Into The Wild Film Analysis: A Tragic Hero

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A Tragic Hero In the film Into the Wild, Chris McCandless embarks on a long self-journey through Alaska’s frontier. At the beginning of the story, we are introduced to a troubled college graduate who has little plans, other than to escape from his past reality. From a young age, he is described as an individual who has unique ideas and an intelligent mind that has always viewed the world in a different way. Chris left his family, luxuries, and comfort because he didn’t agree with the way society was conforming around him. He didn’t want to be part of that materialistic change, so he simply picked up and left.

He was so devoted that he let no one else know, re-routed his mail to a different address, and dropped off the radar. His strong desire to leave overtook all other thoughts of his past life and he moved on. Many may consider Chris’s actions throughout the story foolish because he judged society in a way that not many people do and are used to. On the other hand, some argue that the way he made his decision to leave was respectable, just because of the fact that not many people would have the courage, let alone reason to do so.

Throughout his journey Chris demonstrated many attributes and left a lasting legacy, that is one of a hero, on the world he left behind The dictionary’s definition of a hero is “a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.” (Oxford English Dictionary) Chris McCandless embodied all of these qualities, as he did not lack ability and had courage and talent. He spent months developing a journal full of poisonous plant species and practicing hunting and different skills throughout his journey. He gave up Harvard Law School to live amongst animals in the wilderness and practice his new individualistic lifestyle that not many others would follow. While excelling day by day he let nothing stand in front of him, further demonstrating his strong will to survive.

A hero is not only one who executes actions with courage and talent, but also one who is remembered for their actions, and the minds of many others are impacted because of what they did. When mentioning people like William Kyle Carpenter, Oskar Schindler, and Martin Luther King Jr., one’s mind goes straight to what they did, and why the world is now better because of it. Now Chris McCandless’s action’s aren’t necessarily comparable, as he didn’t jump in front of a live grenade to save a fellow soldier, and he didn’t save 1,200 Jews from death. However, no matter the weight of his actions, they are still remembered by many and have changed people’s outlooks on the way they live their lives.

While many claim McCandless is a hero and has left a long-lasting legacy on the minds of others, many argue that his decision to leave the familiarities and luxuries at home was foolish and selfish. Chris graduated from college with everything going for him; a wealthy family, the grades to get into Harvard Law School, and a group of friends. Running away from a life like this can be considered injudicious and not thought out. Heroes possess traits of courage, humility, patience, and the ability to maintain long-standing relations with many people. Along the way, Chris ran into many individuals, some searching the same satisfaction as he was, and some simply living a separate life in the rural parts of the world. Jan Burres and her boyfriend Bob encountered Chris early on in his journey and became fond of him after spending time together.

Jan had a son, about the same age as Chris, that he reminded her of. The two continuously offered up a safe place for Chris, but after a few days, he simply picked up and continued on with his journey. Not only did this happen with Jan and Bob, but also many others he met along the way. Chris’s inability to maintain relationships can be considered his tragic flaw in his attempt to be a hero. Chris’s idea of freedom was to never be tied down by societal standards again. He wanted to find himself as free as animals in the wild, cut contact with the rest of the world, and live on his own. Throughout his journey, Chris did find pure happiness and satisfaction, but with that being said he never achieved ultimate freedom. Chris was always completely preoccupied to find freedom, while freedom can only be described as when one has absolutely no duties to fulfill. Chris was so caught up in trying to find it that he may have lost that concept of actual “freedom”.

With that being said, no one will ever know if Chris accomplished his goal of finding happiness, serenity, and happiness. The only person who can decide whether or not he achieved what he wanted to, is Chris. The one item that lets us step into his mind during his final hours is his journal that he documented his thoughts in. In his last moments, he leaves a note thanking the lord and letting everyone know that he has, in fact “had a happy life.” Ultimately, Chris’s decisions should not be considered foolish, as what he did had a widespread impact on people that crave the same feeling of escape. Even though his life ended quietly that afternoon in the woods, he left whoever reads his story with a feeling of inspiration and adventure.

With strong willpower and knowledge about his surroundings, he courageously carried on his life the way only he wanted to, not letting anyone else get in his way. The fine line between courage and recklessness is necessary in determining whether or not Chris used his traits in the way a hero would. Courage can be considered an attribute that kicks in only when needed, and only for the purpose it serves. With no underlying purpose, intent, or higher goal, courage turns to recklessness. Chris had a higher goal of finding his own freedom, which is why the decisions he made and the legacy he left is one of a hero. 

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