Every once in awhile a story or tale comes along that truly takes hold and makes an impact on an American generation. The story of Chris McCandless should be taken as such. The account of this young man is inspirational to anyone who manages to glimpse the pages of the book based on his life, Into the Wild, or light up their television screen with the movie adaptation of the book.
I first learned about Chris McCandless last year when I picked up the book for a little light reading. The story of his travels, thoughts and aspect on life that unfolded in those pages left me asking a simple question: “What am I doing with my life?”
McCandless came from a well to do family with financial success. Despite all of this, the McCandless household was more turbulent, leaving a lasting impact on Chris coupled with the discovery of a dark past of his fathers previous marriage scared Chris beyond repair.
An avid reader of great literature such as Tolstoy, London and Thoreau, McCandless had a growing contempt for what he saw as the empty materialism of American society and envisioned himself separating from organized society for a Thoreau-like period of solitary contemplation.
In 1990, after graduating with honors from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia and with a promising future, McCandless walked out of his privileged life and into the wild searching for adventure, solitude and a need to distance him from society. He donated his graduate college fund, an outstanding $24,000 to Oxfam International Charity, and set out on the road with nothing more than the clothes on his back, a bag filled with books and camping supplies.
McCandless’s quest took him from the wheat fields of South Dakota to a renegade trip down the Colorado River to the non-conformists’ refuge of Slab City, California, and beyond. Ending in what he called the “Alaskan Odyssey.” McCandless pure idealistic views on life and society had a great impact on the people he came in contact along the way, most of which lives were completely changed after spending time with McCandless.
The majority of people would look upon this as mere carelessness, a na’ve idealist trying to test the precarious boundaries between man and nature.
In my eyes I think the complete opposite. McCandless should be considered an enduring symbol of what every American should be like. Today, there is seemingly nothing but people abusing, cheating and misusing one another for there own malicious intents.
I think the world could use more people like Christopher McCandless.
Like any true critic I won’t give away the ending of McCandless’s journey, I’ll leave that up to you to discover what an inspirational person he was and how he turned out.