What is true happiness? How can a person comprehend the fullness of being? These questions among many others were probably driving Chris McCandless, a passionate Emory graduate from Annandale in Virginia, all along his life-changing pilgrimage across the American continent. The story of his remarkable life and tragic death in Alaskan wilderness grasped the attention of Jon Krakauer that led to the creation of the Into the wild book. The boy in is early twenties, fascinated with Jack Londons and Leo Tolstoys ideas and alienated from his family, was avoiding close human contact and found shelter on the endless American roads and finally in the Alaskan taiga. The most important lessons that Chris learnt from his meanderings are that 1) the most precious thing on the Earth is experiencing this beautiful world to its full extent and 2) people cannot be genuinely happy unless they share their joy with others.
The story of the young travelers adventures and mysterious death in the taiga enthralled both the researchers and just ordinary people. The book that Jon Krakauer has written helps to shed some light onto the true reasons that made him give away everything he owned and hit the road. One of the most significant reasons was Chris rebellious and extremely independent nature. Even as a child Chris grew vegetables outside his parents wealthy house and sold them to neighbors in order to earn his own money. Another reason why Chris cut any ties with his family is the atmosphere of hypocrisy and orientation for material wealth that his parents displayed. Two years before his fatal journey started Chris found out that his father had a second family at the time he was born. This was probably the main reason why he decided to lose touch with his family and try to find his happiness elsewhere. As Krakauer puts it, Chris wanted to invent an utterly new life for himself, one in which he would be free to wallow in unfiltered experience (18). Chris was long aware that any possessions were unnecessary to be truly happy: he owned very few personal things including a used car and a bunch of paperback books.
Living on the streets with tramps and bums Chris found that it is the experiences, the memories, the great triumphant joy of living to the fullest extent in which real meaning is found (Krakauer, 27). Money did not matter for him at all, so he donated all his capital to charity and burnt all the cash he had in his wallet to be truly free from what he owned. His craving to experience as many sides to life as possible even made him break the law several times driving into the forbidden zones of the National Park. Another outstanding characteristic that Chris possessed was his acute awareness of injustice in the world with its problems of racism and hunger. Chris just had to be defiant to anything that anybody was trying to impose on him: he took as gospel the essay On the Duty of Civil Disobedience and thus considered it his moral responsibility to flout the laws of the state (Krakauer, 21). It looks as if Chris McCandless had a source of inexhaustible energy within him that made him discover what lied beneath the surface of this world. He felt that the freedom and simple beauty of tramping and living the life of a traveler is just too good to pass up (Krakauer, 25). In short, Chris McCandless lived up to the belief that experience is the thing that cannot be bought with money and it is endlessly precious.
Despite McCandless mostly secluded lifestyle, he did make a lot of friends all along his journey across the US. He made a really long-lasting and indelible impression on the majority of the people that he met. Most of them were charmed by Chris warm personality, independent ideas and strong determination to finish anything he started. However, he was reluctant to form intimate relationship with anybody and discarded Ron Franz offer to adopt him. Chris was a loner since childhood he would spend hours by himself without feeling lonely. However, in the harsh conditions of his last Alaska trip, reading Leo Tolstoy Chris realized that only a life similar to the life of those around us, merging with it without a ripple, is genuine life, and that an unshared happiness is not happiness ( Krakauer, 29). Chris must have been amazed with this revelation so contrary to everything he used to believe that he wrote on the books margins: And this was most vexing of all, he noted, HAPPINESS ONLY REAL WHEN SHARED ( Krakauer, 29).
Therefore, the first main lesson that everyone can learn from Chris McCandless story is that the most valuable asset any person can have is the experience. Going into the wild to be alone with the nature and oneself can become a priceless adventure that will facilitate understanding the true purpose and meaning of life. Another important lesson that everyone can ponder on is that living ones life alone is not what makes people happy. Only the life when all the joys and grieves are shared with close people can make a person happy. Unfortunately, Chris died before he could go out from the wild and live up to this revelation of his. However, his life and story will inspire many generations of people not to be afraid to change their life for the better.
Krakauer, Jon. Into The Wild. New York: Anchor Books, 1997. Web.
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