Into the Wild and Transcendentalism

Chris "Alexander Supertramp" McCandless was born on February 12, 1968. He is the son of Walt and Billie McCandless. After facing what could have been a domestically abusive childhood, Chris went to college at Emory University. After graduation at Emory, Chris donated what money he had in his fund to charity. He then took his yellow Datsun and traveled across the country never mentioning traveling to his family and never speaking to them again. McCandless then abandoned his in the car and most of his belongings and took to hitchhiking across the country. He adopted a new name for himself, Alexander Supertramp. He met many people while traveling such as Ronald Franz, Jim Gallien, Wayne Westerberg, and Bob and Jan Buress, to name a few. McCandless traversed the Western United States and even parts of Mexico for some time before finally deciding to make his final adventure to Alaska. McCandless spent over one hundred days in the Alaskan wilderness in abandoned bus number 142 before dying of starvation. His body was found by hikers weeks later.

Into the Wild is a modern Transcendentalist novel written by John Krakauer. It recounts the life and journey of Chris "Alexander Supertramp" McCandless using McCandless's multiple journals and letters as well as stories from the people he met during his travels. The reader pieces together the story of McCandless's journey through stories from his sister about his childhood, as well as stories about his adventure around the country from the many people he met along the way. Krakauer also includes stories of people very similar to McCandless and even includes a story of himself at McCandless's age. The reader follows McCandless as he meets Bob and Jan Buress, works for Wayne Westerberg, and joins Ronald Franz. The novel ends with Chris's journey to the Alaskan wilderness and his eventual death. Krakauer speculates McCandless's cause of death to be either eating the wrong poisonous plant, or the long term consumption of a plant that would have poisoned him.

Transcendentalism is movement and philosophy that developed around the 1800's that focuses on the individualist ideas and one's connection with nature. It is influenced by the ideas of Romanticism. Some famous Transcendentalist writers include Henry Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, as well as a few who stemmed from their ideas. It is an idealistic viewpoint and focuses on the inherit goodness of mankind and the natural.

Quotes of Transcendentalists

"To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society" ~Ralph Waldo Emerson Nature

"Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson Self-Reliance

"I am not responsible for the successful working of the machinery of society." ~Henry David Thoreau Civil Disobedience

"Much Madness is divinest Sense-/To a discerning Eye-" ~Emily Dickinson Much Madness is divinest Sense

"I went into the woods because I wished to live deliberately" ~Henry David Thoreau Walden

"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" ~Walt Whitman When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer

Into the Wild is a modern piece of Transcendentalism. It is speculated that Chris McCandless travelled into the wild to be more connected with nature and to discover himself. This correlates directly with the ideas and philosophies of the Transcendentalists. McCandless abandoned many of his relationships and his possessions to live a minimalistic life. Many people thought he was crazy for living the way he did. Chris also read and admired the work of the transcendentalists and it is thought he wanted to emulate the ideas of the transcendentalists and shared many of their beliefs.


Created with images by Paxson Woelber - "Crossing the Outer Range on the way to the Fairbanks 142 "magic bus" from "Into the Wild." Denali National Park, Alaska" • Paxson Woelber - "Brett crosses the Teklanika"

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