Into the Wild Essay

December 11, 2017
By Jboyson BRONZE, Worcester, Massachusetts
Jboyson BRONZE, Worcester, Massachusetts
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Chris: Child or Challenger

What is a rebel? In the most simplest terms, it’s someone who goes against society or society’s values. But that’s a little vague. More specifically, a rebel is someone who goes against a person, or group of people who are established. In the biography Into the Wild, Jon Krakaeur describes Chris McCandless’ journey through the Alaskan wilderness. Chris lived in the woods for a couple of months, but before then had traveled all of North America, living off the land wherever he went. Krakaeur writes the biography in way that makes Chris McCandless seem like a rebel for every little thing he did. Chris disagreed with his parents, he was a rebel. Chris talked about politics, he was a rebel. But do any of these things hold any weight? Although Chris had some uncontroversial opinions, they did not make him a rebel. However, in his later life McCandless started to go against the government. His actions, such as not getting a hunting license, illegally crossing the Canadian and Mexican border, and off-roading, fit the definition of rebellious because they go against an established group of people. Chris McCandless cannot be considered a rebel merely because of his defiance against his parents; however, his opposition towards the government qualifies him.

Because of Chris McCandless’ weak and childish motivations towards opposing his parents - something that many kids do anyways - he should not be considered a rebel. As we learn in Into the Wild, McCandless felt that it was necessary to live a simple life without any excess. He traveled the country carrying everything he had, at one point he burned all of the money that was in his possession and most of the time he would hunt for his food instead of buying it. On the other hand, his parents believed that since they worked hard for their money, it was well within their right to do what they pleased with it, whether that be vacations, a nice house or nice cars. The bottom line: Chris and his parents had different ideologies. Chris undoubtedly rebelled against his parents; however, he should not be considered a rebel for going against a group of people that insignificant. A rebel is someone who goes against an established group of people, which Chris’s parents do not fit into. After Chris graduated college, his ideals of simplicity continued, causing him to donate all of the money that his parents had left him for graduate school: “He … donate(d) all the money in his college fund to OXFAM America, a charity dedicated to fighting hunger" (20). While the money did obviously go to a worthy cause, he still acted in a childish and spoiled manner. Instead of having a conversation with his parents, telling them that graduate school wasn’t the right fit for him, and the money could be used in better ways that could help people, he decided to ‘stick it to the man’ and donate their hard earned money before completely cutting off contact with them. All of McCandless’ actions lack rationale and seem like they were done thoughtlessly with the only real reason behind them being pettiness and spite towards his parents. Even though Chris does not fit the criteria for being rebellious in terms of how he goes against his parents, I can see why some people would make that conclusion. Chris fits the definition of a rebel in many other ways, mainly with his disregard for the law. Because of this, people want to label every little thing he does as rebellious. But that’s not always true, Chris can not be a rebel for opposing his parents while simultaneously be a rebel for opposing .

Chris McCandless fits the definition of a rebel because he opposed the government. In the biography it is made very clear to the readers that McCandless had never supported the government or their choices. In high school he wanted to send weapons to South Africa because he felt that America should have been more involved in their affairs, and after college he never paid any attention to taxes or the rules of the road. So it’s no surprise that one of the first things Chris says to someone who picked him up as a hitchhiker, is “How I feed myself is none of the government’s business. F*** their stupid rules” (6). Contrary to how Chris felt about his parents, his feelings against the government had substance and thought behind them. He also confronts real authority with his opposition towards the government. When McCandless argued against the government, he went against an established group and he no longer seemed like a child throwing a tantrum. Instead, he took action by not following the standards that the government had set in place for him. This is what makes Chris a rebel. If people are going to call Chris a rebel, they should do it for the right reason.

Chris undoubtedly went against two groups of people, his parents and the government, but only one of them defines him as a rebel. We as a society have continued to overuse words with great weight. Rebel is one of these words. Just as we shouldn’t call someone a saint just for passing another person ketchup, or someone a hero for picking up a newspaper for a friend, we shouldn’t use the word rebel when someone is defiant against their parents.


During this writing process I learned that I prefer to write outlines of papers with analysis. I find it much easier to change your analysis when it’s in an outline, as opposed to when it’s already written in a paper. I really liked how I could write this essay in a casual tone of voice and not have to worry about sounding too formal. I also thought it was a nice ease into writing essays again for school. I am glad that I choose a publication that didn’t have too many restrictions, the only thing I had to worry about was making my essay interesting enough that people would opt to read it, I couldn’t rely on the fact that a judge would be forced to read it.

The author's comments:

This is my essay on why Chris McCandless is and is not rebel.

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