wanted. “Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth” (Krakauer 117). Highlighted in one of the books Chris carried with him whilst below the big bulky letters ‘Truth’, in which he wrote. Chris also held that “absolute truth should be a part of everything you do” (McCandless). But when all reason is replaced with sentiment the only thing left is subjectivity. Yes, one could argue that this whole essay thus far has been nothing but redundancy and Chris may have believed wholeheartedly in a personal truth not

Ramos III
subject to objective value, but this would seem contrary to Chris’ nature, and would not neglect the inconsistency of his logic still.
The 3rd Pons Asinorum of our subject lies in his attempt to reconcile sentiment with reason. Chris’ departure is one that is bitter, but in no way justified. He plunged ahead into the unknown with romantic notions that often clouded his judgement and hurt others. Yes, Chris did prepare, but not to the degree that would be considered wise by most. Even Krakauer, who empathized very much with Chris, knew his shortcomings. “When I decided to go to Alaska that April, like Chris McCandless, I was a raw youth who mistook passion for insight and acted according to an obscure, gap-ridden logic” (155). This “passion” Krakauer speaks of can be further connected to that of the ‘Primordial Beast’, Chris seems to give praise to on page 38. Being inspired by Jack London’s The Call of The Wild, it seems Chris had prefered impulse. And thus this logic fails again. C.S. Lewis puts it bluntly, “From the statement about psychological fact ‘I have the impulse to do so and so’ we cannot by any ingenuity derive the practical principle ‘I ought to obey this impulse’” (35). To obey one impulse in its own favour and determining whether to obey this impulse in its own cause would be rather simple minded according to Lewis. The words ‘basic’ or ‘primal’ are meaningless in their execution when used to argue impulse as rationality itself, “Either these words conceal a value judgement passed upon the instinct and therefore not derivable from it, or else they merely record its felt intensity, the frequency of its
operation and its wide distribution” (Lewis 37), the latter being in the hands of the majority of those who approve and is held up on the unstable foundation of popularity.

Ramos IV
“In the end, of course, it changed almost nothing. But I came to appreciate that mountains make poor receptacles for dreams. And I lived to tell my tale” (Krakauer 155). Chris, if he had survived and the ‘Primordial Beast’ had somehow not let him go gently into that goodnight, may
have realized the folly of his position. In the last chapter of the novel Chris notes “HAPPINESS (is) ONLY REAL WHEN SHARED” (Krakauer 189). Perhaps he awoke to his false idealism. Perhaps, even when it was too late. Krakauer, on page 187, quotes Doctor Zhivago which states that life is a sacrifice and the spiritual equipment needed to have faith is in the Gospels. It goes even further to state that “the love of one’s neighbor… is the supreme form of vital energy”. The ‘leap of faith’, as Kierkegaard called it, was what Chris had been missing. He went from the ‘aesthetic’ and ‘ethical’ modes of existence to one of the ‘religious’, which, as a result, rid him of any inherent contradictions. It was not until he finally realized that absolute truth is in fact absolute truth, and a belief without coherent doctrine and commune is merely a mist between men.
This view of Jon Krakauer’s Into The Wild should be looked at with caution and not open ridicule. Chris was intelligent but lacked the wisdom so many tried to bestow upon him. He resented his family and never learned, maybe until it was too late, what it truly meant to forgive. He prefered impulse over reason and this is what destroyed him in the end. “The heart never takes the place of the head: but it can, and should, obey it” (Lewis 19). The heart can truly be, at times, the most deceitful thing (Jeremiah 17:9).

Ramos V
Works Cited
Knowles, Av, ed. Tolstoy The Critical Heritage. London: Routledge & Keagan Paul, 1978.
Krakauer, Jon. Into The Wild. New York: Anchor Books, 1996.
Lewis, C.S.. The Abolition of Man. New York: Harper Collins, 2001.
McCandless, Carine. “Carine McCandless.” Christopher McCandless aka Alexander Supertramp. 17 Feb. 2016. <>.
“Soren Kierkegaard.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 16 Feb. 2016.

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