Into the Wild The story of Chris McCandless

Into the Wild is the true story of Chris McCandless, a young man from California, who left his family in pursuit of living off the land. After college graduation, McCandless cut off communication with his family, donated $25,000 in savings to charity, burned all of the paper money he had on him, deserted his car in Arizona, & changed his name to Alexander Supertramp. Into the Wild by Jon Krakuer is the true account of Chris McCandless' life (& eventual death) as a Alexander Supertramp, told by people whose lives had been greatly impacted by meeting him along the way.
"So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future."

McCandless was a firm believer in Transcendentalism, the philosophical movement that teaches sanctity & divinity are found all throughout the natural world. The movement began in New England in the late 1820's & was widely spread through the literary community. Ralph Waldo Emerson & Henry David Thoreau were two eminent transcendentalist authors at this time.

Christopher Johnson McCandless was born to Walt & Billie McCandless on February 12th, 1968, in El Segundo California. Three years later, his little sister, Carine McCandless, was born. Chris graduated from Wilbert Tucker Wilson High School in 1986 & began attending Emory University. During his time at Emory, Chris began a rocky relationship with his parents after discovering his father's infidelity. Despite this, Chris managed to reconcile with his family during his graduation ceremony in 1990. June 1990, however, would be the last time in McCandlesses heard from their son. In July 1990, Christopher McCandless took his car & headed west to live according to his transcendentalism like beliefs. After abandoning his beloved yellow Datsun, Chris began hitchhiking, which is how he met Jan Buress as well as others such as Wayne Westenberg or Ronald Franz. McCandless changed his name to Alexander Supertramp & began a new life for himself, impacting the lives of many others along the way. In late April, McCandless left his current living situation to live off the land in Alaska. Four months later, on August 18th, Mccandless died, leaving behind a note that read, "I have a had a happy life and thank The Lord. Goodbye and may God bless all!"
From Nature is a work of transcendentalism by popular transcendentalist author Ralph Waldo Emerson. Similarly, Into the Wild is a work of modern transcendentalism. Due to this affinity, there are various quotes from From Nature which relate the the story of Chris McCandless. In From Nature, Emerson writes, "The stars awaken a certain reverence, because though always present, they are inaccessible; but all natural objects make a kindred impression, when the mind is open to their influence." This quote directly relates to Chris McCandless. McCandless too believed that nature would influence those who open their mind to it. This was one of the reasons he went on his odyssey. He went to open his mind to nature & let it influence him.
Self Reliance, another work by the beloved transcendentalist author Emerson, also closely relates to Into the Wild. In Self Reliance, Emerson writes, "What I must do, is all that concerns me, not what the people think." This is Emerson's way of saying that he will live his life according to his rules. McCandless followed this philosophy as well. McCandless did not care what those around him thought when he cut off communication with them. He did not care what the people he met along the way of his journey thought he should do. He did what he needed to do to feel fulfilled. He lived according to his own decree.
Civil Disobedience is an account of the night prominent transcendentalist author, Henry David Thoreau, spent in jail. Thoreau is sent to prison for refusing to pay his taxes. Thoreau only refuses to pay because he feel sit is unfair that the average citizen must pay taxes, but that the church does not have to. About this, Thoreau writes, "Some years ago, the State met me in behalf of the Church, and commanded me to pay a certain sum toward the support of a clergyman whose preaching my father attended but never I myself. "Pay," it said, "or be locked in the jail." I declined to pay." This shows that Thoreau feels so strongly about the belief that everybody is equal that he was willing to be thrown in jail for it. Similarly, McCandless believed that ever human being was equal as well. He thought that all human life was created equally & thus, should be treated that way.
Another work of transcendentalism by Thoreau is Walden. Walden tells the story of Thoreau going to live off the land. Thoreau writes, "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, ad not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." This sentence is nearly the exact reason McCandless left on his journey to Alaska. McCandless wanted to learn from the land & live off only what nature provided.
In the Emily Dickinson poem, "Much Madness is divinest Sense," Dickinson writes, "Assent-and you are sane- / Demur-youre straight away dangerous- / And handled with a Chain-" Dickinson tells here how society thinks you insane if you didn't follow their normalized ways. McCandless felt this way as well. He knew that society looked at him as odd for abandoning all his material possessions, but he didn't care. Despite the way society looked dow upon him, he continued to live the way that he wanted.
In the Walt Whitman poem, "When I Heard the Learned Astronomer," Whitman writes the line, "In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time, / Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars." This line is about taking the beauty of the world around you. McCandless was clearly a big believer in taking in the nature around you. As McCandless journeyed, he experienced many, many beautiful works of nature.

McCandless' sisters return to his Alaskan home & share their thoughts.

A quick explanation of what happened to Chris McCandless.

For more information on Christopher Johnson McCandless:

"Don’t hesitate or allow yourself to make excuses. Just get out and do it."


Created with images by Paxson Woelber - "O'Malley Peak, Alaska"

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