Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work.
The impossibility of total self-reliance
Christopher McCandless wants to be perfectly self-reliant. He quests for this ideal independence and isolation, but it escapes him at every turn. The sheer number of interviews included in the book testifies to how many people helped McCandless at the same time he claimed he wanted to leave everyone behind. Nowhere is the illusory nature of McCandless’s self-reliance more clear, however, than when McCandless heads down the Stampede Trail in what is to be the last trip of his life. McCandless decides to remain in an abandoned bus instead of making a shelter of his own. The pre-existing structure, which is kept in good condition by hunters, proves too convenient to pass up. Perhaps most significantly, McCandless cannot save his own life when he becomes too weak to forage. If he had not decided to leave human contact behind entirely, he might have been able to receive help.
Nature confounding human intentions
The unconquerable, unpredictable side of nature appears in the first pages of Into the Wild and continues to appear throughout the book. Alaska residents, for instance, insist that people like Christopher McCandless are fools to approach the wild with the idea that its vast beauty will solve their emotional or spiritual difficulties. No plan laid by any of the book’s explorers seems to succeed. Nature confounds nearly all of them. In his personal narrative, Krakauer stresses that he was unspeakably lucky to have survived his attempt to summit the Devils Thumb glacier, because of storm conditions he could not have foreseen. McCandless studies his edible plant guide and makes no mistakes in identifying species he can use to supplement his diet. He succumbs, however, to a mold growing on a seed he thought was safe to eat. A flooded river blocks his way when he decides he wants to head back to civilization. Many of the book’s events, including its final outcome, reflect the tragic irony of the idea that nature can be controlled. Too much of nature is both invisible and too unpredictable for McCandless to survive.
The difficulty of escaping familial influence
Christopher McCandless rejects his father, but the same qualities he hates in Walt McCandless reappear in his own decision to head into the wild. McCandless found his father overbearing, but at the same time, he frequently lectures his own parents. He also persuades vulnerable people, including his friend Ronald Franz, to take up his self-reliant, tramper’s philosophy as their own. Perhaps most importantly, McCandless is angered at his father’s secret family. He maintains that Walt McCandless lets him and his sister live in ignorance. He then keeps his own location secret from his family. This mirroring of his father’s behavior links Christopher McCandless to Walt McCandless and demonstrates a likeness between them precisely where Christopher might have least wanted to see it. In addition, the narrator explicitly ties his own childhood recklessness to his father’s influence.
More main ideas from Into the Wild
Into the Wild by John Krakauer is a real stunning story of Christopher McCandless, a young men who after graduating the university went to live in the wilderness. He gave his $24,000 savings to charity, abandoned his car, burned the rest of his cash and hitchhiked to Alaska. Four months later, he died of starvation, aged 24. Chis achieved his desire to escape the artificial consumer society and experience the wildlife with no boundaries. In his diary, he wrote “I have had a happy life and thank the Lord. Goodbye and may God bless you all!”
Wilderness is very important to Chis. He sees it as a place where he can live by his own rules, absolutely free, this is a place without the evils of the modern world. McCandless’s aim is to find the ultimate freedom from other people’s standards and authority above him. He desires to live alone, in a world where the only rules to follow are the nature laws. As this level of freedom requires a complete isolation, Christopher has to go into the wild alone. However, the reality of living in the wilderness is not so romantic as he supposes. Chris spends so much time and effort to find some food to keep him alive. His letters, diary and notes found disclosed his desperate efforts to survive.
The temptation of danger and risky activities is central to the book. The author doesn’t believe that this allure is important to everyone, but it is significant to a young person like Chris, the one who is passionate, ambitious, and not pleased with the problems of the modern world. This some kind of inner demon is driving Christopher during his adventures. He wants to experience all hazardous and unpredictable situations to challenge himself. Chris is also driven by the danger inherent in the inability to forgive. A boy is a very sympathetic person who can’t ignore the fact that so many people around him are starving. He thinks that it’s his responsibility to help them. However, his inability to forgive his parents’ mistakes is the main contradiction between his passionate nature and sometimes cold-blooded behavior.
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One of the main Chris’s qualities is the adherence to principles. He thinks that his parents are too materialistic and believes that giving all his savings to charity is the only right decision to make. This devotion to principle is admirable, though, Chis often puts his principles above people. As a result, he hurts people without even intending to do it. For instance, in college Christopher decides that he has a moral problem with presents as he cannot give or accept them. This may be caused by his intimacy problems; as he doesn’t let people approach too close, he cannot put them over his principles.
Christopher’s dream to live in the wilderness of Alaska came true. He made a derelict bus his home and from there he hunted animals and went to collect food. Unfortunately, the wildlife is serious and threatening and it is impossible to survive without being prepared. Cris had no compass, gear, phone, maps, instead, he brought a lot of books with him. Without food and water, he felt that he was weakening and losing weight very fast, that his end was near. Shorty after, he died. Three weeks later, his body was found by a group of hunters. They would have saved his life, had been Christoper still alive.
Into the Wild is a very passionate and interesting book. The 2007 adaptation of the book directed by Sean Penn attracted more attention to the John Krakauer’s work. The film was true to the original story and even involved Christopher’s family and the author himself. The movie, as well as the book, received plenty of positive reviews, which cemented the unique story of Christopher McCandless into American history.