April 12, 2020
Analysis of ‘Into the wild’ by Jon Krakauer
Jon Krakauer, the author of ‘into the wilderness’ is an American writer and mountaineer who was born on April 12th, 1954 in Brooklyn, Massachusetts as a third child in a family of five. He was then raised in Corvallis Oregon from the age of two where he attended Corvallis High school and graduated in 1972. He then joined Hampshire college where he graduated in 1976 with a degree in Environmental studies. He then later got married to Linda Marium Moore in 1980 then moved to Seattle, Washington after the release of his first book, ‘Into the thin air’. As a well-established author, Krakauer was well known for his literary work including Into thin air, Under the banner of heaven, Where men will glory and finally Into the wild. Mr Krakauer’s literature skills got sharpened when he started working as a journalist in the early 1980s. During this time, Krakauer used to write many magazine articles where his ideas began piling up then followed a number of literary works.
The story ‘Into the Wild’ begins when a group of Alaskan hunters discover the body of Christopher McCandless during a visit to the Denali National park on a yearly excursion. After they radioed for help, the body is removed by the FBI where Krakauer visits with Wayne Westerberg, who knew McCandless. Westerberg got to know about McCandless because he once hired him in his grain elevator and he describes him as Intelligent, engaging and determined gentleman. Details of McCandless lifestyle and his dislike for material things further Krakauer’s knowledge on Christopher and later takes us back to the beginning of the end of his life where he leaves his home and his whole possession and peddles down the Colorado River in a canoe after his Datsun stalled due to the flash floods. Before he starts off his journey of solitude, Christopher, who had just graduated from college leaves behind everything including his inheritance in pursuit of a lone life. After his five-month journey that left his parents worried, Christopher’s life stirs up again when he meets Charlie. He, however, tries to avoid intimate relationships with people and thus he moves to California before embarking on his journey to Alaska. Meanwhile, Krakauer receives a letter from Ronald Franz that describes his father-son relationship with McCandless. The Cascades of events follow until Christopher dies of hunger in an abandoned bus leaving behind a note that read; “ I have had a happy life and thank the lord. Goodbye and may God bless!”
The characterization of the main character, Christopher McCandless, of the way he views his society, nature, wilderness, his economic ideas and his liberal views reflect back to Thoreau’s ideas of civil disobedience. In Thoreau’s essay on civil disobedience, he argues that most governments are in conscience and inexpedient. In his arguments, Thoreau stated that governments imposed rules from the majority ruling. He also said that in many cases, rules were imposed due to the will of the majority and not justice. According to him, people should not allow the government to overrule as better governments are those who rule a little or do not rule at all. ( Thoreau,1971: 395).
In the novel, we are able to see that Thoreau who plays the role of Christopher’s role model is highly influenced by his environment including his own family. In his family, there was a condition that he least expected but the condition later changes his personality and attitude to achieve freedom in truth- ultimate and absolute freedom. He uses his essay to criticize the unwise rule employed by his government terming it as an endless and determined search for the truth.
Thoreau was not looking for the truth for himself but he also spelt out the ways to realize the mistake and conduct a massive change. To him, civil disobedience was one form of correcting these mistakes.
The theme of life without principle is also brought out in this story. Christopher McCandless who is obsessed with Thoreau’s ideologies decides to give up his life and walk in the light of his ideologist. As per Thoreau’s theory of life without principle, he demonstrates the types of works during his time and the honest work in the current times. He suggested that waged labourers should not be not only be driven by the aim to make money but also something else. He says that the aim of the labourer should not be able to get money or to get a good job but to do great work.
Thoreau’s belief was that a worker would be doing himself an injustice if his sole aim is to get money. He even goes ahead and cites an instance that is he agrees to work with an industrial worker in a mine, the society might view him as a hard worker. But if he decides to make a small scale investment that does not involve any manual input, then the community might view him as an idler. He further argues that wisdom is more valuable than gold and that is why Christopher leaves behind all his belongings and heads away from home to start a life that has no materialistic touch. Despite his wisdom being intriguing, Christopher does not use his knowledge to make money.
Another one of the themes that are also evident in Krakauer’s book is the theme of walking. Our story takes a look at the life of a college graduate who takes off from home without telling anybody to go and start off his own life. As the story moves on, we realize that Chris was a mysterious man and not even whoever knew he could understand him.
At first, he was a compassionate, lovable and a hardworking young man before his world of mystery unfolded. First, he takes off without even telling parents anything. He drives off before his car, a Datsun gets damaged which he dumps in order to destroy any leads that might make it easier for him to be traced. He then walks into the wilderness in Alaska putting his life at a great risk though he does not mind that.
However, what his lovers and readers of history know about him is that Christopher wanted to uncover an entirely different life for himself, one where he would be free to do whatever that pleased him. His life was based on his single principle possessed his mind: ‘Don’t settle down and live in one place. Move around, be nomadic and make each day a new horizon.’
For the two years that Chris moved around the world, he only survived by what nature gave him. When he took the challenge of walking into the wilderness, he believed that he was up to the task. It was however saddening that his race against nature ends tragically but Chris dies a happy man.
The story brings out the aspiring character of Christopher that although it ends too soon, he was able to live up to his satisfaction though it was self-centred of him as he left those who cared for him without even informing them.