An Analysis of Into the Wild by Jon Krakhauer

The concept of the Good Life is a relative one which can receive as many definitions as there are many people in search of it. One such search is illuminated in the life of Christopher Johnson McCandless or Alex Supertramp who went into the wild in search of his own concept of the good life. The life he left for the wild may be already be, to some people, one that is good considering that he came from a privileged family and has already obtained a college degree from Emory University. With his college degree and savings, he would have been capable of being successful in his professional and personal life. But he left this life to become a drifter and hitchhiked his way to Alaska. The reason for which Chris did so is what Jon Krakhauer delved into in his book Into the Wild.

Chris was one of those people described by James Gallien who pick up a copy of Alaska magazine, thumb through it, get to thinkin Hey, Im goin to get on up there, live off the land, go claim me a piece of the good life. (5) Gallien was the electrician who gave Chris a ride to the border of the Denali National Park. It can be deduced that Chris definition of the good life is one which is basic, where there is no need for money, property, lavish clothing or food and social status. It also means establishing a relationship with nature and ultimately relying on it not only as a source of basic needs such as food and shelter but also as the foundation of ones being. One of his journal entries signed in his pseudonym, Alex Supertramp, on May 1992 best reflects this concept

Two years he walks the earth.No phone, no pool, no pets, no cigarettes. Ultimate freedom. An extremist. An aesthetic voyager whose home is the road. Escaped from Atlanta. Thou shalt not return, cause the West is the best. And now after two rambling years comes the final and greatest adventure. The climactic battle to kill the false being within and victoriously conclude the spiritual pilgrimage. Ten days and nights of freight trains and hitchhiking bring him to the Great White North. No longer to be poisoned by civilization he flees, and walks alone upon the land to become lost in the wild.
The scene in Chapter 4 is very symbolical to Chris definition of the good life. It was in this chapter where the abandoned vehicle of Chris was found by a National Park Ranger named Bud Walsh on Detrital Wash. The yellow Datsun had no license plates and carried some of Chris baggage such as his guitar, clothes and some food. There was a note found on the windshield which said This piece of shit has been abandoned. Whoever can get it out of here can have it. (26) It was also evident that Chris burned all of his money before he left. Again, it can be noted here that Chris did not give much importance to money or personal property. In this scene and by his action of burning his money, he made a strong statement that you do not need money or other material stuff in order to survive.
I am of the belief that Alex was both successful and unsuccessful in his search. He was successful in that he was able to leave his comfortable life and live the life that he wanted. He lusted for something which he cannot find in his old life and by being able to search for it was a triumph in itself. Some people would have been afraid of leaving ones home because of the danger one would face in the outside. Its more than leaving ones comfort zone it is leaving ones security parameters wherein one is bound to meet unkind conditions as a result of having no money and no permanent abode. These obstacles did not deter him nor did it seem to have crossed his mind. In fact, as retold by his parents, it was not the first time that Chris set off in this kind of adventure because after his high school graduation, he left on a travel coming back two days before he entered college in which he suffered from hunger coming back several pounds lighter in which time he also got lost in the Mojave Desert.
He was unsuccessful not because of his death but because of its cause. He died due to starvation because being penniless he depended on nature for food. Being ill-equipped in many aspects  age, experience and gear, he was helpless from the harsh conditions the life he chose. To continue Galliens observation of the people from the Outside, he said further that But when they get here and actually head out into the bush--well, it isnt like the magazines make it out to be. The rivers are big and fast. The mosquitoes eat you alive. Most places, there arent a lot of animals to hunt. Livin in the bush isnt no picnic. (5) This was exactly what Chris faced which led to his untimely demise.
I think his naivet and idealism greatly contributed to his fate. Coming from a privileged life, he was not trained to live in such conditions. He was not armed with the right gear, tools and provisions to survive the wilderness but he believed there was no need for this. Apparently, he knew or maybe he felt this as is reflected from the message on the postcard he sent to Wayne Westerberg from Alaska on which he said

Greetings from Fairbanks This is the last you shall hear from me Wayne. Arrived here 2 days ago. It was very difficult to catch rides in the Yukon Territory. But I finally got here. Please return all mail I receive to the sender.It might be a very long time before I return south. If this adventure proves fatal and you dont ever hear from me again, I want you to know youre a great man. I now walk into the wild. Might be a very long time before I return South...I now walk into the wild.

I learned three things about the Good Life from Chris story. First is that the concept of the Good Life is not universal, thus, it is not the same among all people. Everyone has their own concept of it and each ones life is a journey in search of it. Some people may consider being wealthy and famous as having a good life. Others may define it as being able to work on something which one loves. Some may even find a good meal or finding that one true love synonymous to good life. Learning so, what is important is learning to respect each others differences in opinion regarding this subject.

I also learned that having a good life requires sacrifice. Chris sacrificed what would have been a comfortable life. He left his home and donated his money leaving him penniless and homeless. He would not have experienced hunger at any time but by choosing to leave, he experienced extreme hunger as evidenced by his body weight when he died. He would not have to worry about where to sleep. Nor would there be a need to live in other peoples homes. However, he willingly endured all of this because of his desire to live his concept of the good life. It also seemed that even as I view it as a sacrifice, Chris considers it otherwise. Apparently, as can be gleaned from what he wrote to Ronald Frantz, it gave him some sort of relief having to escape his old life

So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more dangerous to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a mans living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.
Sacrifice may not only refer to what you leave behind like Chris. It would also refer to the hard work you will have to put into the process of your journey towards the good life. This could mean the physical, mental, spiritual, emotional or even financial investments you put in to achieve it.

Finally, I learned that not all people would understand what you do in order to live the good life. This is probably because not all people define it the same way. As for Chris, he received criticisms from people such as the one cited in the book which said,  The prevailing Alaska wisdom held that McCandless was simply one more dreamy half-cocked greenhorn who went into the country expecting to find answers to all his problems and instead found only mosquitoes and a lonely death.

My concept of the good life is one where a balance is achieved between what one is expected to do and what one wants to do. Each of us is responsible for something or someone in our lives. No one can say that life can be lived without worries because what kind of life would you have if you are not working at or for anything at all. Good life, then, is being able to accept that responsibility and creating a positive life around it. It is at this juncture that I express a view which is in contrast to Chris McCandless. Whatever our status in life rich or poor, educated or illiterate, businessman or drifter, we are all members of a society wherein people expects us to fulfill some social roles. These roles can put us a strain on us but delivery is important because for society to work, its members must attend to their functions. To have a good life, you must first fulfill your duties and responsibilities not only in relation to yourself but also to others because no matter how some people resist the idea, it is true, that no man is an island.

Furthermore, I would like to add that the good life to me is not an absolute concept because as each of us live our lives, our views of it change. What we perceive yesterday as the good life maybe different from our perception tomorrow. What is important then is not the concept but what we do in order to achieve it. It is also best to qualify that our efforts in order to achieve it should also be seen in the light of the people around us.


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