Into The Wild - Sarah Ulaky          

Into The Wild Essay

Sarah Ulaky
Dr. Bordelon
American Literature I
11 December 2014

“I Now Walk Into the Wild:”
The Transcendental Journey of a Supertramp

“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” (McCandless in Krakauer 163). From his own unique Declaration of Independence, Christopher McCandless describes his transcendental odyssey to free existence from Annandale, Virginia to Fairbanks, Alaska. Transcendentalism provoked ideas associated with individualism, simplicity, and nature. According to Backgrounds of American Literary Thought, transcendentalism is “The triumph of feeling and intuition over reason, the exaltation of the individual over society, the impatience at any kind of restraint or bondage to custom, [and] the new and thrilling delight in nature” (Horton 116). Transcendental beliefs are depicted in the works of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the early and mid 1800’s. However, the ideas derived from these men still exist as they become endured and re-created. Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild tells of the college graduate, McCandless, who flees society in 1990 with nothing but a backpack and his own mind. His nomadic existence freed him from ordinary civilized life. The ideas of Transcendentalism are portrayed within the life and aspirations of McCandless. This is illustrated by a strong sense of individualism, the need for minimalism, and the thrill discovered within nature.

Individuality can be described as living a separate existence which distinguishes oneself from the rest of society. It often leads to isolating oneself, or embarking on a unique personal journey. Ideas of individuality are prevalent within McCandless’s transcendental voyage. He felt poisoned by civilization, any form of government, and even his own family. Krakauer describes McCandless’s new-found life upon being free in Alaska as “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” (22). After discovering his parents’ unforeseen pasts regarding infidelity, McCandless abandons his dysfunctional upper class family after his devastation and lack of trust builds up. He disagrees with his parents’ authority, as well as their love for luxury. He escaped his family, leaving no trace of himself behind. Former friend, Eric Hathaway, claims “Chris just didn’t like being told what to do. I think he would have been unhappy with any parents; he had trouble with the whole idea of parents” (Krakauer 115). Within isolation, McCandless felt comfort. He was free from a rule-stricken civilization and drawn to a greater existence. He followed his own dreams and choices, despite others putting him down and telling him not to.

Describing McCandless’s journey to his ultimate freedom, Krakauer writes:
Driving west out of Atlanta, he intended to invent an utterly new life for himself, one in which he would be free to wallow in unfiltered experience. To symbolize the complete severance from his previous life, he even adopted a new name. No longer would he answer to Chris McCandless; he was now Alexander Supertramp, master of his own destiny. (22)

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