Into The Wild - Jessi Ekmark          

Into The Wild Essay

Jessi Ekmark
Mr. Shatto
English 4
10 October 2013
Alexander Supertramp

“Billie refused to look at the faxed photo until the dental ID had been completed and there was no longer any doubt whatsoever that the starved boy found in the bus beside the Sushana River was her son.” Why? That is the only question that comes to mind when finishing this book. Why did Chris McCandless go into the wild? Was it a physical suicide or was it really only a suicide of the mind? Did he die because of ignorance or arrogance?

Did Chris know he would die? I would like to think no. While reading the book, I decided that I thought he wanted to die, that this was his last big hurrah, and that he never intended to return to normal society. But as the book went on, I changed my mind. He longed for society. He didn’t want to die. He only wanted to push his limit to test himself. What he didn’t realize is that he took on something a lot bigger than he had expected. Walking into the bush isn’t as easy as you may think. Those who, after reading the article in Outside magazine, wrote about how he was so ignorant have probably never tried to live off the land. They don’t understand how hard it is. Nature is cruel and harsh.

If it wasn’t a literal suicide, then what was it? I think it was an emotional suicide. He wanted to cut off the life he had. Everything he had lived for, up to the point when he started on the road, was what he wanted to cut off. He wanted to prove to himself he didn’t need anything or anyone. He went around the country, and he managed to “live off the land” in a sense. I don’t think he realized that Alaska is harsh and not like the rest of the continental USA. You cannot apply things you’ve learned in the continental USA to Alaska. Alaska plays by her own rules.

During the presidency of Ronald Reagan (1981-1989), the big idea was little to no government intrusion of the American peoples’ lives. Is that what Chris wanted? Did he want to get away from life, maybe his father?

In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity; abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter…

Chris and his father were very similar in that they liked to control everything. When Chris’s father tried to control him, he only got backlash. Chris only wanted freedom and no intrusion from his father or even the government. He went so far as to burn his money. Maybe it was to really live off of nothing, or maybe it was defiance at the government, or maybe it was both. We may never understand or know these things, but many a day I have pondered why.

Was he really that ignorant? Yes, he did die of starvation from eating a poisonous plant, but it wasn’t even a mis-identification of a plant. He ate part of a plant never really known for even being poisonous, and yet it killed him. He was extremely smart, but more book smart, although this ambition to rely on himself killed him. Was it arrogance or ignorance that did him in? I think both. His ambitions lead him to arrogance, but it was ignorance that killed him. His ambitions lead him on this journey. His arrogance after completing most of his journey lead him to ignorance. He refused help and yet he died for it.

I loved this book but hated it at the same time. You could say it crushed my ambition to live off the land, and yes, that was a good thing, but I hate sad endings. What a great scholar he was. Think of the life he could have lived. Instead he did what he loved. Can anyone really blame him for that? He lived his version of the American dream. We all wish this story had a different ending, but he has been an inspiration and a controversy, and in the end, the truth is revealed.

 

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