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Into The Wild: Chris McCandless & Henry David Thoreau

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Angela Woodack

on 17 December 2014

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Transcript of Into The Wild: Chris McCandless & Henry David Thoreau

Into The Wild
: Chris McCandless & Henry David Thoreau
Project by Angela Woodack
Music:
Bel Air
by Lana Del Rey (instrumental)

Rejection of Materialism
Desire for Solitude
Chris McCandless's Bold Decision
When Chris McCandless decides to leave everything he knows behind, he is commiting to a fifth and final decision in which lives vicariously through Transcendental beliefs.
The Legacy of Chris McCandless
Transcendentalism:
The 19th century literary movement that started in America which rebelled against war, poverty, class division, and all things currently the norm.
Chris McCandless, the protagonist of
Into the Wild
by Jon Krakauer, embodies the characteristics of the Transcendentalist movement through his rejection of materialism, desire for solitude, and his bold decision to trek the harsh American landscape.
Cover of
Into the Wild
by John Krakauer
Transcendental Instance 1:
Chris McCandless tries to shed his well-to-do upbringing by dismissing Walt and Billie's request to buy him a new car as well as their offer to pay for law school while donating his $24,000 in college funds to OXFAM. By doing this, McCandless begins his initiative to live a lifestyle based on the bare minimum. McCandless must have began to relate to the writings of Henry David Thoreau at this time because these actions reflect Thoreau's belief that deliberate living begins with becoming intuitive and self-reliant.
Transcendental Instance 2:
When Chris McCandless loses his Datsun in the flash flood, he is jubilant at the loss of excess baggage to the extent that he discards his hunting rifle and burns what little money he still possesses. Henry David Thoreau provides advice similar to this action in
Walden
by saying, "Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts". What Thoreau is implying is that a person who is poor should not aspire to be rich but instead remove everything in their possession so that they can only focus on their beliefs. McCandless is taking Thoreau's advice literally by committing himself to his ideas rather than his personal survival.
When Chris McCandless is explaining why he quit his job at McDonalds, he attributes it to being tired of working with "plastic people". By choosing to do this, McCandless is showing his rebellion against humanity's tradition of going through the motions without analyzing life. This Transcendental value is marked by his choice of isolating himself from the materialistic people who, despite being in a low-end job, champion these values.
Transcendental Instance 3:
Transcendental Instance 4:
When Chris McCandless meets Ronald Franz, he inspires Franz so much that he has to reject Franz's wish to adopt him. In this case, McCandless does his best to inspire others with his beliefs, but the people around him only accept them at face value. Franz doesn't realize that although he agrees with Transcendentalism, he doesn't know how to properly apply it because he's asking for McCandless to stay with him rather than have them both seperately seeking the sublime. By asking for company, he is also adding detail and monotony to his discovery of nature rather than trying to look nature's beauty in nomadic meditation.
"I have found no exertion of legs can bring two minds nearer to one another"
-
Henry David Thoreau,
Walden

Though Chris McCandless is described as antisocial by nature, this quote may symbolize how he ignores the details of interacting with others to pursue a deliberate life that further integrates Transcendental values.
Chris McCandless's final portrait
The "Magic 142 Bus" McCandless was found in after his death
Henry David Thoreau states in
Walden
that, "Let him step to the music that he hears, however measured or far away". What Thoreau is trying to represent is his belief that all people, especially Transcendentalists, must follow their calling in life so that they can forego normal existence and experience the sublime beauty of nature. Chris McCandless takes this quote literally by throwing both his possessions and relationships by the wayside while also daring himself to try a more bare and rugged lifestyle. This type of existence throws him new obstacles, some in which challenge him while he succeeds in others.
After Chris McCandless dies, his adventures become the source for not only
Into the Wild
but for many other people who become interested in the path he led. These people die trying to follow his path in an attempt to gain the same experiences McCandless had during his journey.
McCandless attempted to inspire these people by attempting to live a life which could be seen as wholeheartedly natural and spiritual. He used Thoreau's teachings as a jumping point through which humans could live a less materialistic and monotonous lifestyle.
A man (above) tries to recreate Chris McCandless's famous picture with the "Magic 142 Bus" (below)
The Downsides of a Transcendental Lifestyle
Time
magazine's writeup of Chris McCandless's adventure following the discovery of his body
(Part 1)
Time
magazine's writeup of Chris McCandless's adventure following the discovery of his body
(Part 2)
Transcendental theory only adds to the complexity of trying to survive in the wild because following the movement entails complete isolation from material goods in order to find your enlightened self. Since Chris McCandless came from a well-to-do family, this might have had a huge effect on his health because he had to live with only what he can carry. In Jon Krakuer's
Into the Wild
, this point is reinforced when McCandless writes "I am injured, near death, and too weak to hike out of here". By saying this, McCandless finally realizes that literally following Transcendentalism is dangerous because he is so passionate about it that he obsesses over it and as a result he starves himself while looking for better insight into the nature aspect of Transcendentalism.
When Chris McCandless attempts to live a Transcendental lifestyle, he puts his health in grave danger.
The Transcendental lifestyle puts not only Chris McCandless at risk, but also the lives of every person he touches.
Chris McCandless uses his journey to spread his ideas about Transcendentalism, and in turn inspires many of the people he meets to begin following the same beliefs. The issue with this is that if McCandless died from taking his ideas too seriously, the chances of someone else such as Ronald Franz dying from the same causes are just as likely. This goes to show the one-sided view of Transcendentalism because it portrays the negative points of the movement in the way it brings out each character's dangerous survival instincts.
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