Journey to the Meaning of Life

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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.

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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 born with purity, the only way people can get a better understanding and reasoning of life is to go back to nature, where the source of purity is.

This might be a reason why McCandless has a strong desire to reunite with nature and is willing to embark on a risky journey. Throughout McCandless’s journey, he uses his knowledge to survive. Coupled with his search for identity and meaning, his intelligence proves that McCandless must have reasonably thought out the purposes for his adventure. McCandless is an educated young man who just graduated from Emory University with a high cumulative average.

Along the way, he applied his knowledge to help solves problems that he encountered. As a result, McCandless does not seem to really have difficulties on his trip and everything always went moothly. For example, McCandless was able to survive for more than a month beside the Gulf of California on five pounds of rice and a bounty of fish caught with a cheap rod and reel (Krakauer 162). Also, most of the people McCandless met on the road remember him as a smart and nice guy.

According to Burres, “I thought he’d be fine in the end. He was smart…. He figured all of that out on his own…” (46). McCandless utilized his knowledge for many things he accomplishes; clearly he believed he was prepared to survive the journey, showing an underlying logical process and reasoning behind the voyage.

Besides the knowledge that he posseses, McCandless is a person with a strong personality and high achievements. During his journey, he always had a plan for which direction he wanted to go. Once he set a goal, he did not let anything interrupt him because he had to stay on top of his plan and achieve it by a specific time. For example, McCandless refused Westerberg’s offers to stay longer and help work for a couple more days, although he was offered an airplane ticket so he did not need to travel by road.

According to Westerberg, “Once Alex made up his mind about something, there was no changing it…I even offered to buy him a plane ticket to Fairbanks, which would have let him work an extra ten days and still get to Alaska by the end of April, but he said no because flying would be cheating and wreck the whole trip. ” (67). This shows how McCandless had a strong value towards his principles. It was impossible to tempt McCandless with sophisticated offers to change his mind because he would not betray his own principles.

By taking the long road, McCandless was able to build a stronger and obvious relationship with his own principles of life.This ultimately shows how McCandless was able to grow as a person on the journey. Despite expanding on his principles, there is a development of fearlessness and consistency towards a goal that shows McCandless’s spirit in life. From the process of crossing the Mexican border, we can see his spirit of braveness.

He never gave up even though crossing the border was not an easy thing to do; rather, he was finally able to figure out the way to cross by paddling a canoe through the dam’s open floodgates and managing to accomplish his trip safely. Alex finds what he believes to be the Wellteco Canal and heads south. Worries and fears return as the canal grows ever smaller…Local inhabitants help him portage around a barrier… Alex finds Mexicans to be warm, friendly people (Krakauer 35). Crossing the border without being noticed like McCandless is almost unbelievable.

It really requires a great plan and courage to take the high risk that McCandless did. Besides his fearlessness, McCandless also embraced steadiness as part of his spirit. For example, McCandless never gave up when he had to wait for days just to hitchhike. Hitchhiking tends to be difficult on the Alaska Highway… But McCandless experienced no such delay” (Krakauer 158).

These experiences show McCandless’s passion to be consistent, which gives him spirit to accomplish what he has started; spirit to be responsible for his own life. Again, this shows how McCandless was able to grow in character as a result of his trip. However, contrary to Krakauer’s argument, I believe that McCandless’s going into the wild and abandoning everything is an act of irrationality and cowardice action that ultimately failed in explaining the meaning of life.In order to fulfill his desire to find what he wants, he leaves his family without bothering about how they feel.

His mother, Billie says, “Chris had instructed the post office to hold the letters until August 1, apparently so we wouldn’t know anything was up… it made us very, very worried” (22). McCandless is making a decision to disappear, into the wild, without considering the fact that his parents will be very worried about him. This is really illogical because all children should understand how their parents would feel if someday they left.Moreover, by leaving his current life which could have been filled with a bright future, McCandless shows that he just wants to run away from reality.

He is such a coward because he does not want to deal with anything that he supposed to do; rather, he keeps giving reasons for his leaving by saying he wants experiences to understand his life. Actually, in order to make sense of his life, all he has to do is maintaining his current life. Also, the fact that he dies, proves that his journey is about exploring death rather than life. There is no point to go into the wild because it cost him his life.

It is the biggest mistake that McCandless could ever make. McCandless’s journey into the wild has triggered so many pros and cons among readers. Some might say it shows how irresponsible and immature he is by ignoring the consequences of leaving his family and bright future. However, as we take a deep look of the meaning behind his journey, just like Krakauer does, actually McCandless’s decision to go into the wild is an incredible and brave idea.

It shows how he actualizes his smart and courageous side to understand the ultimate meaning of life.

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Journey to the Meaning of Life. (2017, May 09). Retrieved from

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