Silent Whispers

Chasing Illusionary Butterflies!

Into the Wild-Book 22 Review

Posted by Mrityunjay on September 6, 2018

Two years he walks the earth. No gadgets, no cards, no cigarettes, no known association with family. All he craved was Ultimate freedom. Thou shalt not return, ‘cause ‘The West Is The Best’. An extremist to the core. Home was the road. An aesthetic voyager. Two years gone. Flash in the pan. But something is still left. The final and greatest adventure. Culmination of spiritual pilgrimage. The climatic battle to kill the false being within. Abound the freight trains. Hitchhiking to the great white north. Unwilling to be poisoned by civilization. Fly and flee… to become lost in the wild all in the styles of his heroes, Henry David Thoreau, Leo Tolstoy and Jack London.

It was April 1992 when a young man named Christopher Johnson McCandless from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. He had abandoned his beloved car, donated $25,000 in savings to charity, left behind all of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself in search of a radical re-engagement with nature, unsullied by rat race or money. Not more than four months later, a moose hunter found the decomposed body of the vagabond. Into the Wild is the unforgettable story of how this bright, charming young man came to die.

Into the Wild, is a heart-wrenching, appealing, nonfiction book about adventure and survival. Authored by wildJon Krakauer, this story of Chris McCandless first appeared as an article in for Outside magazine in 1993 which eventually turned into this book. Jon Krakauer is also famous for Into Thin Air and Under the Banner of Heave, and a biography titled Where Men Win Glory.

Into the wild is a richly, spaciously rendered account of landscape and moodscape. As you go through the pages you can visualize the shades of rich browns, ochres and sunset yellows through the journey of McCandless. The book was reconstructed from his journals with an almost obsessive detailing. The protagonist always comes across as intelligent and candid young fellow whose anger at the world has been allowed to uncoil now that he has finally left home and hit the road, leaving behind bewildered, grieving parents with whom McCandless stayed out of contact until the very end. He encounters several hippies who shower him with lift, meals, and love and all of them seem to almost understand him, but not quite before he fatefully disappears upcountry.

The story of Chris McCandless generated extreme reactions from American public when it first came into light. He comes across as an idealist and a romantic, but he is also stubborn, driven and selfish. His need to immerse himself in nature, to throw material possessions overboard, stems at least partly from a need to punish his parents for the lies and cruelties he remembers being inflicted on him and his sister as a child. There is something regressive and dysfunctional in McCandless, a fear of human interaction. His unaffected charm entrances the people he meets on the highway but he breaks their hearts too, by insisting on an enigmatic leave-taking. As he says, “You’re wrong if you think the joy of life comes from human relationships,” to one of his acquaintances on the road.

All credit to Jon_Krakauer for the way he takes the reader deep into the psyche of Chris McCandless through his diary entries, letters to friends and highlighted passages in the books he carried, mainly from authors such as Henry David Thoreau>, Boris Pasternak and Jack London, all of whom create an idealistic vision of the wilderness as a place of beauty and truth where one can escape reality, which it would seem MacCandless naively embraced as fact. Author sporadically uses personal writings of McCandless to provide the skeletal frame for this book, the flesh and blood being created through a mixture of Krakauer’s own interpretation of what happened to Chris, based on his intensive research, police reports and an admitted personal connection to the tale of McCandless. The words are so emphatic and readers just can’t run away from the infectious writing. It almost feels poetic the way Krakauer includes his own similar yet unique Alaskan struggle along with few other “lost-in-nature” obsession of famous adventurers. The only difference was some of them got away and Chris didn’t. Perhaps it was just a tale of youthful self-discovery, determination, naivety and romanticism with no happy ending. There was this nagging sense that Chris was beginning to grow up towards the end of his Alaskan adventure and he was getting ready to come back to society but the tragedy struck and he couldn’t get out of the wild.

Some of you might find McCandless an arrogant, pompous prick who was un-prepared with a lack of knowledge of his surroundings and insufficient equipment. It tantamounts to disrespecting the wilderness when you don’t even have a map or a compass while planning to roam through Alaska. Add to that no contact with his grieving parents for two years and it indeed seems callous. But perhaps he was just trying to prove something to himself as well as his parents. His anger and discontentment arising out of his troubled relationship with his parents led him to wanting to live a harsh and isolating life in the wilderness. Perhaps it was his way of punishing his parents and to assert his control over his own life. But then it’s all a matter of conjecture. Towards the end of the book readers will find interviews with members of Chris’s immediately family, telling how they experienced the ordeal and loss for themselves. Some of it feels haunting. Though the book is light on facts and heavy on speculation so that makes it hard to classify but it doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the story. Into the Wild constantly engages you with its gripping narration and contrasting tones of romantic writings interspersed with cold, matter of fact tone.

Personally, I loved what he did. Is he right? I don’t know. It might appear selfish but then he just wanted to be away from trappings of the straight world of materialism. Like some people would die for the love for extreme sports and extreme danger, McCandless was obsessed with extreme nature. That explains his refusal to have any hiking equipment and training. He wanted to re-enact the early men heading out into the wild with almost literally nothing on his back. Imagine a person making a bonfire of his few remaining 10-dollar bills! That was his contempt for the materialistic world he did not want to be a part of.

Our society doesn’t really appreciate the true nature of a solitary character. Someone, who can often be perceived as a loser, a loner, a creep or a serial killer. But may be its just as simple as a desire to be alone. Solitude is the peace. Detachment is the nirvana. McCandless was by no means a suicidal character. If I try to oversimplify then perhaps this is a book that just talks about what it is to be human, and what happens when we admire nature more than humanity: does it make us less than human, or do we fulfil and even transcend our humanity?

Happy Reading, folks. Cheers.


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