The Transcendentalism Of Chris Mccandless In Into The Wild
Christopher Johnson McCandless is a 24 year old explorer who idolized the philosophers Tolstoy, Thoreau, and London; so much so that he immersed himself deep into the wild nature of Alaska only to be found dead just four months later. Chris McCandless, the protagonist of the well-renowned book
by Jon Krakuer is antagonized for his naiveté in the harsh Alaksan wilderness by refusing to come prepared and for having a narcissistic outlook on his life; meanwhile he is also glorified for being a hero who left his materialistic wants behind in order to pursue his inner meaning and an unforgettable adventure.
McCandless is viewed by critics as a senseless fool seeking an insubstantial fantasy. This is due to Chris repeatedly failing to make crucial choices that would have undeniably changed the direction of his future. Chris was facing many difficulties in his household and his first solution to solving these dilemmas was to disappear and avoid his past life completely. Not only did he cease to exist from his family he made another irrational decision, in which he documented, “One hundred and twenty three dollars in legal tender was promptly reduced to ash and smoke” (Krakauer 29). He then set off with the intent of finding the true reason for his existence. His family also provided him with every necessity needed to succeed but Chris was too self-centered to bother contemplating whether he should stay and use them to his advantage. Furthermore, McCandless’ lack of judgement and good sense is especially noticeable during his expedition when he refused to bring a map to avoid knowing about nearby traces of civilization. This evidently led to his death and Chris Brown can agree, “…the fuss about the hiker struck many people as romantic glorification of a death that had more to do with foolish inexperience than with the calculated risks of a daring adventure” (1). In the end Chris McCandless is believed to be the fool who left to discover something only to lose everything in the process.
Chris McCandless was recognized as a narcissist. He was solely concerned with himself, and he acted out of revenge rather than what was believed to be ideal. This mindset was most apparent when he decided to leave his father, mother, and sister, which he loved dearly, behind due to their unresolved troubles. Despite the cries and distress that he caused his family, he vanished and was unheard of for months, making no effort to get into contact or to merely let his parents know that he was unharmed and safe from any danger. He did the same with many others who helped him as well. Ultimately, what can be recognized from his acts was that he didn’t value the friendships and relationships he made as much as he should’ve. Krakauer addressed many readers of the “Outside” piece and one agreed, “Why would any son cause his parents and family such permanent and perplexing pain” (72)? This is a question asked by many other current critics as well. For a person to be given the opportunity to be raised wealthy and to have the funds to be financially stable, one would wonder where Chris’ hesitation was before he left. Overall all that McCandless had simply done was, “… given away a small fortune, forsaken a loving family, abandoned his car, watch and map and burned the last of his money…”(Krakauer 72). Chris’ arrogance is shown that much more throughout this statement. He ventured into the woods ill-prepared due to the overestimation of his ability, and his fantasy in which he dreamed of surviving with only his smarts and self-taught skills.
Chris had many bad attributes to himself and another one that could be added to that list was his recklessness. In no way did Chris prove that he thoroughly thought out his actions before he executed them. This inability is demonstrated continually throughout the novel and many critics have formed opinions, Diana Saverin had to say, “Part of what infuriates many about McCandless was the fact that he intentionally made his trip more dangerous than it had to be—bringing only rice for food, leaving behind a topographical map and compass” (1). This allegation can come to confirm that Chris was an immature man who failed to think of the consequences and challenges he’d face by putting himself in this type of position. Chris McCandless’ lack of proper maps is the reasoning behind his tragic death. Had he been prepared he would have noticed the hand operated tramway just 10min away from him, downstream, that would’ve allowed him to safely cross the Teklanika River. Another example was his limited knowledge about how to preserve meat, this would’ve given him the ability to eat the moose he shot. Chris also relied on outdated information, causing him to become poisoned by a plant which he thought was safe to eat. Conclusively, what can be taken from this was, McCandless constantly made exceptionally poor decisions as a result of his carelessness leading to his inevitable, slow and agonizing death.
Chris McCandless was doubtlessly viewed as an adventurer. He spent months off the land surviving purely on his instincts and skills, exploring, and searching for his true purpose. He claimed the logic behind his adventure was in pursuance of the “…experiences, the memories, the great triumphant joy of living life to the fullest extent…” (Krakauer 37). Chris continues to justify himself as an adventurer when he decides to leave for Alaska, however not for its alluring landscape, but for the challenging journey it would provide him. By surviving as long as he did with his limited equipment he has proven that happiness does not rely upon comfort but the experiences you endure and the small victories in which you achieve on your own. His strength comes from the books he carries and are what inspired him to live in isolation. Unintentionally McCandless’ expedition was seen by others as “…the possibility of a life in which adventure was the norm, not the exception.” (Saverin 2). Thus verifying Chris as an adventurer and a transcendentalist looking for his inner meaning to life. Although his ending was uncalled for he did encourage the lives of many to get up and stop wasting their precious lives.
Chris Mcandless is seen as visionary because he’d constantly plan his future and imagine his destiny, while in the present. He’d view items essential to us, as unnecessary and then plan accordingly on how to survive without them. He even opened the eyes of writers, such as Pete Mason, who is now aware, “… the material goods we all cherish and seek to obtain as status symbols are doing nothing but holding us back from doing what we are truly capable of doing” (1). Chris also inscribed in a letter to Ron Franz a stimulating message about how his current old-fashioned lifestyle would limit him from experiencing the world around him. This indicates that Chris is not only visionary towards himself but also towards the people he cherishes. Chris was enlightened enough at a young age to notice several people around him living a habitual lifestyle, fortunately he was strong-willed to avoid this path and was intent on living unconventionally. With this belief of living life non-conformally he encouraged the people he met to do the same and, involuntarily, those he had not met as well.
McCandless is labeled as a hero for his bravery and ability to avoid social norms taught by society. Two sides of Chris are consistently debated over and one side that seems to outweigh the other is “…the tragic hero who dared to live the unmediated life he had dreamed of and died trying…” (Power 3). In his rejection of maps, cars, money, and many other essentials needed to survive, he proved himself to be an individual capable of non-conformity and an adventurous young man looking for his inner purpose. Not many can survive as long as Chris did in the Alaskan wilderness, especially with his amount of supplies. His strength and perseverance in this process, and his determination to conquer his dream are what justified him as a hero. Although he died, he accomplished something where very few others have success in. Overall Chris’ journey of self discovery has taught him happiness and allowed him to attempt to conquer his dreams without fear of the consequences he’d have to encounter. He resisted a society he did not agree with and in that he inspired others to do the same.
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