Into The Wild - Angela Kothe        

Into The Wild Essay

Angela Goethe
AP English Language and Composition/SPHS/USA
Imitates Life Imitates Art
3/1/17
Aristotle is known for proclaiming that art imitates life. Even long after his death, his works and his accomplishments continue to loudly declare this philosophy. Nevertheless, over 1,000 years later Oscar Wilde made an amendment to the declaration. Wilde found that not only does art imitate life, but that life imitates art far more often. In the case of Chris McCandless, we are compelled to believe that an amendment was in fact needed to Aristotle's observation. After Chris's death, many spewed aspersions that he was reckless; while others felt he was special or courageous. Chris however, was neither of these things. Indeed, he was naïve as he believed that he could duplicate his life after role models existing solely on a page. But don’t we all? Chris McCandless had his faults, but he was only a victim of inspiration’s cycle that tends to consume the life of man.

Chris's actions were inspired by the works of Jack London and Leo Tolstoy. On a piece of wood in the Alaskan wilderness Chris inscribed "Jack London is King" (Krakauer). Amongst the possessions found with his body were books written by London and Tolstoy. One of the books found had highlighted the Tolstoy quote "I wanted excitement and danger and the chance to sacrifice myself for my love." Chris's enthusiasm was evident with his founding of a Henry David Thoreau inspired Republican's Club in college and his with added emphasis on the word King (Krakauer). His integrity was evident and he took the doctrine of his role models seriously; even more than the men who wrote them. Chris disposed of his watch to avoid time and burned the remainder of his money (Krakauer). This was a big deal, because in the Alaskan summer daylight can last 22 hours further confusing a watchless one’s perception of time. Chris truly wanted to separate himself from the mainstream perception of reality.

In contrast, the men whose values Chris held dearest were all corrupt with hypocrisy. London was not the vagabond "King" he wrote about in his fiction, rather he had only been in the northern winter once (Krakauer) and while Chris valued purity; London listed this philosophy as grounds for divorce from his first wife. While Chris was in pursuit of happiness London was a naturalist; naturalists are often criticized for their pessimistic view of humanity. Maybe the critics were right. Jack London over dosed on morphine, a drug he used to escape the reality he felt so negatively about. Similarly, Tolstoy was the father of 14 children one of whom was born out of wedlock. And while Chris was poisoning himself to death on the bare minimum in the Alaskan wilderness even Henry David Thoreau was receiving pies. Chris was dedicated and that dedication along with the aplomb that came with it is admirable; but perhaps he chose the worst people to imitate.

Oscar Wilde advised that we all be ourselves because everyone else is taken. Chris failed to heed this advice. He was busy living the lives fictional characters instead of that of his own. Such naivety is the first step in the path that lead Chris into thinking nature is to be underestimated. Jon Krakauer reported in Into the Wild that Chris read London's White Fang multiple times. That story describes a human's attempt to subdue a wolf hybrid. Maybe this is what inspired Chris to believe that he could take on nature with just a guide book even though new species are discovered everyday making his resource quickly outdated. In all reality, however, it is only realistic to remind ourselves that we all are chasing the life of some art we wish to imitate.

As people, we all just want to live a “genuine life” (Krakauer). How we go about that is a big deal, but we cannot confuse someone’s motive with their tactics. Passion consumes all of us in one way or another, in the end we will all will suffer for it. Chris McCandless may have chosen the wrong people to fight for, or even the wrong fight; but in the end, he was just as human as all of us. He wasn’t brave, special, or reckless. He was just a human completing the cycle.


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