Synthesis Into the Wild and Where I Lived, and What I Lived for
The Tragic Hero and Happiness in Into the Wild Jon Krakauer, fascinated by a young man in April 1992 who hitchhiked to Alaska and lived alone in the wild for four months before his decomposed body was discovered, writes the story of Christopher McCandless, in his national bestseller: Into the Wild. McCandless was always a unique and intelligent boy who saw the world differently. Into the Wild explores all aspects of McCandless’s life in order to better understand the reason why a smart, social boy, from an upper class family would put himself in extraordinary peril by living off the land in the Alaskan Bush.
McCandless represents the true tragic hero that Aristotle defined. Krakauer depicts McCandless as a tragic hero by detailing his unique and perhaps flawed views on society, his final demise in the Alaskan Bush, and his recognition of the truth, to reveal that pure happiness requires sharing it with others. McCandless’s family and peers expect him to live life a certain way, to follow the family tradition, however, it is McCandless’s high social standards for himself, and his sharp view of right and wrong, that would define the blueprint of his tragic flaw that caused him to go into the wild.
Synthesis Into the Wild and Where I Lived, and What I Lived for Essay Example
In High School, McCandless would start to show some of his radical ideas about how he could help fix society. McCandless’s high school buddies explained that “’ Chris didn’t like going through channels, working within the system. ”’ (113) Instead, McCandless would often talk about leaving school to go South Africa to help end the apartheid. When his friends or adults responded by saying that you are only kids, or you can’t make a difference, McCandless would simply respond “so I guess you just don’t care about right and wrong ‘” (113).
McCandless would grow to learn that his father had had an affair with his mother before they were married. Because of his simplistic black and white views, he would be unable to forgive his father. After graduating from Emory University in Atlanta, McCandless’s parents offered to buy him a new car as their graduation present. Contrasting what most teenagers would feel about this news, McCandless was shocked and offended, he “couldn’t believe they’d try and buy me a car” (21).
McCandless did not believe in the idea of tangible gifts, he explained to his sister that “he would have to be real careful not to accept any gifts from them in the future because they will think they have bought [his] respect” (21). McCandless near insecurity of gifts, and his longing for a peaceful and moral world caused him to want to search for another life. After burning his wallet, giving all his remaining money to charity, and leaving his beloved car behind, McCandless abandoned his family and hitchhiked his way west as far as possible.
These actions and ideas that McCandless developed while studying in college were only a blueprint for his tragic flaw, which would further establish itself while traveling alone in the West. While on the road and meeting people all over the country it becomes apparent that McCandless tragic flaw is in part to do with his love for simplistic beauty but also because of his fear of forming long-term relationships. Since leaving his old life, McCandless took the role of a vagabond, which he greatly enjoyed. One of the people he met on his adventure was an older man named Ron Franz.
As time passed, they grew closer and closer to each other mainly because of their conflicting views on life. McCandless continuously urged Franz to explore the world and stop “sitting on your bum” (50). Franz however strongly urged McCandless to settle down and to tell his family that he is all right. Krakauer writes that after McCandless left Franz to continue onto his Alaskan adventure: McCandless was thrilled to be on his way north, and he was relieved as well—relieved that he had again evaded the impending threat of human intimacy, of friendship, and all the messy emotional baggage that comes with it.
He had fled the claustrophobic confines of his family. He’d successfully kept Jan Burres and Wayne Westerberg at arm’s length, flitting out of their lives before anything was expected of him. And now he’d slipped painlessly out of Ron Franz’s life as well. (55) This passage highlights McCandless problems with intimacy and familiarity, which would eventually cripple him in the wild, and lead to his fatal catharsis. At least in part, it is clear that McCandless goes alone into the Alaskan Bush to ignore the responsibilities that humans face while in any close relationship.
Moreover, McCandless significantly hurts his family by following his dream and goal of forgetting the corrupt and rotten society that he had experienced. The true paradox of McCandless’s story is his selfishness verses his uncontrollable sense of injustice in the world that in part caused him to want to retire from his old life. Though he often fantasized of fighting in South Africa to end the apartheid, and dreamed of ending hunger, McCandless was ignorant about what his parents and loved ones must have felt when he left. McCandless’s father
Walt asks, “How a kids with so much compassion could cause his parents so much pain? ” (104). This question is indicative of McCandless’s tragic flaw, his need to go into the wild. McCandless aspired for independence, and in a truly patriotic way he declared the “ultimate freedom,” the “voyager whose home is the road…the climatic battle to kill the false being within and victoriously conclude the spiritual revolution…No longer to be poisoned by civilization he flees, and walks alone upon the land to become lost in the wild. (163) McCandless’s final adventure was nearing, his confidence and jubilation rose, as his plans had all been successful to this point. McCandless’s clear flaws, and mixed character traits are the initial signs of a tragic hero in literature; unfortunately, McCandless would live out this literary concept himself. McCandless’s demise in the Alaskan Bush is due to a dramatic turn of events, which are consequently caused by his tragic flaw. McCandless started out strong, he found an abandoned bus that became his new home and he successfully hunted animals, while also able to find nearby plants that were edible.
Nevertheless, his luck changed when after deciding he would bring his “great adventure” (163) to a close he realized that the overflowing river that separated him from the trail also separated him from the outside world. McCandless found it harder to find game, which caused him to rely on plants. There is no conclusive evidence as to what ultimately caused McCandless to starve to death, however he wrote in his journal a week before his death; “Extremely weak, fault of pot. Seed. Much trouble just to stand up. Starving. Great Jeopardy” (189). McCandless knew that he was most likely to die and his dream had unexpectedly backfired.
The group that discovered McCandless’s body first came across a note that McCandless had written and posted on the bus in the same week before he died. The beginning of the note read; “S. O. S I need your help. I am injured, near death and too weak to hike out of here. I am all alone, this is no joke” (12). Aristotle writes that a tragic hero experiences “a disastrous change of fortune, or reversal, catapults him from the heights of happiness to the depths of misery. This fall usually comes as a consequence of a tragic flaw in the hero’s character and/or an error of judgment. It is clear that McCandless’s tragic flaw inspired him to hitchhike and live in the Alaskan wilderness. Moreover, as evidenced by his “declaration of independence” (163) McCandless was at the “height of happiness” only to fall into the “depths of misery. ” The final recognition that McCandless experiences complete his journey that is characterized as a tragic hero. When McCandless is starving, sick, and near death, he finally stumbles upon the truth that he had been running from. Next to McCandless body, a note read; “ Happiness only real when shared” (1189).
Though it is impossible to know for sure how McCandless would have changed his life if he were rescued, it is important to recognize that he did not completely, if at all- regret going into the wild. On the back of a poem entitled “Wise Men in Their Bad Hours” by Robinson Jeffers, McCandless said goodbye: “I have had a happy life and Thank the Lord. Goodbye and may God bless all! ” (199) In addition, McCandless took a picture of himself “standing near the bus under the high Alaska sky, one hand holding his final note toward the camera lens, the other raised in a brave, beatific farewell. (199) The fact that McCandless was smiling and took the time to write that he had a happy life proves the final piece of any tragic hero. McCandless is certainty not depressed, and his moment of catharsis symbolizes the truth about happiness that McCandless had been searching for. McCandless depicts a real life American tragic hero, instigated by dream, and followed by a desire to live life for oneself. McCandless primary tragic flaw being his unwillingness to form long-term relations brought him both to the happiest moment of his life, but also to his demise.
McCandless never had a problem with people, but rather with the status quo of society, the idea that a man or a woman has to live inside of a coordinate plane. McCandless left home and went on his adventure simply for his own well being, he achieved both what he wanted to accomplish while learning a valuable lesson along the way. He learned that happiness must be shared, and while everyone has his or her flaws, it is important to let these go. Christopher McCandless should teach people the importance of following your dreams, and the importance of enjoying the natural serenity of life.