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Into the Wild [REVIEW]

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” -- David Henry Thoreau

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer is a non-fiction cautionary tale following the one and only Chris McCandless (Alexander Supertramp) on his reckless journey away from home and into the wild. After graduating college, he cut off ties to his family, hitchhiked and worked his way to Alaska, headed "into the wild" in April 1992, and was found dead in August 1992. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a party of moose hunters. 

Chris McCandless stood as a nonconformist who despised materialism, hunger, and oblivion. One of the main reasons that Into the Wild is so popular because it's controversial insight on whether Chris McCandless was truly a hero after his death. Some believe that Chris McCandless was a hero for his overall view on life and it's beauty. Meanwhile, some people think he was absolutely foolish for going out into the wild with such "lofty" ideals and got what he initially deserved. Personally, I think everyone makes mistakes. Yes, he was arrogant and ignorant in a sense. But, he lived within his "magic bus" for nearly 114 days or so. There's several pictures of him that he'd taken on a film camera with the animals he had hunted and the notorious picture of him in front of bus 142.

It definitely can't be easy to live off the wild in a place like Alaska. I believe there was a scene in the book where Chris had been questioning himself; should he really go back into the wild for good? It obviously showed how he became lonely after awhile. His final odyssey in Alaska had made him recognize his intense need for companionship. As he quoted, "Happiness [is] only real when shared."

Regarding his death, Krakauer published results in the journal Wilderness & Environmental Medicine showing that the seeds did indeed contain a toxin. But it wasn't beta-ODAP. It was another amino acid, L-canavanine. There was a ton of theories on how Chris had exactly died. He'd been in some kind of paralysis that caused weakness and struggling. Due to that, he wasn't able to hunt for food which would lead to him dying of starvation.

But, there's more to Chris McCandless than just his death. Even at a young age, Chris McCandless was troubled. His school teacher even once said, "Chris marches to a different drummer." He did grow up in a very privileged situation. But, he decided to disconnect himself from his old life, including his family. He grew up with parents questioning divorce, constantly fighting. Chris states how his parents are idiotic for ever thinking they could "buy his love." even though they were just genuinely trying to be nice to him. He completely clashed with his family and the people he grew up around. I actually hated that. I wanted to bump my rating down because I feel like he had no true reasoning behind this adventure than young angst that had been building up while he read books and brooded over society. 

Yet, his ultimate impact on the people he met is what made me give in a 4/5 stars. Jon Krakauer was incredibly passionate about his story. These encounters with people throughout Chris' travels are significant to the plot. The reason I love this book is a letter he wrote to Franz, an old man who was moved by Chris entirely.

“make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservation, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty.”

Jon Krakauer did an excellent job portraying Chris and his intentions. This book was extremely well-written and structured. It intertwined his highlighted passages, his family relationships, the people he met when he traveled, and his letters perfectly. It remained grounded despite Chris McCandless being all over the place. Chris' idealism struck me while reading this book. Too many people do live their lives conditioned to a life of security and waste it away. When Chris wanted something, he'd chase for it. I truly admired that. I think this book proves an fantastic point and it's devastating that Chris McCandless died at such a young age. But, I don't idolize him. I think he could've gone about his feelings by taking a different path. Chris McCandless would be roughly somewhere in his 40's now if he had survived.

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