Into The Wild - Leanne Longobardi        

Into The Wild Essay

Chris McCandless: Virtuous Philosophy of One’s Life
The most common theme that is reiterated time and time again within Into the Wild is “life,” when Christopher McCandless discusses how we are ultimately the one’s holding ourselves back, not others. The theme is exhibited throughout both the book and the movie in various forms; dialogue and interaction between people, Chris’s letters and notes, and Carine discussing her brother’s own motives, philosophy, and outlook on life. Chris’s personal philosophy is what he lives by and readers and audience members have created their own personal philosophies to follow. Yet, the deeper messages within Chris’s personal philosophy are broad enough to relate to almost anyone, in any circumstance. The readers and audience of Into the Wild, should know that Christopher McCandless’s philosophy of life is that one should be able to go and be free and decide what they want their own fate to be.
Christopher McCandless, also known by his self-claimed nickname, Alexander Supertramp, describes and discusses in detail about how we are the ones who decide our own paths in life and if there is something out there we want, we must chase after it, even if it means others disagree with the decisions made. Chris realized this in his own life and decided to do something about it. He was not going to let his family or jobs hold him back anymore. This simple, yet complex quote manifests the basis of what Christopher McCandless’s life philosophy is. “So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future” (Krakauer 57).

This quote is from McCandless to Ron, one of the men he met on his travels. The quote is directly stating how Chris truly feels (he could do so much more in his life if society was not holding him back) when it comes to life and how he says words like “a lot of people are unhappy with current times,” but “they choose not to do anything about it to remedy the situation,” exactly follows that happiness and life is in an individual’s own hands and how thy make it. In Chris’s eyes, no one else can make your path for you and unless you get out there and take yourself out of your and society’s norm, you may never truly experience your own version of happiness. That is exactly what Chris did and what anyone can achieve, completely following his “free spirited” mentality and way of life by taking action into one’s own hands.

Into the Wild, also demonstrates the power of Chris’s powerful philosophy of life: “At long last he was unencumbered, emancipated from the stifling world of his parents and peers, a world of abstraction and security and material excess, a world in which he felt grievously cut off from the raw throb of existence” (Krakauer 22). This was discussed in the beginning of the book right after Chris had graduated. This quote shows how the reigns are taken into one’s own hands, which tends to be triggered by a specific event, causing action to be taken to change wanted in life. For Chris, this event was the basic tipping point where Chris had accomplished what he was trying to do back at home and his world and life there. It got to a point where he could not take it anymore. The “home life” was not the path he was seeing for himself and decided to do something about it. Chris was over the norms of society, growing up with a family that was privileged, no lack of money, had the grades to achieve law school if he wanted, but he was not satisfied. All of the negative aspects of his life, specifically within his family and his parents were overwhelming to the point where he needed to change that. Without any goodbyes, Chris was off to change that when heading out west. He even changed his name and identity and from there his journey and life was in his hands. Anyone can easily relate, for example those who are not able to fit the mold of a nine to five job. They may have everything going for them, the stable job and salary, but that is not what is going to make them happy in the end.

During the movie Into the Wild also offers a similar perspective. We are showcased with a more visual perspective of Alexander Supertramp’s life along the road and to Alaska. Throughout the movie because it did go back and forth with time, like the book, there would be an overlay of a voice in the background discussing something or we would be shown written quotes in books, instead of just words on a page to interpret. Specifically an example would be when Chris would write in his journal and list the things that he did in number order and simple fragments. Another prominent example is when he was carving this quote into the wood while he was in the bus.

“Two years he walks the earth. No phone, no pool, no pets, no cigarettes. Ultimate freedom. An extremist. An aesthetic voyager whose home is the road. Escaped from Atlanta. Thou shalt not return, ‘cause “the West is the best.” And now after two rambling years come the final and greatest adventure. The climactic battle to kill the false being within and victoriously conclude the spiritual pilgrimage. Ten days and nights of freight and hitchhiking bring him to the Great White North. No longer to be poisoned by civilization he flees, and walks alone upon the land to become lost in the wild.”

The significance of this quote is demonstrated through an emotional and passionate response for what he is doing and where he has come. The voiceover is Chris reading the quote while carving. The camera shots then span back to a different type of picture. This picture and other film is expressing the emotion for the viewer to feel what Chris feels. It shows the innocence of the peace exhibited in the wild through the “wild” caribou running “wild and free” through the snow, while Chris watches from the outside with slight tears and red eyes. Chris is now finally feeling like himself as being finally “wild and free” from society and that this is where he is meant to be in life.

This blurb form Alexander demonstrates his views on himself. The progression of him analyzing his past. He saw the things that he did not like in his life, “the path” was not what he wanted, to the point of where he is now. Doing what he wants, by walking alone to become lost in the wild which is what he wanted all along (even though at the end it is not). He needs to experience for himself what he wanted his life to be like and he could see where he was to where he came. We have the kind of lives for the most part (at least within privileged parts of society) where if we want to, we have the means to do something about something that we do not like. If we are lucky enough to have that chance, we should.

While Chris is in the bar in Carthage, SD talking with Wayne Westerberg, the scene depicts, while they both have had a lot to drink, one of the real reasons he is leaving to go to Alaska. Chris (Alex) exclaims, “Society, man! You know, society! Cause, you know what I don’t understand? I don’t understand why people, why every fucking person is so bad to each other so fucking often. It doesn’t make sense to me. Judgement. Control. All that, whole spectrum. Well, it just… you know…parents, hypocrites, politicians, pricks.” Alex is telling Wayne this and even though Wayne tries to talk him out of it, Alex does not listen because he is doing what he in his heart and mind are saying to do. Wayne is a metaphorical figure for a wall that is telling you to do one thing, but if it is something that you truly want, the wall can be easily ignored and taken down.

When Chris terms what he believes the “philosophy of life” is that when you want something in life, you just gotta reach out and grab it, the simple message actually has a deeper meaning for all. The message being that this is your life, you only have one to do what you want with it. Anything can be at your fingertips if you really want it to be. If you work hard, things will pay off. If there is something that you truly want in life, do not let anyone tell you otherwise, it is always in your hands if you let it be.

Our fate and the only thing stopping us is ourselves and that we can do whatever we wish to achieve. This is important to understand because we as the readers and audience are able to see why sometimes people do what they do in life, because of how they see and interpret their own philosophy of life. We need to respect each person’s philosophy of life because it makes them who they are and it is not okay for people to go and judge someone like many people judge Chris for what he decides is his own path for making his life “his life.” Although he decides at the end that we do need people to be happy, not just nature or anything inanimate object, he was able to figure that out for himself, even though unfortunately this resulted in his death.

Works Cited
Krakauer, Jon. Into the Wild. New York: Anchor Books, 1997. Print.
Penn, Sean. Into the Wild. Paramount Pictures, 2007. Film.


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