Into The Wild Essay

615 words | 3 page(s)

The central character of Kracauer’s “Into the Wild,” Chris MacCandless, is one of the most enigmatic individuals in recent American literature, and he is also one of the most divisive. While some may claim that he is an authentic hero and frontier adventurer, others would insists that he led an extremely foolish and essentially selfish life and that his own romanticism was directly responsible for his death. How one responds to this romanticism is therefore highly likely to dictate how one responds to Chris’s character overall.

The central aspect of the romanticism is the suggestion that material objects serve to fence people in and that if one wishes to have an adventurous life one must renounce them. It is clear that in some clear ways, this attitude was responsible for Chris’s death. Kracauer notes for example, that McCandless did not inform anyone of his plans for his final expedition and that he did not adequately plan. Rather he chose to rely on what he had considered to be in his innate sense of survival and his natural instincts. Indeed, Kracauer notes that before setting out, his subject had been completely certain that he would not run into anything that he “could not handle on his own” (2007, 6). If one considers the facts surrounding his death then it is clear that more preparation and caution could easily have prevented it. Had McCandless researched the river flows in the area in which he was stranded than he would have known not to cross at the time that he did, and had he studied the terrain of the area then he would also have known that it would have been possible for him to cross to safety at a point further up river. Finally, had he simply maintained contact with the world and informed friends and family as to where he was going, then it is highly likely that search parties may have been organized once he had failed to be in contact for a certain time. For all of these reasons that McCandless’s romanticism can be blamed for his death.

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However, it is also important to note that Kracauer devotes time understanding what would make a person take on the characteristics and personality traits of McCandless, and that he does not simply view the facts of his life and death in isolation. In particular, he understands McCandless’s romanticism to be the result of both his high level of intelligence and of his upbringing in a town which bordered plains and inevitably led to the development of a romantic side to his personality. Kracauer describes McCandless’s home town of Carthage as “a sleepy little cluster of of clapboard houses, tidy yards, and weathered brick storefronts rising humbly from the immensity of the northern plains, set adrift in time” (20). He then suggests that it is precisely this sense of being set adrift in time and being inherently anachronistic which can be seen to be manifest in McCandless’s death and the manner in which he approached the last years of his life. As such, one cannot view McCandless’s death in isolation from his earlier life.

In conclusion, therefore, the subject of “Into the Wild” believed himself to be invincible and based this belief on a cultivated idealism which was directly related to frontier ideology and a belief in the power of his own resourcefulness and capacity to survive. Although it is precisely this belief which led him into his death, it is equally possible to argue that this romanticism itself has an origin in the unique combinations of the banal townscape and the epic frontier within which Chris McCandless spent his youth.

  • Krakauer, John. Into the Wild. London: Random House, 2007.

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