Into The Wild - Jose Calderon          

Into The Wild Essay

Chris McCandless from Into The Wild
In the book, Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, the main character Chris McCandless, lives a life that many would consider to be irresponsible and irrelevant. Chris instead of pursuing a career drops out society to explore the United States. My assessment of Chris however, is that he is a transcendentalist and is guided by the same philosophies that guided Thoreau and Emerson. Although Chris is not expressing his objection to the norms of society through writing or other artistic endeavors we nonetheless see that his lifestyle choices are driven by a deep commitment to the same philosophies held by the great thinkers of the transcendental movement. Transcendentalism is a philosophical and literary movement that embraces themes of nature and spirituality while going against society and materialism. Chris scorned most of all modern society and came to hold a certain reverence for nature. He also chose not to conform to others concepts of happiness and instead set off to find his own.

Chris made a conscious choice from an early age to pursue transcendentalist philosophies. Chris had unique approach to life and was thinking deeply and intensely about many things. McCandless even viewed running as an intensely spiritual exercise and would try to motivate his teammates by putting his pep talks to them in spiritual terms. Eric Hathaway, a running teammate of Chris said, “He’d tell us to think about all the evil in the world, all the hatred, and imagine ourselves running against the forces of darkness, the evil wall that was trying to keep us from running our best. He believed doing well was all mental, a simple matter of harnessing whatever energy was available. As impressionable high school kids, we were blown away by that kind of talk.” (112) Chris had many options in life, as he was not only smart but naturally talented. He attended Emory University where his cumulative GPA was a 3.72 and he was offered a membership to Phi Beta Kappa. Chris declined this offer because he thought that titles and honors were irrelevant. Most people would be thrilled to have society honor them with such a coveted award. But in rejecting this Chris confirms his belief that titles and honors are not important to him. Chris knows that titles are only useful for a person who aspires to be a member of society and since he has chosen not to be a member of society he has no interest in titles.

Chris was a minimalist and avoided materialism. “During his senior year at Emory, Chris lived off campus in his bare, Spartan room furnished with milk crates and a mattress on the floor.” (26) Chris did not want many material things and only lived off what he need to survive. He did this same thing when he went on his adventure in Alaska. He brought a minimal amount of equipment. Many people criticized Chris’ adventure to Alaska and called him stupid for the minimal amount of gear and food he brought to survive in the Alaskan wilderness. “McCandless didn’t take ‘what he needed,’ which was part of the problem from the get-go. McCandless was in no way ‘prepared’ to be going into the wilderness or coming out. If McCandless had shown the sense to take ‘risks in his journey,’ he might be alive today.” (3) But Chris took all he wanted, he took what he thought he needed and lasted longer than many people would have, for this I believe he is owed respect. Chris wanted a challenge. The challenge he presented himself was to survive on what nature provided him rather than the material items he could bring with him. This approach to surviving in the outdoors fit with his transcendentalist value system, believing that nature was perfection, perhaps he believed that nothing bad could happen to him in nature.

Chris was very successful in school and proved that he could perform well. He received a generous scholarship to attend college and after graduating college he donated all of what was left of his college fund, an astonishing $24,000. to OXFAM America, a charity dedicated to fighting world hunger. Chris was a good person who showed he cared for those in need. He expressed this through his donation.
Chris then set on his adventure. During his travels he focused on transcendental values, being one with nature. This led Chris to exclude relationships from his life. This does not mean he wasn’t social, it only means it wasn't a requirement to help him achieve his goals. Therefore he Chris avoided intimate relationships with other people. For example, he steers away from Robert Franz's offer of adopting Chris to become his grandson, after the two of them form a close relationship. “'So I [Franz] asked Chris if I could adopt him, if he would be my grandson.' McCandless, uncomfortable with the request, dodged the question: 'We'll talk about it when I get back from Alaska, Ron'” (55). Chris avoids any attachment to people he encounters in order to follow Transcendentalist ideals. Building relationships is a distraction from his real goal, which is to achieve total independence and a spiritual connection with nature. He instead invested his time in reading books by Jack London and Henry David Thoreau. Both London and Thoreau found inspiration for their writing from nature and the themes of their books were based in nature. Chris proves he is a transcendentalist because he prefers solitude over socializing, believing that being alone, to be one with nature, is a more meaningful and spiritual experience. Chris ultimately made his last journey to Alaska, where he died from ingesting a moldy potato seed, which shut down his ability to digest food. This unfortunate event caused Chris to die of starvation. Chris lived a short life but had many experiences that made his life meaningful to him and many others. Chris pursued his passion and didn't let society decide for him. I believe Chris died happy. One with nature.

Chris had a love for nature and let nothing stand in his way. This is why he will always be admired. He did something people are scared to do. Chris was a true transcendentalist who was very strong willed and his legacy will be told forever.

Works cited page

"Examining Chris McCandless, 20 Years after He Went 'Into the Wild'" Alaska Dispatch. Web. 03 Dec. 2014.>.
"Chris McCandless: Modern Day Transcendentalist?" Transcend the Systems. Web. 03 Dec. 2014.>.

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