Into the Wild : Chris McCandless

Chris McCandless: Why’d you have to go? Chris McCandless is a uniquely remarkable person for a large number of reasons. Most people would consider any person who donated their life savings, burned all the cash in their wallet, and abandoned their car to go wander around the country with nothing; either crazy, stupid, or both. But I believe Chris McCandless was neither crazy nor stupid; in fact, I believe him to be a visionary. After receiving and fully utilizing a four-year education at Emory University in Georgia, he decided to leave society behind and venture off into the wild with only the things he deemed truly necessary.
He left society in search of happiness and the truth behind what makes us all happy. Coming from a wealthy, upper-middleclass family, he learned to utterly despise the materialistic views of his family which he believed strongly reflected the American culture. This above all fueled his desire to rid himself of his possessions and go see the world for himself. Many people believe he was an idiot with a death wish, an Alaskan park ranger was even quoted saying “Chris McCandless committed suicide”(nmge. mu. edu). Although Chris McCandless died at the end of John Krakauer’s novel Into the Wild, I believe he found the answers he was looking for, and died after completing his venture. Chris traveled all over the North American continent meeting people and going on what I would consider the adventure of a lifetime. While there is much speculation and controversy over what his actual plan was, without a doubt the end of his plan was to ‘somehow get to Alaska. ’(Krakuer 77).
I think because of the people he met on his travels and the metacognitive pondering he did throughout his time traveling he ended up doing exactly what he planned, but unfortunately, nothing else. Chris McCandless was by no means suicidal, he did not have a desire to die, but his plans ended with going to Alaska. Before getting to Alaska, McCandless explored anything and everything he could; he was a very curious man, always ready to explore. He even canoed down miles of the Colorado River all the way to Mexico.

Upon arriving in Alaska his disposition seemed to change, instead of wanting to explore and see everything there was to see like he had been doing before, he settled down in an abandoned bus for a few months. The only other place Chris had chosen to stay for any amount of time similar that was in Bullhead city, Arizona when he got a job at McDonalds in order to acquire supplies and to wait out the winter before starting on his path to Alaska. This shows he was at least smart enough to not go try and live in the Alaskan wilderness during the winter.
So what was he doing alone in the wilderness? Why did he stop exploring? These are questions that can only be speculated on. What differentiates this story from other stories is that while reading the book you perceive him as a character; Chris McCandless was not a character, he was a person. Characters always have motivation behind their decisions, doing things for specific reasons or even foreshadowing to events that haven’t even been written about yet. People are completely random, sporadically doing things with little to no thought.
While we can sit here and analyze why he did what he did and what he was thinking at every step, but what if he had stopped thinking, what if he commonly acted on impulse? These are things that characters do not typically do. Chris McCandless stopped exploring upon arriving in Alaska for a few reasons. First of all he didn’t plan to do anything except survive when he got there. He wanted to survive and ponder his existence in the raw untempered wilderness. Whilst out there he was just thinking about survival, and while being in that state of mind he wanted to find things that still brought happiness to him.
He had happy moments alone out there, but they were few and far between, and in his words “counted for little to nothing”(Krakuer 197). The most important thing Chris McCandles learned, and really the answer I think he was searching for was “Happiness is only real when shared”(Krakuer 77). Unfortunately he did not come upon this conclusion until it was too late to go back to society to share his newfound knowledge and to share his happiness with the ones he loved. That quote is really powerful and I believe it with all of my being.
It is good to spend introspective time alone, but when it comes down to it if you had all the knowledge of the universe and no one to share it with, what would be the point? The same goes for what Chris discovered of happiness, while it is not impossible to be happy while you are alone it just does not seem to be worth anything unless you share your happiness. Happiness was meant to be shared by everyone and every thing with everyone and every thing, which is what I learned from John Krakuers telling of Chris McCandless journey to find the source of happiness.
Happiness does not come from materialistic possessions, nor from people, or from money. Happiness comes from sharing everything from company and thoughts to houses and cars. If you are not sharing your happiness with someone else you more than likely are not as happy as you may think. If Chris had made it back he would have wanted to share the things that made him happy, just as I want to do now. Chris McCandless was a visionary and an eye opener. He has influenced many people and been a conversation point for many a collegiate-scholar.
He explored many miles across North America and kept firmly to his beliefs. Chris’s journey was one of philosophical searching, and I believe he found what he was searching for. It was not until he was starving to death in the Alaskan wilderness that he realized what it was he was searching for was not there, he wanted to find happiness, but happiness can only be shared. Chris McCandless could have and should have had a plan to get out of Alaska, but he wasn’t that kind of guy.
He just wanted to go where life took him, and it took him to death. Although it was definitely a long, painful, and miserable way to die I believe before his death Chris McCandless came to his epiphany before the end. Because he was not yet dead his quest had completed and he was ready to return to society with his newfound knowledge. Unfortunately for him, his friends and family, and the entire world, Chris never made it back to our society and we never got to learn from a very wise man.
Not all wisdom comes from age; wisdom comes from experience backed by thoughtful and introspective reflection, both of which were all Chris McCandless did on his long and eventful trip out into the wild. Whether you think him a naive young man with a death wish or one of the greatest philosophical minds of his time or anything in between, Chris was brave enough to stand up for what he believed in and intelligent enough to search for a type of knowledge that cannot be taught, only experience. Chris McCandless has earned the respect of many people across the world and that is a valuable thing indeed.

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