Essay On name:
Into The Wild
“I think that Chris McCandless was bright and ignorant at the same time. He had no common sense, and he had no business going into Alaska with his romantic silliness. He made a lot of mistakes based on arrogance. I don’t admire him at all for his courage nor his noble ideas. Really, I think he was just plain crazy. “This statement was made by Shaun Callarman regarding Chris McCandless story as captured by John Krakauer in his book Into The Wild. The statement is subject to debate as it broaches the McCandless saga in a one sided-dimension. This paper will seek to critically analyze the Shaun Callarman assertions by putting forward the two sides of the Chris McCandless narration.
The decision by McCandless to venture into the Alaskan wild can be linked to irrational behavior. This is somewhat true in despite of the Krakauer account that seeks to paint him positively. There are several instances that critically point attest to this. McCandless adoption of the name Alex Supertramp points out to a case of Schizophrenia. He is depicted in the book to further have two distinct personalities for the two different identities. Alex Supertramp was adventurous and elusive unlike Chris McCandless who was much more realistic and at home with the Alaskan society. This is evident when Westerberg discovered from a tax form that his real name was Chris McCandless. “He never explained why he’d changed his name” Krakauer quotes Westerberg regarding the different names.
Chris McCandless was proud and arrogant. These two elements are well observed in how he handled risky situations. This is well espoused in his letter to his peer, Ron. In the letter Chris acknowledges the grave consequences of his adventure into the wilderness but he still pursues them anyway to meet his unrealistic goals. He was also proud to admit that he needed the input of his parents. He behaved like a spoilt child. Billie, his mother notes that “Chris thought we were idiots for worrying about him” (83).McCandless was also naïve in his abstract perception of the world. He thought he could change it through his weird actions. In High School Chris spoke “seriously to his friend about smuggling weapons into South Africa and joining the struggle to end Apartheid” (78).
Chris McCandless was ignorant in that he fails to understand that one cannot live isolation fully disregarding the company of others. He did not understand that planning for such a voyage into the wild he needed enough food and medical supplies to keep him going. “His gear was “exceedingly minimal for the harsh conditions of the interior. His cheap hiking boots were neither waterproof nor well insulated.”(6). He only had a tattered map that he had taken from a gas station which was insufficient in his navigation. He was also poorly skilled as a hunter and further lacked a hunting license that would have made it illegal for him to hunt in the Alaskan wilderness.
His decision to cast himself away from the society can be argued to have been merely an act of rebellion. This can be what Shaun Callarman dubs as “romantic silliness”. He was rebellious even in his early years as attested by his parents in the book. He disagreed with his high school teachers on how best to write his reports. “Chris thought it was a stupid rule and decided to ignore it” (76). He disregarded authority and control. “He didn’t like going through channels or working within the system” (78).
On the other hand, it can be argued that McCandless was an intelligent individual who had a deeper philosophical outlook of life. Krakauer cites that McCandless was very much interested and a believer of philosophies extended by classic renouncers of the society such as Leo Tolstoy, Jack London and Henry Thoreau. They all provided the philosophical angle hat Chris based arguments on in his understanding of the society as self-centered and materialistic. His parents acknowledge that Chris was ashamed of his wealthy background. Billy notes that Chris, “the teenage Tolstoyan, believed that wealth was shameful, corrupting and inherently evil”(80). To show how much he believed in the social renouncers’ teachings, Chris burned all the money he had when he entered into the wild. Many of the people he encountered in his journey to the wild Alaska such as Gallin and Westerberg described him as a very intelligent individual with almost answers to everything. His parents also note that Chris was exceptional in his studies being an A student high school and college.
Chris McCandless was loyal to his ideals. This element endeared him to many and continues to make him an American legend that can never be wished away. He was driven by a higher principle that ensured that his short life was purposeful. Chris even revealed to those worried about him such as Ronald Franz that he was not destitute but was in the wild by choice. One of his long letters to Ron Franz also illustrates how impactful his ideals were to other people. He moved out of “his apartment and set up camp on the bajada” (41). His ideals made him more humane in the eyes of the lowest in the society. He would wander into the “seedier quarters of Washington” to interact with the poor, homeless and prostitutes buying them meals while also offering them advice on how to improve their situation (113).
Using Krauker’s understanding of McCandless, Shaun Callarman’s assertion that he was “crazy” can be disputed. Chris according to the “Into The Wild” author had the same traits as him in his youth. The author, just like McCandless, was “self-absorbed, intermittently reckless and moody” and a big disappointment to his father. Chris McCandless was not crazy but misunderstood in this context. Chris was philosophical and an individual willing to push himself to his full potential. Those that understood him such as Ronald Franz and Wayne Westerberg got much of his affection as illustrated by the number of the letters exchanged between them. It is to these friends that he admits his shortcomings and fears regarding his journey into the wild.
McCandless troubled childhood can also be linked to his unique outlook in life and rebellious nature. His father’s split with his first wife and his alleged affair with his ex-wife even after starting a new family with Chris’ mother affected the young Chris. Chris since then ceased to identify his father as a hypocrite to his own stern morals that he was keen to extend to the rest of the family members. The lies that surrounded his father’s divorce made him angry at his parents pushing him to assert that his “childhood seemed like fiction”. The hate and hypocrisy he associated with his father’s past can be said to have pushed him far away from home. It might have been the sole reason why all his principles centered on inner enlightenment and growth.
In recap, the Chris McCandless story is an interesting narration that continues to fascinate many. His intentions, principles actions and outlook of the society managed to breathe life into the literature of many social renouncers such as Henry Thoreau. He was fearless but crazy. He was crazy thinking that he could cast himself away from the society but was courageous for he proved that it could be done. Judging from his interactions that he met in his journey into the wild, Chris was exceptionally intelligent and admirable. His alter-ego, Alex Supertramp could be linked to his fearless nature but in the very end he reconciled with his own identity, Chris McCandless.
Krakauer, Jon. Into the Wild. New York: Anchor Books, 2009. Print.
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