Into the Wild vs Thoreau's Walden
English 11 Honors
13 Jan. 2013
Into the Wild vs. Walden
Into the Wild is a movie based on the adventure of Chris McCandless as he breaks away from his civilized life and travels across the country to live in Alaska. Chris bases his journey off the core beliefs of the novel Walden by Henry David Thoreau. The novel is a description of Thoreau’s life as he exiles himself from society and returns to nature, living in the woods surrounding Walden pond. Thoreau expresses his beliefs about the negative aspects of civilization, money and the importance of self reliance and simplicity. Having a troubled life, Chris is intrigued by Thoreau's concepts and seeks to incorporate them into his own life. The movie displays the path Chris takes as he tries to follow in the footsteps of Thoreau, but there are many differences in the life Chris leads and the one captured in Walden. Henry David Thoreau was able to see the corruption of society and its extreme hunger for money and material goods. Thoreau sought to live a life away from a materialistic world, leading him to escape to the woods around Walden pond. Thoreau believed that society contorted one’s view of what is really important in life. People focused on making money to impress other members society and live up to an unattainable standard by buying luxurious commodities. He was unable to comprehend why someone would buy an unnecessarily expensive houses, when they would have to slave for the rest of their life just to pay it off. Thoreau frowned upon how money determined one’s social status and the way people valued it over important, spiritual values. He wanted to be able to escape the confines of society and the new values that it created, values that he didn’t share. Thoreau found refuge from the negative aspect of civilization by becoming one with nature where he could focus his life on simplicity and self reliance. Henry David Thoreau’s journey in the woods around Walden pond was driven by the desire to live simply. Thoreau believed that by returning to nature he would be able to find himself and truly be able to appreciate spiritual virtues. Nature provided Thoreau with the three necessities of life: food, water and shelter. Achieving self reliance, Thoreau built his own home and grew the majority of his food. Since simplicity was of utmost importance, Thoreau had a modest house that “Never pleased [his] eye...though [he] was obliged to confess that it was comfortable”(Thoreau 297). He considered shelter a necessity, but nothing more. He didn’t think lavish homes were acceptable when a basic shelter provided the same warmth and safety, noting Native American wigwams to support his argument. Thoreau described the wigwams as just as efficient as a mansion because they served the same purpose, but the wigwams were free and made from nature. From his food to his home to his clothes, everything about Thoreau’s life style while living at Walden pond was inspired by simplicity, self reliance, and the yearning to escape a corrupted society. The movie Into the Wild displays the story of Chris McCandless traveling throughout the country as he makes his way to Alaska. Chris grew up in a wealthy family who cluttered their lives with money. He didn’t share the desire for money with his family which he demonstrates by burning all the money that he had, donating his savings and destroying his credit cards. As he begins his journey, he focuses on the key values of life and seeks truth. Chris knows the importance of nature, which frees him from the civilized world. Returning to nature allows Chris to find who he really is and to break free from the corruption of society. Chris views material goods the same way he views money, as something utterly excessive. He refuses a new car which his parents offer to buy him, and he even...
Cited: Thoreau, Henry. Walden. 5th. Canada: Bantam Dell, 1962. 111-355. Print.
Into the Wild. Dir. Sean Penn. Perf. Emile Hirsch, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, Jena Malone. Paramount Vantage, 2008
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