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Into the Wild: Lesson 3 - Linking key scenes to themes

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Liam Brooks

on 19 June 2017

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Transcript of Into the Wild: Lesson 3 - Linking key scenes to themes

'Into the Wild': Lesson 3 - Linking key scenes to themes
Arrogance, innocence and ignorance


Instead of indicting McCandless for unforgivable hubris, director Sean Penn characterises McCandless as the victim of his own ignorance and innocence, an inexperienced young man whose death resulted—in part—from his severe naivete, rather than any sort of extreme arrogance.

In doing so, Penn uncovers the tragedy of McCandless's death—in pursuing self-knowledge and experience, he fell victim to his lack of both. Penn thus reveals the paradox underlying all ventures of self-discovery—though motivated by a thirst for knowledge and experience such journeys are inevitably underwritten by a lack of both.
Theme: Isolation versus intimacy

Throughout Into the Wild, Penn describes McCandless's journey as a struggle between isolating himself from society and forging intimate relationships with others. While gregarious with the strangers he meets on the road, McCandless breaks off all contact with his family. While carrying on genial correspondences with his newfound friends, McCandless writes about "[feeling] extremely uncomfortable with society" in his journal.
Key themes in
Into the Wild

Arrogance, innocence and ignorance

Isolation versus intimacy

Luck, chance, and circumstance

Materialism and idealism

Risk and self-reinvention

The American Wilderness/nature
LI:
To link key scenes to key themes.

SC:
Students will be able to analyse how key themes are evident in particular scenes from 'Into the Wild'.
How might a key theme/s be evident in that scene?
Deepening our understanding of key themes
Key scene:
Things, things, things
Theme: Luck, chance and circumstance
Penn spends the majority of the film documenting Chris' movements across the United States, Mexico, and finally Alaska. Though McCandless discloses his intention to go to Alaska to the people he befriends throughout his journey, his itinerary is not shaped by design, but by chance meetings, circumstantial occurrences, and instances of luck.

For instance, McCandless comes close to death four times before ever reaching Alaska.
A flash flood in the Mojave Desert doesn't take his life, but causes his car to malfunction.
He nearly succumbs to heat stroke around Lake Mead but manages to flag down some passing boaters who drive him out.
While lost in the canals of the Colorado River, "by fantastic chance" he comes across some duck hunting guides who also happen to speak English. They give him a ride and directions towards the sea, ending his meandering journey.
ULastly, while canoeing in the open ocean off the Mexican coast during a storm, he loses one of his oars, yet makes it to shore, using only one.
Theme: Materialism and idealism

Underlying McCandless's rejection of money and materialism is his devotion to his ideals, which take shape through the authors and books McCandless reads during his journey.

A fan of Leo Tolstoy, (a great novelist who renounced his wealth and privileged background to lead a simple life among the poor), McCandless' itinerant and impoverished lifestyle is almost mirror-like reflection of the ideals Tolstoy espoused in his works.

Additionally by hitchhiking across the country, McCandless appears to live his personal philosophy—"that you should own nothing except what you can carry on your back at a dead run"—to the fullest.
Theme: Risk and self-reinvention

McCandless' journey into the wilderness is ultimately one of self-discovery and reinvention. Through his travels he transforms from a willful recent graduate, eager to break away from his stifling family, into a practiced wanderer and amateur mountaineer.

Underscoring his transformation is his transition from his given name, "Chris McCandless," to "Alex," or "Alexander McCandless" on the road, to finally "Alexander Supertramp," on the Stampede Trail.

McCandless's name changes document his shift in character and speak to the creation of his new identity. In casting off his family name, McCandless derives his new name, "Supertramp," from his life on the road, creating an identity that evokes this itinerant and trying lifestyle.

Theme: The American Wilderness

McCandless journey is part of a long tradition of men seeking to find themselves in nature.

Even while drawing inspiration from nature, Penn is quick to point out its unforgiving and ferocious qualities, never shying away from depicting the precarious situations McCandless encounters—barely escaping from a flash flood in the Mojave Desert, getting lost in the Colorado River's channels, nearly dying off the Mexican coast during a storm.

In characterizing the wilderness as both idyllic and brutally uncaring and dangerous, Penn underlines that whether one is an experienced mountaineer or naive explorer, all who enter Mother Nature's domain are subject to her laws.

Main activity: Linking key scenes to themes and using textual evidence to support our claims
1. Working in pairs.

2. We'll watch four key scenes.

3. Discuss with your partner which theme/s it demonstrates.

4. Identify
textual evidence
to support your claim (a quote, an occurrence, a camera angle, a close-up etc.)

5. We have 3 minutes after each video. Class discussion to follow.

Key themes in
Into the Wild


Arrogance, innocence and ignorance
Isolation versus intimacy
Luck, chance, and circumstance
Materialism and idealism
Risk and self-reinvention
The American Wilderness/nature
1. Working in pairs.

2. We'll watch four key scenes.

3. Discuss with your partner which theme/s it demonstrates.

4. Identify
textual evidence
to support your claim (a quote, an occurrence, a camera angle, a close-up etc.)

5. We have 3 minutes after each video. Class discussion to follow.

Key themes in
Into the Wild


Arrogance, innocence and ignorance
Isolation versus intimacy
Luck, chance, and circumstance
Materialism and idealism
Risk and self-reinvention
The American Wilderness/nature
1. Working in pairs.

2. We'll watch four key scenes.

3. Discuss with your partner which theme/s it demonstrates.

4. Identify
textual evidence
to support your claim (a quote, an occurrence, a camera angle, a close-up etc.)

5. We have 3 minutes after each video. Class discussion to follow.

Key themes in
Into the Wild


Arrogance, innocence and ignorance
Isolation versus intimacy
Luck, chance, and circumstance
Materialism and idealism
Risk and self-reinvention
The American Wilderness/nature
1. Working in pairs.

2. We'll watch four key scenes.

3. Discuss with your partner which theme/s it demonstrates.

4. Identify
textual evidence
to support your claim (a quote, an occurrence, a camera angle, a close-up etc.)

5. We have 3 minutes after each video. Class discussion to follow.

Key themes in
Into the Wild


Arrogance, innocence and ignorance
Isolation versus intimacy
Luck, chance, and circumstance
Materialism and idealism
Risk and self-reinvention
The American Wilderness/nature
Full transcript