Journey to the Meaning of Life
In the novel Into the Wild, the author Krakauer presents the story of Chris McCandless, a young man who is curious about what he really wants to accomplish in his life. Inspired by his favorite author, McCandless abandons everything he has and departs on a journey to search for the answers to life in order to fulfill his curiosity. Since he is a very smart and logical person, McCandless tries to make sense of everything, including his life. He finds that leaving civilization and connecting with nature really helps him better understand the meaning of life. He believes that life is all about engaging with the environment, rather than with relationships with humans that he refers to as plastic people. Because of his failed relationship with his parents, McCandless thinks that human relationships are fragile and teach him nothing about life. Perhaps a trip into the natural realm can help people understand and find their place. So, despite many controversial reactions to McCandless’ actions, the reader comes to understand that his decision to go on this trip is not a crazy and pointless idea. Rather, through an epic journey into the wild, McCandless tries to grasp the ideas of life by expanding the intellectual and adventurous boundaries of his mind and soul.
As the author of the story, Krakauer uses personal notes to portray McCandless as a young American who explores the wilderness in order to understand the meaning of his life. According to one set of author’s notes, Krakauer writes, “In trying to understand McCandless, I inevitably came to reflect on other, larger subjects as well: the grip wilderness has on the American imagination, the allure high-risk activities hold for men of a certain mind….” Krakauer reveals a bigger picture of the motives behind McCandless’s journey- that of the inevitable attraction of adventure and the wild. He hopes that the reader will be able to better understand why McCandless is willing to take the high risk journey. Moreover, since Krakauer sees that there are many similarities between his experiences and his personality with McCandless’s, he truly understands that McCandless is not a sensational wacko or an arrogant young man who is trying to get media attention. As he states in an author’s note, “I interrupt McCandless’s story with fragments of a narrative drawn from my own youth. I do so in the hope that my experiences will throw some oblique light on the enigma of Chris McCandless”. Krakauer wishes the readers will not judge McCandless as a reckless idiot just because McCandless is unable to survive in his trip. By providing the fact that Krakauer was able to walk out of Alaska alive, he proves that the idea of exploring the wilderness in order to seek the meaning of life is not a stupid or useless decision.
Krakauer’s argument that McCandless is not crazy or stupid may be right; there certainly are strong forces that push McCandless towards the journey. Since McCandless always loved to read various books when he was a child, it is clear that his adventurous actions are truly inspired by his favorite author, Jack London. “McCandless had been infatuated with London since childhood. Mesmerized by London’s turgid portrayal of life in Alaska and the Yukon, McCandless read and reread The Call of the Wild….” (Krakauer 44). From the quotation, we can see how deep McCandless’s admiration towards London’s story is. McCandless’s adventure arises from his desire to directly experience the story and truly understand what it must be feel to be like his favorite character. Moreover, his powerful desire to unite with nature to conceptualize the meaning of life drives him towards the journey. Looking at the top of a passage from the book, Doctor Zhivago that he underlines, McCandless focuses on “NATURE/PURITY” (189). It shows how he really is obsessed with the idea of nature and purity that he is trying to capture in his life. He believes that since humans are...
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