Chris McCandless

Into the Wild

Into the Wild is a movie based on the true story of Chris McCandless and his pursuit for fulfillment through exiling himself from society. Two songs, ‘Guaranteed’ and ‘Long Nights’ were written specifically for the movie and although both were inspired by him, “Guaranteed” gets more to the heart of Chris McCandless’s character, as his search for happiness is defined by his yearning for solitude, not a fresh start.

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The song ‘Long Nights’ best portrays the emotions McCandless feels that motivate him to leave his home. Throughout his life, McCandless has lived the way his parents wanted him to. Now that he is an adult and graduated from university, he breaks out on his own for the first time. The song begins with “have no fear, for when I’m alone I’ll be better off than I was before.” McCandless wants his sister to understand that although a risky decision, he knows that leaving is the right one. He believes he is better off on his own, and whatever future may lay in front of him is better than what he is leaving behind. He wants to carve a fresh start and forget his past, as represented by the line “who I was before, I cannot recall.” The song then continues with “I’ll take this soul that’s inside me now, like a brand new friend I’ll forever know.” He is discovering a yearning for something more, and is excited to find new experiences. He believes this journey will change who is, and he find himself growing as a person the longer he explores.

From the very first line, “on bended knee is no way to be free,” to the final line, “I knew all the rules, but the rules did not know me,” ‘Guaranteed’ gets to the core of McCandless’s desire to be free. He knew the lifestyle he should be living, but chooses instead to find a different, more liberating path. For him, the autonomy of living day to day, unknowing of what will happen, is preferable to the confines of everyday life. McCandless has always had trouble connecting with his parents and their routine of life; when he leaves he is hoping that all his “destinations will accept [him]” in a way his parents never could. The more people try to push him, the more he strives to become independent, as expressed by the line “don’t
come closer or I’ll have to go.” Alaska is far from home geographically; symbolically it is “untapped” territory which is something he yearns for. McCandless feels he has a connection with nature, something he has never been able to feel for people. This song particularly exposes that feeling with the lines “wind in my hair I feel part of everywhere.” The primary reason for McCandless’s journey into Alaska was to find who he was in solitude, as demonstrated best by ‘Guaranteed’.

Both the songs ‘Guaranteed’ and ‘Long Nights’ are written after Chris McCandless; but while both emulate his craving for freedom, ‘Guaranteed’ displays McCandless’s longing for a different life and his need for fulfillment. McCandless was searching for something he thought was happiness through a solitude lifestyle. It wasn’t until his end that he realizes happiness isn’t true unless it’s shared.

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