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Into the Wild: The Individual, Society, and The Natural World

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Peter Sabath

on 16 July 2015

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Transcript of Into the Wild: The Individual, Society, and The Natural World

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer:
The Individual, Society, and Natural World

A Non-Fiction Study of a Young American Who Went Into the Wild to Find Himself
Warm-up:

Screen the trailer for Into the Wild. Based on this clip, what do you think this book is going to be about? How might this connect to our unit theme of The Individual, Society, and Natural World?
Genre: Non-fiction, biography, travel literature

Themes: The American Frontier, Fathers and Sons,
Materialism, Survival in the Wilderness, Young Manhood, and The Individual, Society, and Natural World

Symbols: Deserts, the "Magic Bus," Moose, Mountains, Rivers, Yellow Datsun.
Deserts

Like mountains, deserts in Into the Wild function primarily as means for Christopher McCandless to challenge himself, and as such, they illustrate his hubris. Not only does he fear the desert insufficiently; he behaves as though it has been put there purely in order to test his competence.
"Magic Bus"

Presumably named by McCandless after a song by British rock band The Who, the bus stands for the good fortune he repeatedly encounters in his odyssey through the American West. After all, what are the odds when McCandless forges into the bush that an abandoned bus will be waiting there for him to live inside?
Moose

The moose that McCandless shoots and then, heartbreakingly, fails to preserve stands for his relationship to the wild in general. Moose meat is what will keep McCandless alive or dead in the wild. Because of his hubris, however, he has not prepared adequately for the enormous task of curing the flesh and ultimately fails at it. The consequences might be fatal.
Mountains

In Into the Wild, mountains function not as scenery, nor are they especially significant geologically or historically. Instead, a mountain is an obstacle to be conquered, a way of testing one's capability and character, especially in the chapters of the book where author Krakauer recalls his own youth.
Rivers

Many rivers run through Into the Wild. Like deserts and mountains, they test Christopher McCandless's survival skills. Unlike other natural formations, it is a river that might defeat McCandless. Because he has not predicted that the river separating the "Magic Bus" from civilization will swell with snow-melt, he cannot cross it in late summer, when he intends to leave the woods. And because he (intentionally) lacks a map, McCandless is unaware of options for fording the raging waters.
Yellow Datsun

The yellow Datsun is emblematic of Christopher McCandless's genuine disinterest in material things. Americans value their cars. McCandless leaves his in the desert.
The American Frontier

In his book Love and Death in the American Novel, the literary critic Leslie Fiedler suggests that the central theme of all U.S. literature is the escape of American men and boys from civilization into the wild. Often a reaction to heartbreak, and sometimes in the company of other men and/or boys, this flight is the dynamic at the center of books and stories as diverse as Walden by Henry David Thoreau, Moby-Dick by Herman Melville,The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, "Big Two-Hearted River" by Ernest Hemingway, and many more. Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild shares the frontier theme with these great works of literature that preceded it, one of which (Walden) Christopher McCandless actually takes with him as he "lights out for the territories," in the words of Huck Finn.
Fathers and sons

The title of a book by the 19th-century Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev, Fathers and Sons, this is one of the main themes of Into the Wild. If there is a single turning point in the life of Christopher McCandless, it may be the discovery that his father had a second, secret family. This revelation seems to inspire him to reject his parents completely and commence an odyssey into wild America. Along the way, McCandless gravitates toward substitute fathers including Wayne Westerberg and Ronald Franz (and one substitute mother, Jan Burres).
Materialism

Christopher McCandless denounces and rejects what he sees as American materialism, in general when he leaves his parents and the upper middle-class suburban setting in which they raised him, and very specifically and concretely when he donates all his savings to charity, abandons his car in the desert, and actually burns his paper money on the desert floor.
Survival in the wilderness

This is the central theme of the work of one of Christopher McCandless' favorite authors, Jack London. The most striking example of this is probably London's short story "To Build a Fire," about a man who freezes to death in the woods because of his inability to do precisely that. In a way, this story foreshadows McCandless's own fate.
Young manhood

Into the Wild is very much the story of a young man, of his energy, his idealism, and arrogance. It is hard to imagine anyone besides a male in his late teens or 20s who would do and say the things that Christopher McCandless does and says in this book though, bizarrely, the octogenarian Ronald Franz tries to model aspects of his life after McCandless.
The Individual, Society, and Natural World

This book is also related to our unit theme for the second quarter. He is an individual in society who escapes the ways of the corporate, materialistic world to find inner peace in the natural world. McCandless' ideas are very inline with Thoreau's and Whitman's perspectives that we've been learning about. He's a transcendentalist at heart. He wants to experience the world through his own five sense while completely embedded in nature. It's no accident that he brings along a copy of
Walden
by Thoreau into the wild.

As we read, find examples of how his story is related to all that we've been reading.
Characters
INTO

THE

WILD
Christopher Johnson McCandless

Intelligent, idealistic young man who believes that life is best lived alone, in nature. He spends two years testing his theory throughout the western United States before entering the wilds of Alaska unprepared. This protagonist calls himself "Alexander Supertramp" or just "Alex."
Carine McCandless - Chris's younger sister and confidante.

Samuel Walter McCandless - Chris's father, a NASA scientist and entrepreneur who develops advanced radar systems. Married twice, Walt McCandless has a total of eight children. Chris is from his second marriage.

Wilhelmina "Billie" McCandless - Chris's mother and Walt's second wife, who works with Walt on various business ventures involving his radar systems.
Jan Burres and Bob - Itinerant couple who meets McCandless in the summer of 1990 when he is searching for edible berries alongside U.S. Highway 101. Estranged from her own son, Jan takes a special interest in McCandless.

Charlie - Old man who lives outside Bullhead City, Arizona, and suggests that McCandless live in an empty RV of which Charlie is a caretaker.
Ronald Franz - Eighty-year-old man who gives McCandless a ride from Salton City, California, to Grand Junction, Colorado. Franz heeds the young man's advice to "hit the road" and live off the grid.

Jim Gallien - Last person to see McCandless before going into the wild. In April 1992, he drops off the young man on Alaska's Stampede Trail, giving McCandless his boots and advising him to reconsider his plan to live off the land.
Ken Thompson, Gordon Samel, and Ferdie - Swanson Moose hunters who happen upon the bus in which McCandless lived in the wild.

Anchorage couple - Pair who stumbles upon an abandoned bus along Alaska's Sushana River in August 1992. They read McCandless's S.O.S. note on the rear door of the "Magic Bus."

Wayne Westerberg - Grain elevator operator who befriends McCandless in north-central Montana in the fall of 1990. Westerberg offers him a ride, a place to stay, and then a job.
Jon Krakauer

The author. Describes his own youthful assault on a notorious Alaskan peak to offer comparisons with and insights into McCandless's journey.
Close Reading/Annotating Week 1: Chapters 1-7 (pp. 1-55)

eBook link: http://livesimpletheblog.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/into-the-wild.pdf

TASK 1: As we read Into the Wild, for each week you’ll take notes on the following topics
(see Word doc handout)–

1. What connections can you find between the unit theme (The Individual, Society, and Natural World) and Into the Wild? How do the protagonist’s actions/thoughts/beliefs and the author’s point of view illustrate this theme? Find examples and explain.

2. What themes/topics emerge in this section of book in addition to our unit theme above? Find examples of any of the following themes in this section, give quotes, and explain: The American Frontier, Fathers and Sons, Materialism, Survival in the Wilderness, and Young Manhood.

3. What symbols can you find in the book? You can focus on the following themes that we discussed in class: Deserts, the "Magic Bus," Moose, Mountains, Rivers, Yellow Datsun. You might identify additional symbols as well. Find quotes and explain.

4. How does this book represent the genre of non-fiction, biography, and travel literature? Find examples and explain the significance of these passages for this genre.

5. In what ways can you relate to Into the Wild in your personal life? What does this true story make you think about in terms of your own psychological development and maturity into adulthood? Identify quotes that support your thoughts and explain.

TASK 2: Complete additional assigned activities in the Into the Wild study packet!
Close Reading/Annotating Week 1: Chapters 8-12 (pp. 56-96)

eBook link: http://livesimpletheblog.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/into-the-wild.pdf

TASK 1: As we read Into the Wild, for each week you’ll take notes on the following topics
(see Word doc handout)–

1. What connections can you find between the unit theme (The Individual, Society, and Natural World) and Into the Wild? How do the protagonist’s actions/thoughts/beliefs and the author’s point of view illustrate this theme? Find examples and explain.

2. What themes/topics emerge in this section of book in addition to our unit theme above? Find examples of any of the following themes in this section, give quotes, and explain: The American Frontier, Fathers and Sons, Materialism, Survival in the Wilderness, and Young Manhood.

3. What symbols can you find in the book? You can focus on the following themes that we discussed in class: Deserts, the "Magic Bus," Moose, Mountains, Rivers, Yellow Datsun. You might identify additional symbols as well. Find quotes and explain.

4. How does this book represent the genre of non-fiction, biography, and travel literature? Find examples and explain the significance of these passages for this genre.

5. In what ways can you relate to Into the Wild in your personal life? What does this true story make you think about in terms of your own psychological development and maturity into adulthood? Identify quotes that support your thoughts and explain.

TASK 2: Complete additional assigned activities in the Into the Wild study packet!
Close Reading/Annotating Week 1: Chapters 13-18 and Epilogue (pp. 97-151)

eBook link: http://livesimpletheblog.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/into-the-wild.pdf

TASK 1: As we read Into the Wild, for each week you’ll take notes on the following topics
(see Word doc handout)–

1. What connections can you find between the unit theme (The Individual, Society, and Natural World) and Into the Wild? How do the protagonist’s actions/thoughts/beliefs and the author’s point of view illustrate this theme? Find examples and explain.

2. What themes/topics emerge in this section of book in addition to our unit theme above? Find examples of any of the following themes in this section, give quotes, and explain: The American Frontier, Fathers and Sons, Materialism, Survival in the Wilderness, and Young Manhood.

3. What symbols can you find in the book? You can focus on the following themes that we discussed in class: Deserts, the "Magic Bus," Moose, Mountains, Rivers, Yellow Datsun. You might identify additional symbols as well. Find quotes and explain.

4. How does this book represent the genre of non-fiction, biography, and travel literature? Find examples and explain the significance of these passages for this genre.

5. In what ways can you relate to Into the Wild in your personal life? What does this true story make you think about in terms of your own psychological development and maturity into adulthood? Identify quotes that support your thoughts and explain.

TASK 2: Complete additional assigned activities in the Into the Wild study packet!
Warm-Up 2:

Kahoot! quiz on themes, characters, and notes from day 1.
Warm-up 3:

Listen and read the lyrics to
Society
, a song from the film
Into the Wild
. Mr. Sabath will sing it to you live today for our warm up! How do these lyrics connect to our unit theme of The Individual, Society, and Natural World?
Society

It's a mystery to me
We have a greed with which we have agreed
You think you have to want more than you need
Until you have it all you won't be free

Society, you're a crazy breed
I hope you're not lonely without me

When you want more than you have
You think you need
And when you think more than you want
Your thoughts begin to bleed

I think I need to find a bigger place
'Cause when you have more than you think
You need more space

Society, you're a crazy breed
I hope you're not lonely without me
Society, crazy indeed
I hope you're not lonely without me

There's those thinking more or less, less is more
But if less is more how're you keeping score?
Means for every point you make your level drops
Kinda like you're starting from the top, you can't do that

Society, you're a crazy breed
I hope you're not lonely without me
Society, crazy indeed
I hope you're not lonely without me

Society, have mercy on me
I hope you're not angry if I disagree
Society, crazy indeed
I hope you're not lonely without me
Full transcript