Into The Wild - Sarah Ulaky 3          

Into The Wild Essay

Similar to McCandless, Thoreau exemplified minimalism as he writes of his journey in Walden, living alone in the woods for two years and two months. He braced himself with only bare essentials and spent his time embracing the nature around him, as well as peace within himself. Thoreau believed that the only essentials man needs to survive are food, shelter, clothing, and fuel, as exhibited in “Economy” in Walden. Thoreau writes, “The necessaries of life for man in this climate may, accurately enough, be distributed under the several heads of Food, Shelter, Clothing, and Fuel; for not till we have secured these are we prepared to entertain the true problems of life with freedom and a prospect of success” (986). He claims that he only needed those four essentials, with the exception of his own mind, to sustain his life and survive. Surviving in the wild with minimal belongings poses as a challenge, a threat of danger, in which both transcendentalists were willing to put themselves through.

An exhilaration found within nature is a transcendental prospect that McCandless certainly fulfilled. His journey to Alaska entailed nights of sleeping outdoors, canoeing through rough waters, and submerging himself in the wild life. He hunted, plucked berries and fed himself potato seeds, which were eventually thought to have killed him due to a poisonous mold that was growing on them. McCandless’s fascination of the beautiful scenery and landscape of nature is evident in a postcard to Wayne Westerberg. Describing his travels as he tramped through Arizona, he writes, “I’ve been tramping around Arizona for about a month now. This is a good state! There is all kinds of fantastic scenery and climate is wonderful….I’ve decided that I’m going to live this life for some time to come. The freedom and simple beauty of it is just too good to pass up” (McCandless in Krakauer 33). He felt a delight within the beauty of nature, as well as freedom in it. McCandless gave up a civilized lifestyle to submerge himself in the intensity of nature. On a sheet of plywood inside the “Magic Bus,” McCandless writes, “No longer to be poisoned by civilization he flees, and walks alone upon the land to become lost in the wild” (Krakauer 163). Within the wilderness, he felt a sense of belonging. On the occasions that he would step back into society along his journey, he felt uncomfortable, and needed to leave immediately. He was a misfit within civilized community and became “one” with the savageness of the wild.

McCandless’s transcendental views of nature parallel Thoreau’s intimate desire for the wilderness and Emerson’s spirituality discovered in nature. Comparable to the virgin Thoreau, McCandless remained chaste and felt an intimacy within nature. Krakauer writes, “In the chapter ‘Higher Laws’ in Thoreau’s Walden, a copy of which was also discovered on the bus, McCandless circled ‘Chastity is the flowering of man; and what are called Genius, Heroism, Holiness, and the like, are but various fruits which succeed it’”(66). Furthermore, “McCandless may have been tempted by the succor offered by women, but it paled beside the prospect of rough congress with nature, with the cosmos itself. And thus he was drawn to the north, to Alaska” (66). Thoreau and McCandless both shared a lust for nature, a desire that human contact could not fulfil. Their affection for nature was more powerful than any affection found within the civilized world.

McCandless and Emerson both believed that God could be found within the beauty of nature. In “The American Scholar”, Emerson states, “What is nature to him? There is never a beginning, there is never an end to the inexplicable continuity of this web of God, but always circular power returning into itself” (245). He believes that God is constantly projecting himself within nature. McCandless writes a letter to a dear friend, Ron Franz, who helps him along his journey to Alaska. Within the letter, he writes, “You are wrong if you think Joy emanates only or principally from human relationships. God has placed it all around us. It is in everything and anything we might experience. We just have to have the courage to turn against our habitual lifestyle and engage in unconventional living” (McCandless in Krakauer 57). Both transcendentalists shared the belief of finding God within nature, all while finding themselves. God has created a beautiful wilderness, where one must stray away from conventional living to enjoy. The vast wilderness is a place unaltered by mankind, and not poisoned by civilization. It is a place where one can be free and seek a spiritual connection, as did McCandless and Emerson.

McCandless can be considered a modern day transcendentalist, as he exhibited the same beliefs as Thoreau and Emerson. He created a strong sense of individualism for himself as he became isolated from the corruption of society. He carried few belongings, disregarded money, and lived minimally in order to challenge himself. Finally, he embraced the full force of nature and all of its beauty, as well as its struggles. His admiration for transcendental literature along with his fearlessness led him into the wild to create his own journey and rid himself from a world of authority and impurities.

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