Into the Wild is a novel about an adventurous man, Chris McCandless, who set foot to "live off the land". Chris decides to travel to Alaska where he comes across many difficult barriers and the environment eventually turns fatal.
Transcendentalism is a philosophy that says that our knowledge of reality comes from an analysis of our own thought processes, rather than from scientific evidence. According to the transcendentalist, if God exists, He can be found through human intuition. Transcendentalism is most commonly associated with a philosophical/religious view developed in the mid-1800s by a group of mainly Unitarian and agnostic intellectuals in New England.
Transcendentalism can simply be explained as when someone experiences life above or outside the normal range of experience. Some examples include...
- Immersion in nature
"McCandless was thrilled to be on his way north, and he was relieved as well - relieved that he had again evaded the impending threat of human intimacy, of friendship, and all the messy emotional baggage that comes with it. He had fled the claustrophobic confines of his family. He'd successfully kept Jan Burres and Wayne Westerberg at arm's length, flitting out of their lives before anything was expected of him. And now he'd slipped painlessly out of ron Franz's life as well." -INto the wild, 55
- This passage from Into the Wild shows how Chris McCandless tends to leave people behind, due to his calling in nature. He enjoys being out in the wild, alone, without anyone else to worry about. This characteristic in Chris, makes him a Transcendentalist because he would rather spend his time in the wild, where it's just nature, Chris, and God.
" 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 comes the final and greatest adventure, the climatic battle to kill the false being within and victoriously conclude the spiritual revolution. Ten days and nights of freight trains 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. - Alexander Supertramp, May 1992." -Into the wild, 163
In this passage, Chris McCandless aka, Alexander Supertramp, talks about his drive for the wild. His passion towards escaping society and being alone in the wild is revealed. He shows how his relationship with God and nature is prominent.
"It is easy, when you are young, to believe that what you desire is no less than what you deserve, to assume that if you want something badly enough, it is your GOD-given right to have it. when i decided to go to Alaska that April, like Chris McCandless, i was a raw youth who mistook passion for insight and acted according to an obscure, gap-ridden logic. i thought that climbing the Devils Thumb would fix all that was wrong with my life. IN THE END, OF COURSE, IT CHANGED ALMOST NOTHING. BUT I CAME TO APPRECIATE THAT MOUNTAINS MAKE POOR RECEPTACLES FOR DREAMS. AND I LIVED TO TELL MY TALE." -iNTO THE WILD, 155
- This passage from Into the Wild is another example of Transcendentalism. It explains how some people believe that being alone with nature and god will fix their lives. Krakauer explains the reason as to why he felt the need to go on his trip, which supports transcendentalism.
"HIS intercourse with heaven and earth becomes part of his daily food. In the presence of nature, a wild delight runs through the man , in spite of real sorrows." -Nature, EMerson
- This quote from Nature shows the power of the relationship between man and nature. Upon uniting, man and nature become an integral part of God.
"But the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude." - Self-Reliance, Emerson
- This quote from Self-Reliance is an example of transcendentalism because it supports nonconformity and self-reliance. Be who you are without listening to anyone who tells you who to be.
"The only obligation which i have a right to assume is to do at any time what i think right." -Civil Disobedience, Thoreau
- This quote from Civil Disobedience supports the idea of self-reliance. Therefore, it is an example of Transcendentalism.
" Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail." -Walden, Thoreau
- It is clear that this quote from Walden supports the idea of simplicity. Life doesn't have to be complicated if you keep it simple.
" Much Madness is divinest sense- to a discerning eye- much sense- the starkest madness- 'Tis the majority" -Much madness is divinest sense, Dickinson
- This paradox from Much Madness is divinest Sense is an example of transcendentalism because it supports the ideas of self-reliance and nonconformity. The paradox states that madness is sensible and what seems to make sense, is actually madness. Be yourself and don't follow others.
" How soon unaccountable i became tired and sick, till rising and gliding out i wander'd off by myself, in the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time, Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars." -When i heard the LEarn'd Astronomer, WHitman
- This quote from When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer supports the idea of immersion in nature. Whitman explains that nature is always available to clear your mind and give you peace.
In conclusion, Into the Wild contains many examples of transcendentalism. From Chris' drive for nature, to wanting a simple life without the complications of society, transcendentalism is seen throughout the novel- as well as some pieces of literature.