Melinda’s review of Into the Wild > Likes and Comments

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message 1: by Janet (new)

Janet Ah....you've a book from my mountain climbing collection (destined for ebay) that began with Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air (and includes this fascinating yet haunting read). I'll save them for you.....following 007. Thank you for helping with the non-virtual classical summer book club today!


message 2: by Janet (new)

Janet I am moved to tears by your descriptions of real courage:

Real courage, real heroism comes when you love others and you serve others. Real courage has nothing selfish in it. Fathers and husbands who remain with their families and provide for them, even though they would rather have a mid-life crisis and leave it all, they are courageous and heroic. They remain, they work, they don't father or husband perfectly, but they remain in difficult relationships. It courageous to stay in the hard parts of life, and try. Mothers and wives who sacrifice and serve again and again and again without books being written about them, without thanks, but who continue to love and give of themselves to others. That is courageous. It is hard to stay in messy relationships. It is easy to leave. It is courageous to stay and do hard things. It is easy to leave and do what you want."

And questions on a life well lived: "When you die, will the way you lived your life cause others to abandon their faith or grow in their faith? Is it ever courageous to be selfish and think only of yourself? Is it harder to walk away from a relationship, or to stay in a relationship and work on making it better?"

Thank you for taking time to review this fascinating yet tragic book about lives lost in the wild that is often this world.


message 3: by Del (last edited Jan 20, 2009 10:43PM) (new)

Del I don't think you fully understand a fools intentions. You don't take into account the possibility that his irresponsibility with his life was based on hard set values that he sought to fulfill. He wasn't a hero in my eyes, not in the sence that he did something worthy of history, but more he is admirable because against all odds he followed his views. What he did isn't something that anyone should do, but it sets an example, that perhaps one SHOULD follow their dreams as he did. That this story ends so tragically is very sad, but in my mind it doesn't make his example and less worth noting. From what i hear, scientists believe he ate the seeds of a plant which isn't poisonous, and at that time the scientific community didn't know the seeds were poisonous. This is significant because i believe he made a mistake, but should not be judged as a fool, for he was mereley an amazing person following his dreams, which i consider real courage, courage to not submit to the slow flow of life, of submission to god's supposed will. There is no god, there is only you and everyone else, and i think Chris knew this and took his life into his own hands.


message 4: by Melinda (new)

Melinda See the NOTE in the review. Chris did not die from eating poisonous plants. They did an autopsy on him, they tested the plants in the area both in the blooming phase, the berry phase, etc. And no poison was found. He starved to death because he did not take into account that the human body cannot survive indefinitely on a very lean protein diet (the small animals he shot and ate).

You say that "What he did isn't something that anyone should do, but it sets an example, that perhaps one SHOULD follow their dreams as he did". I am confused by that because you write contradictory statements. Chris following his dream ended up dead. Following your dream is fine, but perhaps planning and humility in learning from others who have done the same thing might mean the difference between following your dream and ending up dead, and following your dream and remaining alive.

Chris died in an abandoned bus. That meant the bus had been driven out there, thus was close to a road. He wasn't over 10 miles away from a road, which in Alaskan distance is a very small distance indeed. However Chris refused to take a map that would have shown him a way to get over the stream he waded across when he started, but was unable to cross later because it was flooded. He also had not made any plans for shelter. That he found the abandoned bus and lived there probably helped him live longer. If he had been living with no shelter, he probably would have died sooner. Just a few simple things would have helped him survive. That he refused to take a map into the area does indeed lend weight to your statement "i think Chris knew this and took his life into his own hands." His actions prove him foolish, whether they were honest mistakes or arrogant dismissals of the wisdom of others.

And yes, that is very sad. But not worth imitating and certainly not worth elevating to hero status.

As a contrast to Chris, I would recommend reading about Sir Edmund Hillary, a New Zealand mountaineer who with Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay became the first two climbers to get to the top of Mt. Everest. What Hillary did in terms of physical difficulty, far outweighs anything Chris did. And Sir Edmund lived, helped the Sherpa people of Nepal and founded schools and hospitals for them. By the way, Sir Edmund lived to the ripe old age of 88. I'd call him a hero worth imitating.



message 5: by Del (last edited Jan 28, 2009 09:22PM) (new)

Del What i meant was the way his story ended should lower his example. I stand firm to the fact that his starvation was brought on by something out of his hands, his abrupt change in mood in the book and in his scraps of diary, suggest that after one day he changed to a desperate man, whom was vomiting and very sick. Starvation would have taken place over more time than a single day.
On your note also, the only things you know that scientist have found is that no plants or berries were found that would poison Chris, that doesn't however include the seeds of plants, which are most often poisonous, but in that time it wasn't well known or recorded yet that many plants' seeds were poisonous.
Yes that man surely sounds like a hero, but in my mind, Chris was just a boy in a small town who ended up on a great adventure and got very very far on his own steam, and showed what one man could do, it's not that he is better or Worse than Sir Edmund Hillary in my mind, it's just i think they set different examples, both show what one man can do, Chris' life ended in disaster however.


message 6: by Michael (new)

Michael Good review, Melinda. I could not agree with you more.

"The mind that finds its way to wild places is the poet's; but the mind that never finds its way back is the lunatic's." - GK Chesterton. Chesterton was probably speaking metaphorically when he made that statement, but I think a more literal application is appropriate in this case.

Was McCandless truly able to make it "very far on his own steam"? He lasted less than six months in the wild, and it wasn't even really on his own steam. He lived in a bus that someone else provided as a hunter's shelter. But for that, he could not have made it that long. Admire him if you choose, but is there anything really admirable about someone who refuses to make the preparations necessary to survive when going into the wilds of Alaska? Whether he died of starvation or of poisoning is rather beside the point. Had he taken the trouble to obtain an updated map of the area, he would not have been in danger of either. For all practical purposes, he died of malnourishment (that includes poison) less than ten miles from a source of non-poisonous emergency provisions that were clearly marked on updated maps. That was certainly in his own hands, and that is the epitome of foolishness.

I opened with a quote, and will end with one, this time from Michal Crichton: "The notion that the natural world obeys its own rules and doesn't give a damn about your expectations comes as a massive shock...it will demand that you adapt to it — and if you don't, you die."


message 7: by Jason (new)

Jason Melinda, yes, some of your points are spot-on, but I think there's a single reason that could explain all your vitriol, and may have been overlooked by most readers. Check out my review, and tell me what you think.

Also, McCandless ate alkyloids. Alkyloids are not poisonous; instead, they act as an inhibitor on the enzymes that facilitate cell metabolism, especially of glucose. Their effect is insidious, and can cause rapid physiological deterioration despite any diet, lean or otherwise. I think he would have made it otherwise.


message 8: by Melinda (new)

Melinda "Vitriol" - (noun)
1. a) See sulfuric acid
b) Any of various sulfates of metals, such as ferrous sulfate, zinc sulfate, or copper sulfate.
2. Bitterly abusive feeling or expression.

I would be very interested to know what portions of the review qualify as "bitterly abusive feeling or expression"? I re-read it, and simply cannot see any bitterness, any abusive feelings. Could you please enlighten me as to what portions of the review you are seeing "vitriol" in?

Thanks.


message 9: by Jason (new)

Jason Ah, now see, you've gotten upset, and that was not my intent. My intent was to offer an opinion that may provide a counterbalance to all that you've said about Scott McCandless, to create a new discussion on this topic about which you've written so eloquently, to introduce an angle you may not have thought of.

I've lived with someone for 40 years with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and McCandless's actions are eerily similar to my relative who's been clinically diagnosed with OCD. But it seems you missed my review, becoming, instead, self-defensive about the world 'vitriol.' On your profile page you mention that you prefer 'face-to-face, non-electronic conversation' to email. I assume that's because some things in email are lost in translation.

I'd much prefer you to comment on my review, but if I have to define what I mean by vitriol before you grace us with a response, so be it.

Thanks for the definition. We can both eliminate the definition about various sulfates. Here's another popular definition of vitriol: something highly caustic or severe in effect, as criticism. Think bitter criticism. Where?

"Chris took the easy way out...It is immaturity...Chris died because he was foolish..he had no wisdom...Chris is an example of how 'survival of the fittest' applies...[he:] was actually a foolish man...2nd fiddle to selfishness and arrogance...become stupid...foolish decisions..." Good gracious, your paragraphs 4/5/6 are all rife with caustic criticism.

Again, I don't disagree with your point, but it's certainly vitriolic, and you're losing the forest for the trees. Are we discussing definitions or Scott McCandless? If the former, no response necessary, I'll stick to the discussion we're having at

http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...




message 10: by Brian (new)

Brian After reading your review I am left with a bitter taste in my mouth. It is the taste I have every time I listen to a religious leader speak about the duties of men and women, and the taste that lingers when I am reminded of the cultural norms of the past so heavily laid upon the current generation. You find it admirable for women to sacrifice and men to provide, and if that is what you consider a working and worthwhile family unit - if these are the social norms you wish to promote, so be it. However, I myself do not think that one's worth and wisdom, are to be defined by a generic Judeo-Christian lens. I truly pity McCandless, for the shortcomings provided by his youth and mistakes. However, he lived. People can spend the entirety of their lives performing duties, and attaining goals - or they can live. The only caution that I feel should be derived from this book is perhaps, bring a map and maybe some extra rice. But if you sincerely feel that leaving the world to find yourself in it is punishable, then quite frankly I empathize with your own children as much as I do with McCandless. Because then, above all else, not only have you missed the point of his journey or this book. You have missed the point of living itself.


message 11: by Melinda (new)

Melinda Ah... the difficulties of clear and honest communication carried out via only text words. And yes, many things are lost in translation via email and that is why we must be very careful in how we write and what we write and that we understand clearly before we make assumptions. I am sorry I have not been clear, so I will try again. Let me begin by correcting a few things.

First, you have not made me upset at all. Really and truely. I read a book, I wrote a book review on it, and people have commented on it. The book itself is not particularly emotional for me because I am neither a family member of McCandless, nor touched directly by anything that he did. I wrote the review as a cautionary tale. That means that instead of personally experiencing what it is like to be hit by a bus, I can read a book about someone who WAS hit by a bus.... and thus learn what not to do to end up that way.

Second, you make some assumptions that are incorrect. Defining our terms, so both of us know what "vitriol" really means, and then using the word in the correct context allows us to really communicate. To me, that is an effort to enhance clear, honest, and open communication. So your assumption that I am upset is incorrect (I'm not), and your assumption that asking for examples and asking that we use the same word in the same way means I'm upset is also incorrect. Perhaps asking questions would be a better way to find out if your assumption is accurate?

Have you ever read any of Plutarch's "Lives"?. I have found them to be very worthwhile. Plutarch wrote parallel lives of famous Greeks and Romans. His purpose was to discuss how the character of a person, whether good or bad, influences others both as individuals and nationally. He includes men who have significant character flaws, and who make evil or poor choices, and then he follows those choices to their end and shows what happens when a man of that type of character makes decisions as he does. I have never read anywhere that Plutarch was somehow bitter in his writings, he simply was capturing what these men were like and letting us know "you will see these men again, these character traits show up in different people at different times, but be aware and watch what they do!"




message 12: by Melinda (new)

Melinda Oh yes, the last comment was meant for Jason.... for clarity. It takes me awhile to write a reply, as I want to try to be kind, understanding, and clear.




message 13: by Melinda (new)

Melinda Jason wrote: "Ah, now see, you've gotten upset, and that was not my intent. My intent was to offer an opinion that may provide a counterbalance to all that you've said about Scott McCandless, to create a new di..."

Jason, I tried to find your review, but could not. However your question to me and your question on Dixie Diamond's review is identical. http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...

"Yes, your points are spot-on, but I think there's a single reason that could explain all your vitriol, and may have been overlooked by most. Check out my review, and tell me what you think. "

Just thought that was rather odd.





message 14: by Michael (new)

Michael Jason,

Dude, chill. In the first place, is Melinda's review vitriolic? She states, quite clearly, that McCandless did not act with wisdom. She is not the first to do so, and even those who sympathize with McCandless say the same. You may believe that he suffered from OCD, but that will forever remain in the realm of conjecture, and ultimately explains nothing.

Further, McCandless may indeed have eaten alkyloids, but that only underscores his lack of wisdom. No matter how you look at it, he died of malnutrition, which could easily have been avoided if he had been at all wise

In the second place, what did she say to indicate that she is upset? She defines vitriol and then asks what exactly about her review is vitriolic. It is a reasonable question and nothing about it betrays any emotion. Are you attaching a negative emotion to her argument in order to dismiss it? Come to think of it, does not the OCD argument achieves a similar purpose? It provides an excuse for McCandless' behavior so that his foolishness can be the more easily dismissed.

I must say, Melinda's assessment of his character as described in the book is spot on. There was nothing heroic or admirable in anything that McCandless, as chronicled by Krakauer, did. "Into the Wild" is, as Melinda states, a cautionary tale of unbridled narcissism and its logical conclusion.

BTW: it seems odd that someone who finds vitriol distasteful would use a picture of the extremely violent Outlaw Josey Wales for an avatar.


message 15: by Michael (last edited Oct 04, 2009 03:58PM) (new)

Michael Bcamarco,

I'm a little confused by what you say. Perhaps you could clear some things up a bit. You state: "You find it admirable for women to sacrifice and men to provide..." Well, let's say for the sake of argument that she does. What exactly is wrong with that? Is not self sacrifice for the sake of others noble and admirable? Do you not find people like Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. noble and admirable? What about Mother Teresa or Harriet Tubman? All of these and many more sacrificed and/or provided in one way or another to benefit others. Is there something wrong with that?

You go on by stating that "if that is what you consider a working and worthwhile family unit - if these are the social norms you wish to promote, so be it. However, I myself do not think that one's worth and wisdom, are to be defined by a generic Judeo-Christian lens" Why do you limit sacrifice and provision to the "Judeo-Christian lens"? Surely sacrfice, provision, and even fidelity and responsible parenting are core tenets of other worldviews? Even if they are limited to the Judeo-Christian ethic (and I am not making that claim) what is wrong with that? What is wrong with a man and woman sacrificing themselves for the good of each other and their children? Were McCandless' actions somehow more noble than that? Why?

You state "However, he lived." If by that you mean that he lived life to the fullest, I must ask if that is true? It seems obvious that he died, that he did so at an early age, that he did not relish the experience, and that his death could easily have been prevented by some simple planning.

You end with "But if you sincerely feel that leaving the world to find yourself in it is punishable, then quite frankly I empathize with your own children as much as I do with McCandless. Because then, above all else, not only have you missed the point of his journey or this book. You have missed the point of living itself."

So, who exactly punished McCandless? It would appear that any punishment was self-inflected. Further, what exactly is the point of living? Is it to leave the world only to find oneself? Is that what McCandless did? If so, he found himself dying in a broken-down bus a few miles from a food supply and a road that would lead to safety. Somehow, I get the impression from his last scribbled pleas for help that he would have preferred a good meal and a roof over his head to the premature death that resulted from his voyage of self discovery.



message 16: by Michael (new)

Michael PS: Are any of you familiar with Dick Proenneke? In 1967, at the age of 50, he built a cabin by hand in the Alaskan wilderness and lived there for thirty years. Of course he planned, had provisions and tools, etc. When he died, he left the cabin to the park service, and the cabin is still in use. An interesting documentary was made called "Alone in the Wilderness" that tells Proenneke's story. Unlike McCandless, Proenneke was a humble man and has left a positive enduring legacy.

I promise to stop now. :-)


message 17: by Brian (new)

Brian The actions of Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Theresa, Harriet Tubman, Socrates, Jesus of Nazareth, are all distinct and valued within their own right for the virtues possessed by each individual actor. However, it is not merely the sacrifice of these individual moral titans that we celebrate, it is the love of life that they each possessed, and the necessity to impact their world in a positive way. To live only for one's children may be admirable, however none of the people you've mentioned have done anything of the sort.

My main criticism of Melinda's review is that she speaks from the standpoint of an older generation that puts the traditional family unit on a pedestal, father as provider and mothers who sacrifice and serve without recognition. This view undercuts the entire notion of personal liberty, and the freedom of an individual to choose for themselves how they live their lives. McCandless had no wife and children to even run from, and yet we are to criticize him for not providing for a family that does not exist?

To see this story as cautionary, to argue that this is proof that people like McCandless, people who seek adventure and a sense of self in ways that are dangerous and sometimes tragic, that is to miss the very point of living. We all die, that is a given. How we die may not do much to define how we have lived our lives. But when it does, when our death is a direct result of our lifestyle, of our chosen path, perhaps the worst thing anyone can do is claim the entirety of out choices led up to such tragedy.

It takes one misstep to end up off the beaten path and down a road unfamiliar, there is only required one wrong move to end up in harm's way. Should he have lived through this ordeal, do you think every person would read his story and decide for themselves "this is the path I choose." I doubt that would be the case. This is the story of one young man, and his journey, and its tragic end. But this is not the story of humanity, he is not to be scorned as Prometheus for giving people fire to play with, this is not some fairytale of the boy who cried wolf.

Naturally every person will find something different to pull from this book. However, I am against taking what one person finds, especially when what they have found is a cautionary life lesson, and applying that to the schema and structure of a working family unit.

When you ask, "who exactly punished McCandless?" I am arguing that my placing the heading of cautionary tale on his life, you are punishing him for his tragedy. You are taking away the importance of his individuality and his experience and labeling it all in one neat package as that which is to be avoided.

On a final note, concerning sacrifice; I am curious to know how McCandless did not sacrifice. He sacrificed all of the comforts of family and human connection and for a time society to find his place in the world, to find himself. So many people are afraid because society takes figures like McCandless and wave around their death certificates as proof that living for oneself is to be frowned upon, and the only life is the community. It's like reading Brave New World, or the Giver or Anthem when I hear people looking to cut down the bold and enthusiastic individuals in our society.

P.S. My criticisms do not butt heads with yours Michael. You criticize him for not preparing better, and if one chooses to see this as a cautionary story for hikers and travelers - perfect. However I am taking the time to provide a counter claim for Melinda's criticism, which does not deal with McCandless as a poor hiker who didn't plan well, he is, according to Melinda's review, one who has merely run away from responsibility and society. He should have become a father and found a woman who would serve and sacrifice in a family unit. And I personally don't see how any good could come out of advising all young people to lead a life that follows that path alone.


message 18: by Jason (new)

Jason Michael, Melinda, Bcamarco,

Michael, starting a response with 'dude, chill' is the same kind of assumption that you and Melinda chastised me of making by calling her 'upset.' It's an assumption to think that I'm un-chilled. It's also rude, as if declaring you have the emotional upper-hand. You should have taken Melinda's advice to me by “perhaps asking questions would be a better way to find out if your assumption is accurate?” Melinda was correct here; you were not.

Michael, her review was vitriolic! I've explained why I think so based on how I define the word. End of story. You've rushed in here from her friend list to defend her review. If you don't think her review was vitriolic, good for you. We live in a world of perspective based on hundreds of thousands of hours of personal experience. Her review was vitriolic, no matter how many pleonasms you use to make it the other way.

Melinda, I used the same verbatim comment twice, because it worked for both of your reviews. It was short, pithy, and invited your comments about OCD. Notice too that your friend Michael used the exact same comments on 2 different posts about Into the Wild, yours and Dixie's. Mine was a verbatim sentence; Michael's a verbatim paragraph. Consequently do you find Michaels cut-n-paste as 'rather odd' just like mine?” Or is he on your friend list, and my post was simply much more odd than his?

Melinda, I assumed you were 'upset' because nobody I know would provide 2 definitions of a word, where one of the definitions is so completely off-base—unless you were sticking it in my face. Come on, do you seriously think I used the word vitriolic to describe your review as “any of various sulfates of metals, such as ferrous sulfate, zinc sulfate, or copper sulfate.” And yet, there it is, up there as definition 1 a & b. You took the time to cut-n-paste that on purpose.

Melinda/Michael, I run across discussions like this on all different kinds of websites (political, financial, etc.) Yours is a tautological argument. Instead of like Dixie, merely saying she didn't agree with OCD as a possible angle to Scott McCandless's actions and move on, you immediately stop course and start debating terminology in fine detail, definitions, start pointing out minutea that attempts to winnow out the smallest shade of unnecessary meaning. It's an immediate stance of self-defense instead of saying, 'yeah, I don't think I was vitriolic, but anyway here's what I think of your OCD angle...” No, it's an argument that will go around in circles because you can't move beyond my use of the word vitriolic (my opinion), and—instead of getting to the similarities of our reviews—will stall at this initial circle, ad naseum.

Melinda/Michael, let's review. My message 7 says “some of your points are spot-on.” In message 14, Michael says “Melinda's assessment of his character as described in the book is spot on.” Michael is using my words. We agree. So why are we having this silly discussion about definitions, intents, assumptions? Melinda, I agree with your review. Michael has missed that, and you both are scratching at definitions before we move on.

Michael, OCD is an excuse for McCandless's actions. Maybe it's not one you agree with, but it is conceivable. It's an angle, and I wanted Melinda's opinion, but, again, were at vitriolic. If McCandless had Alzheimers and died in the woods, we'd all blame the disease. If he was bi-polar and died in the woods, we'd blame the disease, if he was clinically depressed and died in the woods, we'd blame his condition. OCD is a psychopathology which affects rational decision-making. And I've lived with someone who vision-quests repeatedly like McCandless, and I wanted Melinda's opinion. But again, we're stuck at vitriol.

Bcamarco, it's not worth the time to have discussions with respondents like this. The discussion doesn't move forward; it simply recycles and requires verbal jockeying and an increasing amount of backpedaling to mince out the finest shades of meaning. I started by agreeing with Melinda's review and have spent 17 days of patience trying to get her opinion. I don't even want her opinion now. Unless you want to gerrymander by defining what you mean by 'titan' (Melinda may think you mean titan as defined by a two-stage, liquid-fueled U.S. intercontinental ballistic missile in service since the late 1950s and designed for launch from underground silos.), I recommend you pull out now.



message 19: by Melinda (new)

Melinda Jason,
If you do not have the patience to wait on my replies (I do not live onlline and frequently take a long time to reply back to many things), if you do not have the ability to maintain civil discussions without demeaning and attacking me or other people who post comments, then please do indeed pull out of the discussion. In fact, I'd prefer very much so that you do.

Thanks.


message 20: by Jason (new)

Jason Michael,

Had to say something about Josey Wales. Why in the heck do you think I find vitriol distatseful? Where in anything I've said or intimated made you believe I don't like vitriol? That's the biggest assumption of all, and you made it. The only reason I stayed with Melinda's entire review is because it was opinionated and vitriolic.

Melinda, my review is here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...

And now, I'm done with this.


message 21: by Villiram (new)

Villiram Melinda,
I really appreciate your insight on things, specially this book, for it is the kind of book you discuss, you argue about, you share your thoughts of it. After all you not only learn from a book but also by its different interpretations.

I agree that he died because he was foolish, and he made too many mistakes that led up to his death, but that does not mean (in my humble opinion) that he is not a hero. I consider him a hero because he did what he set himself to so...something not a lot of people have done...yes, he dies, but how many times have we heard "I'd rather die alive than live a life not worth living"... True, he is not the typical hero, but think about it, who is a hero nowadays? soldiers? (not saying that you feel this way, but this the general view on society this days) Im sorry but I do not see any heroism in that...you said he took the easy way out, at least he didnt end up shooting people, which is a way easier way out...ok too far out of topic...

all this just to say, yes, you are right...but do not deny the fact that to some people he does portray all that a hero is.


message 22: by Melinda (new)

Melinda Villiram wrote: "Melinda,
I really appreciate your insight on things, specially this book, for it is the kind of book you discuss, you argue about, you share your thoughts of it. After all you not only learn from a..."


Thanks, Villiram. While I think I understand a little bit about the hero stuff attributed to Chris, I still disagree completely with it. They have swapped the real definition of "hero" for something they have defined for themselves. To quote "The Princess Bride", "that word that you keep using? I do not think it means what you think it means!".

Hero == 1. A man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.
2. A person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performce an heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal: Example: He was a local hero when he saved the drowning child.

Your definition of a hero seems to be "he did what he set himself to do". That does not match the real definition of the word "hero". And actually I would disagree with you that "he did what he set himself to do". I don't think he intended to die, I think he wanted and planned to live. What he did get was death. So, then even by your definition of "hero", he isn't one there either! The phrase "I'd rather die alive than live a life not worth living" is a cliched phrase and would not ever really be said by someone who was about to die or someone who had the choice between continuing to live or choosing to die. People have a tendency to want to live. It somehow seems good and just and right. Even the last words we have from Chris himself were a plea for help! He wanted help and to be rescued. He did not want to die where he was. So your description that heroes should "die alive than live a life not worth living" doesn't match with what Chris actually did either.

I think we live in a society of "anti-"heroes now, and have swapped the real definition of hero with something that is totally incorrect. That is kind of the crux of my book review. We've had a "bait and switch" done on us. Chris was not a hero because he doesn't fit the definition of a hero. He did do interesting things, he did go to find himself (whatever that really means) in an unusual way, but those actions don't add up to heroism. And he actually isn't alone in the way he went to find himself. If you read the article by Peter Christian (I reference it in my review), the Alaskan Park Ranger sees ALOT of young men who come to Alaska to challenge themselves against an unforgiving wilderness just like Chris did. Read http://nmge.gmu.edu/textandcommunity/...

Chris is known only because he died. Many many young men have done exactly what he did, but lived.... and we don't hear about them at all. Why aren't they heroes as well? Even more worth imitating because they survived??

I do believe that real heroes are out there. We just have to be clear what a hero really is. A hero is "a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities." (per the definition) So look for men who are courageous, who perform brave deeds, and who have noble qualities. I certainly would include many sailors and soldiers as heroes because they meet up with the definition of a hero. I don't think you automatically are a hero because you are in the military, but I certainly believe that being in the military provides men with opportunities to become heroes in very clear ways.

Lance Corporal Matthew Croucher fits the definition of a hero.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/artic...

I think every man on the Congressional Medal of Honor recipients list deserves to be called a hero. Read the text of their citations to see what deeds they did.
http://www.history.army.mil/moh.html

Marcus Latrell deserves to be called a hero.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcus_L...

Todd Beamer is a hero.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Todd_Beamer

My Goodreads friend Janet has a wealth of books on current heroes, see http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/... for her review of "Lone Survivor" for one example.

People who insist that Chris was a hero seem to ignore the definition a hero and substitute a new meaning of their own. I don't agree with this, and would encourage them to find different words to describe Chris. Maybe you can help me here? I'll start off.

Intellectually bright. Academically accomplished. Athletically gifted. Stubborn. Tenacious. Physically healthy. Disciplined about his goals. Arrogant. Eccentric. A loner. Insecure. Angry. Frustrated. Ability to work hard when the work is in line with his goals. Secretive. Emotionally distant. Overconfident. Proud.

Any others come to mind???




message 23: by Villiram (new)

Villiram 2. A person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performce an heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal.

I think this deffinition can fit ANYONE... I dont believe some of the people you showed me deserve to be called heros, but the fact that a large group of people look up to them, makes them a hero...wether I like it or not...and the fact that enough people look up to chris makes him a hero, wther you like it or not.

He is not a hero for his death, you mentioned lots of people have now done the same thing, well, who says they are nto heros? they trying to prove something, and they have! They dont follow the status quo, and that's what makes them different...
Like an apple commercial said, you may love them, you may hate them, but the one thing you cant do is ignore them, because they're shaping the world for better. Think different.

I think the words you used do describe chris...as well as anyone else on this planet...just look at those words...they describe me, you, chris, and every single person...other than the intellectually bright, academically accomplished, athletic, and physically healthy...all else describe EVERYONE.

You cannot tell me that there is someone that has never felt insecure...or frustrated, or alone, or proud, or overconfident, or emotionally distant...

In the end it all depends on the eye of the beholder, and I think this is all I have to say on this.

Thanks for your opinion =)


message 24: by Melinda (new)

Melinda Villiram wrote: "2. A person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performce an heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal.

I think this deffinition can fit ANYONE... I dont believe some ..."


Thanks for your opinion too, Villiram. Keeping in the vein of quoting movies and commercials, reading these last set of comments reminded me of a scene from "The Incredibles". Substitute "hero" for the word "special" below.

Helen: Dash... this is the third time this year you've been sent to the office. We need to find a better outlet. A more... constructive outlet.
Dash: Maybe I could, if you'd let me go out for sports.
Helen: Honey, you know why we can't do that.
Dash: But I promise I'll slow up. I'll only be the best by a tiny bit.
Dash: Dashiell Robert Parr, you are an incredibly competitive boy, and a bit of a show-off. The last thing you need is temptation.
Dash: You always say 'Do your best', but you don't really mean it. Why can't I do the best that I can do?
Helen: Right now, honey, the world just wants us to fit in, and to fit in, we gotta be like everyone else.
Dash: But Dad always said our powers were nothing to be ashamed of, our powers made us special.
Helen: Everyone's special, Dash.
Dash: [muttering:] Which is another way of saying no one is.

I'm with Dash here..... if everyone is special, then of course no one is. And I don't think that's the way the world works.


message 25: by Antizzy (new)

Antizzy It seems to me that courageousness is erroneously referred to as some sort of central theme for ITTW (in this review), when it's relevence is practically non-existant.

Courage is not the point. The point is a feeling, a hunch, doubt, something we all may have at one point felt and maybe lost. It is a frustration with society, a desire for something more, the coming of age with which you realize that there is little to existence; that the gold at the end of the rainbow wasn't there - that there was no narnia on the other side; that all our lives since childhood we look up to some grand old thing on "the other side" but never attain it, or perhaps we are dissapointed by it.

It is with such a feeling of having been tricked that mccandless goes into the wild, with his psychotic, philosophical search for that something. Unfortunately, it is not until the proximity of death that he realizes there is nothing there, that the only thing that is real is the connection we make with others.

As far as mccandless' actions, it is not wise to look at him as some sort of role model, and that is not what Krakauer attempts to do. Mccandless is the star of this story because he captures a discomfort and longing eveybody feels at some point in their life, perhaps before they suppress its fire with the monotony of ordinary life. Krakauer felt this about mccandlesses story, so he presented it To the world.

Although he may be fearless, courage is besides the point.

Anton

Ps sorry this response may not be perfect - uncomfortably typed on an iPhone.


message 26: by Janet (new)

Janet Thank you, Anton, for sharing insights/thoughts from the emotional heart of this book. Jon Krakauer with his amazing wordsmith ability and personal mountaineering expertise is able to lure the reader (us) into the wild mystery behind what motivates people to do extreme things. This is a powerful theme in Jon Krakauer’s books, and I’ve read them all. As through the pages of Into the Wild we traverse, via Jon’s eyes and research, we see, and know, and feel, and wish it could be different. Our hearts grieve for Chris, for his family/friends, for others who have lost their way, for ourselves as the case may be. All in this life are searching for meaning, but where to find it? I really like this observation:

“It is with such a feeling of having been tricked that mccandless goes into the wild, with his psychotic, philosophical search for that something. Unfortunately, it is not until the proximity of death that he realizes there is nothing there, that the only thing that is real is the connection we make with others.”

Yet I would add: and the connections we form with the divine, with God, for this is at the very soul of every spiritual pilgrimage, every life’s journey. We seek that which we cannot know yet must believe to find.


message 27: by Melinda (new)

Melinda Antizzy wrote: "It seems to me that courageousness is erroneously referred to as some sort of central theme for ITTW (in this review), when it's relevence is practically non-existant.

Courage is not the point. T..."


Thanks for the thoughtful comments, Anton. The reviews I read of the movie "Into the Wild" proclaimed Chris to be a hero, even "on the brink of sainthood". I quote here from one review at http://movies.nytimes.com/2007/09/21/... that says,
"The book took pains to defend its young protagonist against the suspicion that he was suicidal, unbalanced or an incompetent outdoorsman, gathering testimony from friends he had made in his last years as evidence of his kindness, his care and his integrity. The film, at some risk of sentimentalizing its hero, goes further, pushing him to the very brink of sainthood. After Chris offers wise, sympathetic counsel to Rainey (Brian Dierker), a middle-aged hippie he has befriended on the road, the older man looks at him with quiet amazement. “You’re not Jesus, are you?” he asks. "

That is why I read the book, to find out more. After reading the book (but not seeing the movie), I agree with you that courage is practically non-existent in the book. So the question arises, why then does Chris get the "hero" badge? Or the "sainthood" badge, to quote the NY Times review of the film? Hence my review of the book as a cautionary tale. Worthwhile to read. Worthwhile to grieve over a young man who did not live to get past his "psychotic, philisophical search for that something" to indeed find what is lastingly worthwhile.

Your mention of Narnia made me think of a scene from "The Last Battle", the last of the Chronicles of Narnia. A difficult book to read because it deals with the decline and destruction of the Narnia we all loved. Yet the ending is so joyful and glorious because the shadowlands are past and the true truth, the real reality is shown. The ending of the book makes up for the very difficult beginning and middle sections. When Lucy is talking to the Lord Digory in the chapter "Further Up and Further In", he says,

"But that was not the real Narnia. That had a beginning and an end. It was only a shadow or a copy of the real Narnia which has always been here and always will be here; just as our own world, England and all, is only a shadow or copy of something in Aslan's real world. You need not mourn over Narnia, Lucy. All of the old Narnia that mattered, all the dear creatures, have been drawn into the real Narnia through the Door. And of course it is different; as different as a real thing is from a shadow or as waking life is from a dream." "

I'm sorry Chris did not live to find the real waking life Lewis wrote about, which is based on his Christian faith, but got caught up merely in the shadow and the dream.


message 28: by John (new)

John McCandless did what he wanted to do, which was to live free without the shackles that a 9-5 job, 2.3 children, child support and alimony payments and a "partner" (current or former) entails. He was not deluded; he did not romanticize his forays on the road or in the woods. He rejected the lifestyle that most of us don't have the courage to walk away from. Most of us choose to complain about the dreariness of the 9-5 urban lifestyle but then we get up at 5.30 a.m. the next day and repeat the dreaded process. I don't believe McCandless is a hero, but then I don't believe there are any heroes outside of fiction. McCandless did have courage, though, and he used it. He did not die in vain; he died doing what he loved doing. How many of us will be able to say the same when our number is up.


message 29: by Michael (new)

Michael John wrote: "McCandless did what he wanted to do, which was to live free without the shackles that a 9-5 job, 2.3 children, child support and alimony payments and a "partner" (current or former) entails. He was..."

Don't tell me you've forgotten the scene in "The Magnificent Seven" where the little boys come up to Charles Bronson and call their fathers cowards? He picks one of them up, throws him over his lap, spanks him, and then gives this great speech:

"Don't you ever say that again about your fathers, because they are not cowards. You think I am brave because I carry a gun; well, your fathers are much braver because they carry responsibility, for you, your brothers, your sisters, and your mothers. And this responsibility is like a big rock that weighs a ton. It bends and it twists them until finally it buries them under the ground. And there's nobody says they have to do this. They do it because they love you, and because they want to. I have never had this kind of courage. Running a farm, working like a mule every day with no guarantee anything will ever come of it. This is bravery. That's why I never even started anything like that... that's why I never will."

It takes no courage whatsoever to walk away from the responsibilities of family and work.


message 30: by Janet (last edited Jul 24, 2010 10:25AM) (new)

Janet Love this Melinda, “I'm sorry Chris did not live to find the real waking life Lewis wrote about, which is based on his Christian faith, but got caught up merely in the shadow and the dream.”

And Michael, your response is excellent on the definition of courage (music from The Magnificent Seven is also magnificent!).

Oh, John, to live without heroes is indeed a life without the fullness of the sunshine, without the beauty of human nobility, without the inspiration of discovering throughout time and time and time again what really matters in life. Here are some nonfiction examples of heroes for you to explore and ponder (and there are books about most of them):

Lone Survivor: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/71...
The lives of 4 American Heroes (and more) are revealed in this book. One of the best books I’ve ever read.

Team Hoyt: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/80...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxqe77...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=64A_AJ...

Shadow Divers: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/95...
There are a number of hero types (and others) in this read, an excellent book.

Gianna Mollo, Mother, Wife, Doctor: http://www.amazon.com/Saint-Gianna-Mo...

Astronaut, Scott Parazynski, MD: http://www.parazynski.com/bio/scott-p...

Professor Carl Knight:
http://www.dcccd.edu/About+DCCCD/News...

Ultimately in the course of a lifetime, each of us faces forks in the road, decisions about which path to choose. Just as we open our eyes to see the flowers of nature, we open our hearts to see the natural flowering of the human spirit all around us and the heroes become too many to count.


message 31: by John (last edited Jul 24, 2010 07:12PM) (new)

John "It's possible to love someone if you don't know them very well."

Yes, I have forgotten that sentimental scene in the old Chuck Bronson movie. I don't find it useful to try and refute an argument by using a quotation alone. Regarding marriage and children I could quote Sartre: "Hell is other people." And dragging religion into any argument that is not about religion is equally futile. I don't look at a married man walking with his wife and rugrats and see a hero or a man of courage. I see a man who most likely followed the status quo and is now and forever shackled to the Mrs. and little Bobby and Joanne. But what great things 'might' he have achieved if he was free of these encumbrances? That's what I wonder about. It often takes courage to be different, to stand alone; it takes nothing--especially not thought--to toe the line. That's just obedience.


message 32: by Melinda (new)

Melinda John wrote: "McCandless did what he wanted to do, which was to live free without the shackles that a 9-5 job, 2.3 children, child support and alimony payments and a "partner" (current or former) entails. He was..."

Somehow your comment got eaten by my mail filter, sorry it has taken so long to reply.

Your response made me look up the last things that Chris wrote before he died. In the end, when McCandless was dying, he wasn't writing anything about "gosh, I'm so glad I never married, gosh I'm glad I'm out here alone and don't have to punch a 9 to 5 clock". Instead, he wrote (and I quote),

"ATTENTION POSSIBLE VISITORS, S. O. S. I need your help. I am injured, near death, and too weak to hike out of here. I am all alone, this is NO JOKE. In the name of God, please remain to save me. I am out collecting berries close by and shall return this evening. Thank you, Chris McCandless August ???"

He didn't die doing what he loved. He died scared and alone and begging for help and very eager to see another person. He disagree with Sarte.... people for Chris would have meant help and salvation, not hell at all.


message 33: by Sketching (new)

Sketching Girl Hi Melinda, I found your review very interesting. I enjoyed watching the film, but haven't yet read the book. I found the film educational in a way, you enjoy the adventure with him as he travels around meeting new people and forming new friendships, it is a fun journey, and the interesting thing for me, is when he is in Alaska, just about to die, he writes in his book "HAPPINESS IS SHARING" - he realises right at the end that he is happiest with people, and misses them. I think that is what the movie teaches, through seeing his adventures, we also see the effect it had on his family not knowing where he is, the people he meets and their sadness at seeing him go (especially the old man who wanted to adopt him), you really do learn that he's happiest sharing with people, even though he doesn't realise it at the time. Through his actions we learn to cherish the people in our lives, the friends and relationships we have. I found the film very moving, and I'm really glad I watched it.


message 34: by Melinda (new)

Melinda Sketching wrote: "Hi Melinda, I found your review very interesting. I enjoyed watching the film, but haven't yet read the book. I found the film educational in a way, you enjoy the adventure with him as he travels..."

Hello Sketching,
I will watch the movie at some point, but have not thus far. McCandless certainly did realize the importance of things he had formerly discounted as unimportant, but unfortunately only when it was too late to make a difference for him. So may the lesson he learned too late be one we learn in time to make use of it in our daily lives!


message 35: by Brent (new)

Brent McCandless was an idiot. The fact that he is viewed as some kind of hero goes to show how far our culture has decayed. The audacity Jon Krakauer is even worse. He lacks objectivity and is burdened with existential self doubt and guilt.


message 36: by Melinda (new)

Melinda Brent wrote: "McCandless was an idiot. The fact that he is viewed as some kind of hero goes to show how far our culture has decayed. The audacity Jon Krakauer is even worse. He lacks objectivity and is burden..."

Jon Krakauer is certainly working through some personal issues as he writes about McCandless. Krakauer did some equally foolish things different times he went "into the wild", the difference is that somehow he survived. I think the book almost is a question, "why did I live and why did McCandless die when both of us really messed up?"


message 37: by David (new)

David Dax Krakauer deals with the matter of poisonous vegetable products rather meticulously. He refers to the possibility of certain seeds -- not berries -- as the culprit. Starvation and poisoning are not mutually exclusive, as he addresses in great detail.


message 38: by Kevin (new)

Kevin From your review it's obvious you didn't read the book too carefully but saw in it what you wanted to see, despite the author's urging you not to. It sounds like you made a judgment about McCandless before you started page one.

Also, keep Jesus and his mythos out of the review. It wasn't included in the book and to insert it into a story where it wasn't is arrogant, ignorant and tasteless.


message 39: by Dinoh (new)

Dinoh This was probably one of the most tragic stories I ever read about. I agree with you, Chris was an intelligent man he could have done something more with his life, than just die like that. His story made me feel really sad, and make me question my own life.


message 40: by Maddie Henry (last edited Jun 01, 2012 10:06AM) (new)

Maddie Henry Del wrote: "What i meant was the way his story ended should lower his example. I stand firm to the fact that his starvation was brought on by something out of his hands, his abrupt change in mood in the book a..."

Actually they didn't find any poison in Chris at all, from seeds or otherwise. They have also concluded that there were no poisonous plants OR plant seeds nearby or in his food supply.


message 41: by Marie (new)

Marie Anette Me, I never once thought of Chris as a hero. Throughout this story I never thought he was being brave. But that's why I liked it. Because I saw that he was really just a lost, scared boy, trying to run away from himself. It's not a story about bravery or heroism. It's a story about a boy...almost man, who cut himself from the world because he didn't know how to deal with it. Because people and relationships and closeness frightened him in their complications. He wasn't trying to prove himself to anyone though. Just to himself. Trying to justify his loneliness.


message 42: by Brittany (new)

Brittany Hannigan I agree with you completely, I felt exactly the same way when I read the book. Why should we respect this kid who was given every advantage that most people would kill to have -I.e parents who love and support him, college tuition paid for entirely, car bought for him, graduation presents in the form of large sums of money- and decided to throw it all away and cut off all the people who loved him. That's just selfish and immature. The story was interesting but the book was tainted for me by my dislike for the character, especially because he was a non fiction character


message 43: by Benw (new)

Benw I agree with that a lot of young men, go to Alaska to challenge them-self but I don't agree with that Christ was stupid for going into the wild, when he was told about what is all out, where he was planing to go.


message 44: by Carson (new)

Carson I agree with you. We are reading this book in English and I have been arguing this same point. I look and Chris and don't see him as "stupid and reckless" nor do I see him as "brave, idealistic, and revolutionary." I see him as selfish.


message 45: by Eliana (new)

Eliana Vi la pelicula sin saber que era una historia real y me afectò mucho. Creo que llegar al extremo de esa manera para darse cuenta de lo importante no le permitiò disfrutar de su vida y su juventud. Si, tenia convicciones fuertes, era diferente al resto, pero eso le valió la soledad...


message 46: by Suzanne (new)

Suzanne I see how a lot of people would refer to McCandless as selfish, in terms of his actions...he decided to leave everything, including his family and set off on his own. However, what I disagree with is where the review states that McCandless is not courageous. Courage can be displayed in many ways, and the way you describe it, in terms of personal relationships, is very true. However, I feel that even if you don’t agree with his actions, it still took courage for McCandless to question the status quo and set out to make a difference in his own life. He could have very easily taken the easy way that so many privileged kids do, but McCandless was different. As you said, he questioned our world in terms of materialism, hunger, and waste in the world. Perhaps if more people where questioned those important issues this world might be a better place.


message 47: by Natanela (new)

Natanela I agree with some of what you're saying, but at the end it was *his* journey. You need to set aside the tragic end , because after all it was a tragedy which fundamentally wasn't his fault. That was his way of finding himself. He didn't see people as part of his journey, and that's the essence of journeys, apart of that you have no idea where you may find yourself at the end you also feel the need to go explore in your guts under your own necessities in your own paving path. That's what shakes people, the instability. But *that* is the need. It could've ended differently, he could've survived, he could've head back home and get to live his insights. He saw the light, he saw the core to life but it was too late, and the was the tragedy.


message 48: by Carl-Erik (new)

Carl-Erik Kopseng Fine review, but it seems as though your rating is of his actions - not the book, which is what other readers care about.

You discuss the philosophical sides, but leave very little room for discussing the book. Was it any good? Was the language alright? Etc.


message 49: by Faraz (new)

Faraz Badar Nicely written.


message 50: by Sara (new)

Sara Absolutely amazing review. I have only seen the movie and I went here searching for some opinions of the book/story and I agree with you 100%, this is exactly what I felt about the hero and what this story is really about. "Happiness is only true when shared"


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