“This is the last communication you shall receive from me. I now walk out to live amongst the wild.” (Krakuer, 49) This was the last message from Chris McCandless, a guy, who renounced the world and went “into the wild”.
“Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer is the story of 20 year old Chris McCandless who is running from the society to the severe land of Alaska. It is the story of life full of adventures and terrifying death of idealistic person. Chris McCandless was in a search for happiness. Jon Krakauer who was the traveler himself, got interested in the story. He spent a long time to write down the memories of McCandless’ friends and relatives and create the real conditions of his life and death.
Chris McCandless was different, he had contradictory point of views which were not understood by the average men. People say that happiness is a prosperous life with a big house, a big family and a dog, so called American Dream life. Life full of clichés is what was really disgusting for the boy. That triggered the conflict between Chris and his parents. Was it too radical method to show the contemporary world how a real free person has to live the life? Or maybe Chris was a foul and his whole path was just a whim of spoilt kid.
Recently rather popular phenomenon is downshifting. Let’s think what is the purpose to leave wealthy and, as we know, happy life and became a vagabond? Maybe getting to the top makes a person realize that all corporate thinking of today’s community and corporate ideals are just imposed. At the first glance Chris McCandless looks like a downshifter, let’s look with our second glance. Chris was born in a good family, an American dream example of modern life. He gained good education in college and he always stayed very intelligent and polite with people. At the age of 20 Chris started his crazy journey to Alaska, to be around the wild nature, impassable snow roads, severe weather and unfriendly nature. It doesn’t look like he was obvious downshifter, who searches for more simple life. Oppositely, he went into adventure, unusual environment and life without people. According to his words:
My point is that you do not need me or anyone else around to bring this new kind of light in your life. It is simply waiting out there for you to grasp it, and all you have to do is reach for it. The only person you are fighting is yourself and your stubbornness to engag in new circumstances.
McCandless’ real belief was to stay on his own, to be independent, and to become free. This is the crucial word in the whole story. Freedom is the feature we all are lacking today. Chris understands that he is not free to choose what he wants, what his definition of happiness and free life is. Why Alaska? The reason why Chris McCandless picked this severe land was Jack London. The American author is well known for his romanticism of the Wild North. “White Fang” (1906) and especially “The Call of the Wild” (1903) had tremendous impact on Chris’ life. “McCandless had been infatuated with London since childhood. London’s fervent condemnation of capitalist society, his glorification of the primordial world, his championing of the great unwashed—all of it mirrored McCandless’s passions”. (Krauker, 32) The young guy was idealistic and romantic, all these features, multiplied by maximalism, was a result of difficult journey to the North.
I believe one of the crucial reasons to leave the predestinated life was a conflict with parents, particularly with his father, who was stubborn and principled as his son. Just before Chris left, he complained on his parents to his sister Carine:
I’m going to let them think they are right, I’m going to let them think that I’m “coming around to see their side of things “and that our relationship is stabilizing. And then, once the time is right, with one abrupt, swift action I’m going to completely knock them out of my life.
It was exactly the main incentive to choose his owns path in life. At the first glance there were not any serious quarrels between him and his parents, but the inner struggle for his own point of view was stronger than the cries of conflict.
Chris McCandless went to the North by hitching the road. He met a lot of people on his way, mostly good ones. He was obviously a lucky person to meet friends, who were helping him by giving him work or a ride. As we can understand from their words, Chris imprinted himself in their minds forever. He was described like hard working, responsible kind hearted boy, who always carried out all his matters and never let anything behind. The persistence to get to Alaska was absolute and after all hitchhiking, working for a penny and meeting friendly people he got there. He has never returned back…
One day the hikers have found abandoned car and a note of McCandless that he left in it, burned all his money and now he was going to live alone, without any gifts of civilization, to stand alone without need in anybody else.
In 1992 a couple from Anchorage, Alaska has found a frightening note on a sheet of paper fasten to the tree:
S.O.S. I need your help. I am injured, near death, and too weak to hike out of there I am all alone, this is no joke. In the name of God, please remain to save me. I am out collecting berries close by and shall return this evening. Thank you, Chris McCandless. August?
He was found dead in the old bus, which served him as a shelter in the sleeping bag. Chris was dead for about two and a half weeks. One of the most touching part of this story was a talk of MacCandless of his own forage into the wilderness, how he climbed the Devils Thumb in Alaska, which is the wall of ice for 6, 000 feet high. Just before his death, Chris took a picture of himself near the bus looking very happy and satisfied. The cause of his death was probably the meat of sick caribou that Chris ate some days before.
A brave, intelligent and wealthy child went to Alaska without a single shot of fear or hesitation. This fact triggered a lot of negative responses around the country. The main thing people couldn’t understand was how the one, who has everything, can abandon it and leave for nothing? The reason of the young man to leave civilized world was conscious from the one point, but if we analyze his actions from the other point it mostly seen like rebellion against the parents’ will. According to the people he met during the journey Chris was very calm and polite, but once the conversation turned to the parents’ question, he became mad and uncontrolled. The respective conclusion inevitably comes to mind. The rush into the wild was rather the struggle against the ideas of his family then the world itself. The boy draw parallels of his father’s believes and the environment around him and made the choice to run away. Was it worth it? Can be the running away motion named the brave choice? Every person will answer this question according to his/her definition of happiness, according to our own beliefs and maybe the real wilderness can be found not in the severe climate of Alaska, but in the most civilized and prosperous family.