“Into the Wild:” Synthesis Essay

Trying to find himself, just like many of us wish to do, Chris walked into the wild in 1992. He was very smart and even graduated from Emory University. Chris was a social and caring person in high school; he cared about those less fortunate than him. None of these characteristics are ones of someone who is insane. In Jon Krakauer’s book, “Into the Wild,” he explains why Chris was a smart, skilled adventurer. Although some may argue Chris was suicidal, insane, and woefully unprepared, after using a variety of sources, it is clear that Chris McCandless was a free spirit in hopes of escaping everything he knew in hopes to go on a life changing adventure to not only find himself but to also find family and a feeling of belonging.

When reflecting upon Chris’ choice to go into the wild, Chris’ sister Carine said, “From the time we were small children, still unaware of how children come to be, I remember Chris being consistently told through our mother’s tears that the family struggles began with his birth, when she became “stuck” with our dad. Chris carried this unfounded guilt with him until the wisdom that comes with age resulted in feelings of betrayal and eventually anger. This mislaid blame was never rescinded, only ignored. Seeing no alternative but to completely remove himself from the pain he could not manage, Chris had just cause to leave in the way that he did. For him it was a matter of survival. He overcame adversity to live a positive and beautiful existence on this earth. His brothers and sisters understand and respect that.” (chrismccandless.com). Carnie’s dialogue helps explain how much Chris was impacted by his childhood home life and what his siblings thought of what he did. Although it was clear Chris’ parents weren’t always the best, this quote, coming from someone who was also experiencing the same child. Seeing no alternative but to completely remove himself from the pain he could not manage, Chris had just cause to leave in the way that he did. For him it was a matter of survival. To someone who may come from what they think is a perfect childhood, this explains why Chris left.  Chris needed to get away from his household and the toxic environment that came with his parents. Not only was Chris just put into a toxic environment, but he also shared completely different ideals and morals than his parents. For example, Chris’ parents, Walt and Billie were very big into money, whereas Chris was very much so against materialistic items.

After Chris’ graduation, Walt and Billie decided to give Chris a new car. “He already had a perfectly good car, he insisted.” “I can’t believe they’d try and buy me a car,” (Into the Wild Print page 21). Chris was outraged when his parents told him they wanted to buy him a car. He was insulted that they would think his Datsun would need to be replaced. Chris needed to get out of the toxic environment, where he and his parents morals and values of life differed so much. Chris got very upset when his parents were too willing to spend their money, and that they cared so much about money; but that’s what they thought was most important. However, Chris thought other things like discovering life and nature was more important to the materialistic things that made his parents so happy.­

Chris going into the wild isn’t as crazy as one may think. There are a number of lost souls out there going on a number of different expeditions in hopes to find themselves. Unfortunately, however, Chris’ expedition posed to be a fatal one.

Many people find Chris to be such an inspiration and admire his qualities and the way he valued life. Writer for the Alaska Commons, Ivan Hodes, said, “Chris McCandless was deeply kind and supremely selfish; tremendously brave and jaw-droppingly foolish; impressively competent and staggeringly inept; that is to say, he was hewn from the same crooked timber as the rest of us.” All humans have flaws as well as great things about them. Chris did not die because he was illiterate. In fact, he was “impressively competent and staggeringly inept.” Chris was “hewn from the same crooked timber as the rest of us.” Meaning we are all a little nutty in our own way, he was no different from you or me. This may be one of the reasons Chris connected so well with people he came across – because they were able to relate to him. Some people may argue Chris was insane; however, people easily connected with him and most wanted to take him under their wing.

For example, Ron Franz, a grandfather figure to Chris who even offered to adopt him, was very shaken up and deeply affected by Chris’ death. “I prayed. I asked God to keep his finger on the shoulder of that one; I told him that boy was special. But he let Alex die. So on December 26, when I learned what happened, I renounced the Lord. I withdrew my church membership and became an atheist. I decided I couldn’t believe in a God who let something that terrible happen to a boy like Alex.” (Quote from Ron Franz, Into the Wild Print: page 60).

A crazy person seldom is capable of having such intimate relationships so easily, let alone also actually be looking for them. If Chris was capable of impacting people’s lives so deeply, I have a hard time believing that he was insane.

Many people look up to Chris for his brave actions and humble ideals; this includes Jon Krakauer. People see the charity work Chris has done, what is important to him in his life, and all the obstacles he had to overcome and are inspired by him.“At that stage of my youth, death remained as abstract as a concept as non-Euclidean geometry or marriage. I didn’t yet appreciate its terrible finality or the havoc it could wreak on those who’d entrusted the deceased with their hearts,” (Quote from Krakauer, Into the Wild Print: page 154). Krakauer explains that at young age death didn’t even feel like an option. He never thought about if he died doing what he was, that it would deeply affect all of his loved ones and end in a “terrible finality.” Chris McCandless most likely thought the same way Krakauer did. Chris never took the fact he could possibly die in the wild as a probable cause because he was so young and death felt so far away. Krakauer and many others can relate to Chris’ story and are truly inspired to read more about McCandless’ adventure. “The thrill of adventure I gained from reading Into the Wild and seeing where he traveled is inspirational. Wandering the country for more than two years with no phone, no car, no cigarettes, serves as a lesson that 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. What is inside each of us — the need to satisfy curiosity, to explore, to converse and think critically, all these are the lessons of Christopher Johnson McCandless, 20 years after his death,” (huffingtonpost.com). Pete Mason for the Huffington Post said, “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.” Mason makes a great point here in saying that when it comes to testing one’s abilities it’s hard to hold back or stop them. Mason shows McCandless was just like you and I. He was hungry for adventure, wanting to satisfy his curiosity, explore the world and wanting to test his knowledge, just like many people are.

Chris McCandless’ story was shared with the world over 20 years ago and his story is still being told today. People are inspired by hearing Chris’ story and many go on expeditions to visit bus 142 as well. Understanding that Chris was a special person, but not insane is important in seeing the value of his story. Chris was on the hunt for the true meaning of life – he met family, embraced nature, didn’t focus on material items and rather focused on the adventure of life. I believe McCandless’ story is one that everyone can learn from. In John Muir’s piece, “A windstorm in the forest” he said, “As I gazed on the impressive scene, all the so-called ruin of the storm was forgotten, and never before did these noble woods appear so fresh, so joyous, so immortal.” I believe this is how Chris McCandless felt: hypnotized by the beauty and immortality of nature. Chris McCandless would be insane if he didn’t go into the wild when it was calling him.


Works Cited

“Christopher McCandless aka Alexander Supertramp.” Chris McCandless Now I Walk Into The Wild. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2015. <http://www.christophermccandless.info/carinemccandless.html&gt;.

Krakauer, Jon. Into the Wild. New York: Anchor, 1997. Print.

Mason, Pete. “Remembering Christopher McCandless 20 Years Later.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2015. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/pete-mason/remembering-christopher-mccandless_b_1777825.html&gt;.

Muir, John. A Windstorm in the Forest. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

“What Everyone Is Getting Wrong About Chris McCandless.” Alaska Commons. N.p., 21 Sept. 2013. Web. 10 Dec. 2015. <http://www.alaskacommons.com/2013/09/22/what-everyone-is-getting-wrong-about-chris-mccandless&gt;.


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