Into the Wild

May 5, 2011
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At some point in life, everyone feels a need to strike out on his or her own. Christopher McCandless feels that pull quite strongly and early on. His parents live a pretentious life that is seemingly perfect, but Christopher and his sister witness the very real imperfections in their parents’ marriage through their loud and sometimes violent fights. Christopher shocks his family when he disappears without a word, cutting up his credit cards, burning his money, and donating all of his college funds to charity. He experiences that pull, and he understands that need to be on his own.

Christopher is very interested in the writings of Jack London and Henry David Thoreau, so he decides that Alaska is his goal. With no money and with no one to help him out, he treks across the country to fulfill it. Along the way, people are drawn to him and beg him to call his parents or stay in one place for a while, but he refuses. He is set on his goal, and nothing is able to stray him from it. Unfortunately, he is jaded by his abomination for the life his parents live. He wants the complete opposite of what they have. This major personality trait gives him the propensity toward the wild, away from careers and predictable lives.

It takes Christopher two years to reach Alaska. The arctic state is beautiful, vastly unique, and solitary. His favorite part is fending for himself and living off the land. What most interests him about Alaska is the privilege to live in complete peace with nature. He encounters wild animals, white water rafts through treacherous waters, and gets to experience God’s beauty every day. He is wholly happy.

Nevertheless, Christopher’s time in Alaska is not all about soaking in the beauty. He has to hunt and catch his own food, as well as prepare it. He is a novice, but he learns fast. With his books, he is also able to identify edible plants. He arrives in Alaska in the winter, but he runs out of his rice in the spring. He had kept this rice with him at all times in case food was too hard to come by. When he runs out of this rice, he decides that maybe it is time to return home, so he packs up his stuff and begins to head back. However, a wide river blocks path, and when he tries to get in, the current is so strong that he almost gets carried away to his death. He cannot cross it, and is thus trapped in the wild. Now depending on his edible plant books, he gathers his food.
He eats one plant that he defined as okay from his book, but it turns out that the plant he ate is actually highly poisonous and also identical to an edible plant. The poison permeates his entire body and his digestive system shuts down.

If Christopher had kept in contact with someone, if he had a cell phone, if he had not left in the first place, if he had settled down, he would have somewhere to turn. Instead, he has no one, and being unable to eat, his body grows weaker and weaker as the starvation overtakes him. Eventually, he dies. He has run out of options, and he realizes that life is not worth living alone. This conclusion had also been reached by Henry David Thoreau.

Christopher’s decision to live in seclusion disabuses him when there is no one around to save him from his early death at the age of twenty four. Because he had not kept in contact with his parents, they were never able to see their son again. All of the people that had grown to love him mourn his loss. The two years he spent on his trip was the happiest time of his life. He should have called his parents, he should have figured out that what he was doing was crazy, but he did not. However, he never would have been happy if his goal had not been fulfilled.

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