Into The Wild - Morgan Taylor          

Into The Wild Essay

Morgan Taylor
Mr. Hale
AP Lang and Comp Period 7
March 9, 2015

Sojourn eternally in the Wild

Alan Alda stated, “You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.” Christopher McCandless traveled the road for many years to do just that. His entire life he tried living in society and was dominated by his father and their differences. Chris finally needed to be himself. Chris was always different from the rest, he “marched to the beat of his own drum”. Chris was a well liked man, but he was always the odd one out. He was “hungry to learn”, “seduced by the wild”, valued “moral purity” and many other things that made Chris who he was. People believed Chris to be strange because of his passion for nature, but I believe the world would be a better place with more people like him. Chris said that, “The freedom and simple beauty of nature is just too good to pass up,” (33). Imagine how different our world would be like today if more people thought like Chris did. Although Chris went into the wild ill-prepared, costing him his life, Chris and his story had “an indelible impression” on many. One may argue Chris was careless, but he was just a young man who lusted after finding himself and his place in the world. Chris McCandless had “a yearning of such queer intensity that it beggars the modern imagination,” (97). As Krakauer expressed, “McCandless wasnt some feckless slacker, adrift and confused...To the contrary:His life hummed with meaning and purpose,” (184).

Chris McCandless was not one to conform to society. He went against all societies desires for innovation and the technology age, and went back into the primitive era. Some believe McCandless to be an “idealistic, energetic young guy who overestimates themselves, underestimated the country and ended up in trouble,” (74). Others also believe him to be ignorant and arrogant. Although, McCandless is quite the opposite. McCandless was an esthete and chose, unlike most of our population today, to be an atavistic which is admirable. McCandless didn’t care for ephemeral objects. All he needed were the bare minimal necessities. In the town of Bullhead, Chris tried to fit into the modern world society, “his yearning..was too powerful to be quenched by human contact”. He lived in a trailer and got a job at the local BullHead McDonald’s. Although his efforts did fail. Even the assistant manager, George Dreesezen, confessed, “Frankly, I was surprised he never got fired,” (40). He went on to explain how Chris worked at his own pace and “didn't make the connection. It was like he was off in his own universe,” (40). He was not able to keep up with the fast pace McDonaldization world we live in because he became accustomed to watching the grass grow. As Ken Sleight stated, “We like companionship, see, but we can’t stand to be around people for very long. So we get ourselves lost, come back for awhile, then get the hell out again,” (96).

When McCandless started getting “itchy feet”, he quit the flipping burger lifestyle and decided he wanted to head off to Alaska. At this point Chris was already too far gone to ever return to civilization. Whether it was him taking his socks of the minute he clocked out of McDonalds or his endless hunger to travel, Chris could never return to the “humdrum” lifestyle us people in society take part in every day. Once the “socks” were off, they were off, and it would never be the same, Chris had “walked into the wild” for good. Burres,a man at the trailer park Chris lived in, offered him some money. He tried convincing him that he couldn't “get along in this world” without it but Chris refused to accept it. Burre thought he had convinced him to take a Swiss Army knife, a few belt knives, long underwear, and other warm clothing. The next morning Burree found that he had hidden all of the things he gave him under the seat of his van. Chris unlike the majority preferred to live a life without “things”. If the cavemen could live without a Swiss army knife, Chris McCandless could too. Krakauer makes the argument that McCandless is richer in other ways. He doesn't need money or material objects in his life to make him happy. He leaves his car, gives away all of his money to a hunger charity and burns all of the cash left in his wallet so he can run away from civilization and he learns to understand and appreciate nature and the little things in life like hunting game. He proves that one can live with nothing but the clothes on their back and live a happy life. As Roderick Nash said in Wilderness And The American Mind, “Wilderness appealed to those bored or disgusted with man and his works. It not only offered an escape from society, but also was an ideal stage for the Romantic individual”.

The general population today does not think twice about the Earth and how we are impacting it. The Earth is a map of its own statistics and evidence to prove it. From the annual increase in melting glaciers in Iceland to the decline in rainforests in South America our world is disintegrating as we know it because today people are caught up in consumerism. One forgets that we only have one Earth and once the damage is done no one can fully fix it. Chris McCandless goes against all of those advocates,”When he talked, he was always going on about trees and nature and weird stuff like that. We all thought he was missing a few screws,”(40) Zara explained to Krakauer. Society believes Chris to be an outcast and an eremitic because he was different, he wanted to be close to nature. Chris is not a wack job because he did what he did, he was appreciative and gracious of the world around us. As Thoreau states, “...it is impossible to live off the land without developing both a subtle understanding of, and a strong emotional bond with, that land and all it holds,” (183). Through the many archives left behind by Chris one can get a taste of his infatuation for the wilderness. Chris left behind writings such as “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…” and “ALL HAIL THE PHANTOM BEAR, THE BEAST WITHIN US ALL” engraved within a bear skull. One story in particular really speaks to Chris’s gratitude.

“MOOSE!” jumped and screamed off the blank page in the Tanamina Plantlore, which Chris used as a journal to write down his thoughts and the game he’d catch. Chris had always been reluctant about killing animals, but realized it was the only way to survive. Chris soon grew guilty about killing the moose. He believed it to be morally wrong to waste any part of an animal, and with the moose being the largest game he had killed he spent six days working at preserving the meat before it spoiled. For five days Chris spent each day removing parts of the carcass. What he did not realize was that smoking the meat would not preserve it and he eventually just left what was left for the wolves. Chris recorded in his journal “I now wish I had never shot the moose. One of the greatest tragedies of my life,” (167). Chris “castigated himself severely for this waste of a life he’d taken” and the moose haunted him until mid-May when he stopped “rebuking himself” over what he had done. Chris held it against himself for the life he had seized. His gratitude to the land and all that holds it proves that Chris was not just on a conquest to make a point to society that he was the “collective cliche” that could.

“A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others”. Chris did not take on this endless endeavour to become the next chapter in a history textbook or unit in AP Language and Composition. He did took this peregrination for himself. Chris is putting himself and only himself to the test, unlike McCunn whose, “big dream was to go off and live in the woods with some beautiful woman”. McCunn had spoken to a couple different girls who worked with them and “spent a lot of time and energy” trying to convince them to accompany on his trip. Chris McCandless is not like McCunn. He told no one of where he was going and only kept few continuous relationship with people on his journey. He did not want to be found because he just wanted to be engulfed by nature. In his journal he did not leave behind in depth entries, just kept track of what he hunted everyday and things like how the weather was. If Chris was doing this for some sort of media attention, he would not be dead now. He would have wanted to live to see himself in the limelight be apart of interviews and movie productions. Instead, he let himself drift away with nature to get a better understanding of it and himself, not for the fame.

I spent my past Christmas in the Amazon rainforest of Ecuador. At first it seemed impossible to fall asleep to the croak of the frogs, the buzz of the bugs, the flapping of the bats, and the screams of the howler monkeys. The unruly concert of the wild was alarming at first, but with time, it became to be a soothing melody that I could fall fast asleep too. Although I did not spend over one hundred days alone in a reclusive bus in Alaska, I came face to face with poisonous Wolf spiders, monkeys of all shapes and sizes, pink dolphins, colonies of green Macaws, and the Achuar tribe, the last indian tribe discovered by Western civilization only thirty years ago. When reading about Chris and his story, I often thought about how the Achuar are the people he strived to be. They live one hundred percent off the land. After spending the afternoon line fishing piranha for the tribe for dinner in a canoe, Simon, our Achuar guide, took us to his tribe to visit his community (76 communities within the Achuar tribe). My father and I were the first outsiders to get to do this, as well as visit the sacred shaman of the community.

When we approached the shamans meager palm roofed hut, his appearance was intimidating. He sat wearing a cloth around his waist and had a feather head dress accompanied with long strands of beads that hung down his shoulders to his waist. Through our two way translation, My father speaking spanish to Simon who then in turn spoke Achuar to the shaman, we learned all about the way their people survive. The way they worship the land and all of it’s creatures, how they praise the jaguar and the Saban tree, and how they hunt and use the plants of the forest for medicine and everyday necessities. The shaman and people of the tribe expressed their gratitude to us for visiting them because they want people to know about their land and to appreciate it because it is apart of them. In return the woman of the tribe placed a red, yellow, and orange beaded headband on my head saying “Makatay”, meaning ‘thank you’ in Achuar. They then taught me how to use a six foot long blow dart gun, made entirely from the resources they have in the wild. I held up the long bamboo like gun over my shoulder, closed my eyes, and blew, fantasizing in my mind how this is what these people have to do if they want to survive. The Achuar people have nothing except the land and manage to live a happy life.

The Achuar are the people Chris desires to be. His obsession of nature and food being sacred and spiritual is how these natives live their lives everyday. Our society has lost its grasp on that. Food no longer has a gracious sacred meaning. Most people do not even know where their food comes from and are oblivious as to the fact that most of the food we eat now is not “real food” and is made up mostly of preservatives and hormones. This is why I am trying to keep a balance in my life between Chris and the Achuar and society today. I support Chris and his lust for the wilderness and his gratitude to it because it provides him with food and life. “Deliberate Living..” Chris writes, “Conscious attention to the basics of life..The Great Holiness of FOOD, the Vital Heat,” (168). I believe that our world needs to become more appreciative of that and be more concerned with the types of things people put into their bodies everyday and try to eat more locally to discontinue that problem. Although, one does not necessarily need to take the steps Chris did to understand how to appreciate food from our planet. His turned more into a sick obsession, only consuming food he could pull from the land. His obsession becomes unhealthy when his body is not getting the nutrients it needs. The land he is on can not supply him with what he needs. Chris’s intentions were good, but once that obsession became too crazed, it cost him his life. There are other ways one can cherish the planet and the resources it gives us. To keep myself closely grounded with what Chris is trying to achieve, I attend every local farmers market to show support. I also try and teach my family and friends about modern society food versus back to the roots, local, organic food. I am able to keep the notion that food is solemn without risking my life how Chris did.

Many try to argue that Chris was a sociopath and had antisocial issues. Although, Carine, defend that “He wasn’t antisocial- he always had friends, everybody liked him...He could be alone without being lonely”. Others will say he was ignorant and that “Entering the wilderness purposefully ill-prepared, and surviving a near death experience does not make you a better human..” (71). Although, Chris was not that person. Yes, how he went about the situation was selfish. Walt says, “The fact that Chris is gone is a sharp hurt I feel every single day. It’s really hard. Some days are better than others, but it’s going to be hard every day for the rest of my life,” (203). Chris’s mind set on his disappearance was that he had to do something for himself. His whole life he lived under the rule of his dysfunctional family. Chris “submitted to Walt’s authority through high school and college to a surprising degree” but he was always aching inside. For example, Walt and Billie had pressured him into going to Emory University when he never wanted to further his education. Eventually he had to be his own person, he even tells Carine that he “finally passed my breaking point”. Chris goes more in depth to say: “I’m going to let them think they are right...And then, once the time is right, with one abrupt swift action I’m going to completely knock them out of my life. I’m going to divorce them as my parents once and for all and never speak to either of those idiots again… I’ll be through with them once and for all, forever,” (64).

Not only did Chris suffer from the pressures of his father, he made a scandalous discovery about his father's life as well. Chris exposed his fathers double life with a woman named Marcia and their son, Quinn McCandless, “facts to which he had not been privy”. Walt, had continued a secret relationship with Marcia also while having a relationship with Chris’s mother, Billie. “Lies were told and then exposed, begetting more lies to explain away the initial deceptions… When Walt's double life came to light, the revelations inflicted deep wounds,” (121). Chris’s did not feel like he had anyone to stick around for. The constant lies and throwing around “things” to try and impress society disgusted Chris deeply, it was never who he was. He was always said to not be like everyone else, he was always different, an outcast. I dont believe that Chris put on a facade that he was a tree hugger just so he could get away from his parents. Chris would not have spent over one hundred days in a cold bus in the middle of Alaska, with no tools, risking his life, if he just wanted to be away from his family. Yes, Chris had a dysfunctional family which always haunted him, but Chris did not find peace with nature because of it. It is how Chris always was, “one with nature”. His family just gave him no reason to stay around.

Chris was the type of person who “insisted on living out on his beliefs” and this made people to believe he was selfish. After a person spends their whole life living to please others, there comes a point in time where they need to live for themselves. Being under the jurisdiction of his father Chris was never able to find himself entirely. Chris had to take his “wounds to the wilderness for a cure”. Krakauer says, “McCandless went into the wilderness not primarily to ponder nature or the world at large, but rather, to explore the inner country of his own soul,” (183). And that he did. How could one live without knowing who oneself was? What their purpose in life was? Chris was “looking for more adventure and freedom than today’s society gives people”. Chris McCandless was a “seeker”.

If one was to look deep into the life of Chris and take time to understand his beliefs and dreams, they could see the good in him. Chris’s actions are questioned by many but all he was was a man with goals. He had a whole unique perspective of the world and graciousness towards it. Chris appreciated nature and what it had to offer and wanted to become one with it. Although, the extremes he took to become as close as possible may have been wrong, costing him his life, he died happy. He was happy because he succeeded what he had wished to accomplish, living off the wild. Most of society is wrapped up in technology and the humdrum lifestyle, causing them to forget our roots and where we come from. Even where our food comes from. Chris was never happy to conform with society, so he found his source of euphoria, thus being able to live a simple, content, fulfilled life. Due to Chris’s harsh enigmatic upbringing, he never found his sense of self. He had to “kill the false being within” once and for all.On his transcendent journey, he was reborn and was able to piece together who he was, what made him him. Chris did not need money or a new car instead of his Datsun to do that. All he needed was the simplicity of nature. Imagine how the world would be if there were more Chris McCandless’s.


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