Truth in Nonfiction discussion

Into the Wild
This topic is about Into the Wild
Places that Pull, People to Forgo

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message 1: by Meghan (last edited Feb 22, 2012 11:09AM) (new)

Meghan | 23 comments First, to Dr. Talbot: I apologize for pulling the movie into this in the smallest amount, for I know how much it kills you to hear of the movie over the greatness of the novel itself. However, I feel that the soundtrack and the work of Eddie Vedder parallel a major theme from the work of Jon Krakauer. Once I had read these chapters, I felt compelled to listen to some Vedder songs from the soundtrack. His song “Guaranteed” made me find the true essence of this section of the book, in which we are able to connect to Chris through greater understanding of his upbringing, his relationships, as well as others who once chose the same life that Chris resorted to as his ultimate escape. I felt that the following lyrics were Chris himself talking, trying to express his inexplicable continuum of thoughts.

“Don't come closer or I'll have to go
Holding me like gravity are places that pull
Everyone I come across, in cages they bought

They think of me and my wandering, but I'm never what they thought
I've got my indignation, but I'm pure in all my thoughts
I'm alive...
Leave it to me as I find a way to be
Consider me a satellite, forever orbiting
I knew all the rules, but the rules did not know me


Throughout these chapters, Krakauer allows us to understand Chris’ view on relationships. We see ones that he built up, ones that broke him down, and others that he doesn’t want to leave, yet his mind is made and he must escape to the “places that pull” and there was no way to stop him as he was devoted to living out his beliefs. It seems that his goal of this adventure was to rid himself of relationships, for they were holding him to a life that he did not comply with. “Over time he (Chris) had worked himself into a choler of self-righteous indignation that was impossible to keep bottled up.” (122) His relationships, with his parents especially, had built up so much pressure and anger, leaving him with one desire: to destroy their connection, which had been destroying him. Yet as his adventure is in motion, he continues to build up new relationships, ones that are impacting the lives of all those involved, relationships that he promised to return to if the wild affords him that opportunity. As we learn of other exiles who similarly ventured to the wild, their feeling towards others, of becoming locked to something, someone, was unique. “We like companionship, see, but we cant stand to be around people for very long. So we go get ourselves lost, come back for a while, then get the hell out again.” (96) But did they really expect to come back at all? Who was worth their trip back to society’s misconception of reality? Had Chis’ upbringing been less of a dictatorship, would he have still walked into the wild without plans for the future? What is enough to push someone over the edge of breaking all connections, leaving behind everyone and everything?

message 2: by Cassia (last edited Feb 22, 2012 11:41AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Cassia (Cassia11) | 23 comments I find that this book causes the extreme: either you wish you could be like Chris with your whole heart, or you find him completely unrealistic and insane. The latter would most likely say that he was foolish to leave behind his parents, money, and a secure future, among other things to pursue this dream. Yet it is easy to say this, while looking "at counterparts from a distant place and a century far removed." (97) If we do this, we are able to see how Chris may have been overreacting because he "just didn't like being told what to do. He would have been unhappy with any parents; he had trouble with the whole idea of parents." (115) In this case, it can be said that Chris was just never meant to have any type of parent, let alone these dictating ones, which in fact, was a very large reason for breaking away from society. For most people this type of parenting was not enough to push them over the edge of breaking all connections, but then again, Chris is not like most people.

His parents were not his only reason though, argues the other side of the spectrum. For those supporters of Chris, myself included, it can be agreed that, "the pursuit of knowledge...was a worthy objective in its own right and needed no external validity." (74) Chris saw what society had done to his parents and others, and thus made the realization that he would not let the same happen to him. From this perspective, we can agree that having a different upbringing most likely would not have affected Chris' decisions.

I think his opinion of "society's misconception of reality" convinced Chris that he did not need these personal relationships, as they were often fake and confusing. His chosen relationship was one with nature, one that was pure and trustworthy. And although he sometimes admitted to wanting to stay certain places, he always ended up with "itchy feet" that pushed him back Into the Wild.

message 3: by Tina (new)

Tina Sport | 21 comments "Children can be harsh judges when it comes to their parents" (122). This line that I found pretty much sums up what the relationship between Chris and his parents boiled down to. I understand where Chis is coming from with all of that pressure on him from the entire family, having to always put on a show and make them proud, it does a number. But the thing is, I can also see why Walt and Billie were so tough on him in the first place, and it wasn't just because they wanted to be proud parents. They both came from poverty, having nothing of their own and nothing to spend, and they got to the top through hard work and perseverance. The least they can hope for is that their kids would do the same, maybe not follow their footsteps (especially in Walt's case) but understand the values that they are trying to pass on. And it makes me mad to see Chris ignore them and criminalize them. Another thing that got me mad was the fact that "it was important for him to see how independent he could be" (125). Why did he need to see how "independent" meanwhile he spent most of his childhood and adolescence doing whatever the hell he wanted! I'm not saying that his journey was necessarily a bad choice on his part, because I understand why he did it and the point he was trying to make, but he made himself sound like he had had so many problems to the point where it was almost attention seeking.

Compared to the other pioneers like Everett Ruess, Chris had it easy. Everett, being raised in a Unitarian household with a scholar father and a bohemian mother, he had good reason to run away. He didn't really make much of a point as Chris did, but then again it didn't seem like that's what he wanted to do. Everett just wanted to live out there without any connections, and he did for the most part. Chris got himself too tied up with too many people, whether it was in his past or on the road, there were too many people watching and caring about him. And the fact that he disregarded almost everyone who did care makes him slightly despicable.

message 4: by Lauren (new)

Lauren Williams | 17 comments Dr. Talbot touched upon the idea that some people are born with a mind and soul driven by adventure, freedom and the necessity to wander while others are of a different nature and prefer security and sameness. In this sense, it seems as though this need to find freedom and escape the confinements of society are ways of life buried deep inside one's soul and are the very make up of one's being. Krakauer supports this idea when he writes, "Christopher Johnson McCandless came into the world with unusual gifts and a will not easily deflected from its trajectory" (106). In my FYS class the other day we were talking about personality traits and we had a guest speaker visiting who had us fill out these different tests to give us each a rough idea of what our answers to the questions said about us. She said that our personalities and our defining characteristics really do not change much throughout our lifetime but that experiences or situations in our life can cause certain ways about us to be revealed or exploited when otherwise might have been kept more hidden. So, I think that Chris's situation at home pushed this adventurous, self-reliant, stubborn outlook on life to the surface. This is evident when Krakauer writes, "'He didn't think the odds applied to him. We were always trying to pull him back from the edge'" (109). Again, it is noted that Chris would not take instruction almost like he felt that would ruin him and it pushed him to act out more extremely; Krakauer writes, "he resisted instruction of any kind... the only way he cared to tackle a challenge was head-on" (111). It could be said that growing up comfortably as Chris did allowed him to see the negatives to this lifestyle and therefore rejected it and turned to the wild. Which goes along with what Meghan asked originally, would Chris have gone for the wild had he been in a different situation growing up? I think he was born with the qualities that led him to choose the path of the wild free life but I do think his circumstances allowed him to recognize that the wealthy life of society, class and money was so wrong and disgusting to him and from there his inner qualities of adventure were able to erupt while he left those of entrepreneurship behind.

message 5: by Kelsey (new)

Kelsey Hatch | 23 comments Something tells me that Chris did not walk into woods merely to escape his parents' expectations for his future. He seems to be an intelligent, strong-willed young man who has the ability and courage to stand up to authoritative figures, or even his parents. Thus, if he didn't want to go to law school, he would admit that to his parents. Perhaps Chris went into the wilderness to escape society as a whole, and to live without deadlines, meetings, taxes, bills, and various obligations. Living carelessly sounds incredibly relaxing and peaceful. Being able to travel by foot or whatever seems exhilarating and foreign, and maybe, for once, Chris wanted to experience something that didn't have strings attached. I think that the following quote directly applies to Chris: "As to when I shall visit civilization, it will not be soon, I think. I have not tired of the wilderness; rather I enjoy its beauty and the vagrant life I lead, more keenly all the time. I prefer the saddle to the streetcar and star-sprinkled sky to a roof...Do you blame me for staying here, where I feel that I belong and am one with the world around me?" (87) I wonder if Chris intended to ever return from the wild, if he had not died; if his intelligence and wonder would have lead him further and further into the wild.

message 6: by Brianne (new)

Brianne Lambert | 22 comments Although I can see your point about his upbringing being a dictatorship, describing it in this manner is a bit of a stretch for me. Maybe it depends on the type of family you come from, but I didn’t consider his upbringing in this way at all when I was first reading it. In fact, I felt a lot of sympathy for the family, the parents especially. Reading about Chris’s family, we see that both of his parents came from nothing and had to work incredibly hard for everything they had. Most parents want better for their kids, so naturally Chris’s parents wanted him to further his education so life wouldn’t be as much of a struggle for him as it was for them. Chris had endless potential and I don’t blame them for thinking he’d waste it by not going to college. We as readers can see that even though he did become Alex Supertramp this potential wasn’t wasted because he touched so many people’s lives in such a short amount of time. We are able to see this, but his parents had no idea what he was doing or his whereabouts so they had no way of knowing the impact he was making.
I do believe we are a product of our environments to a certain extent, but even our environments can only shape and change us so much. As we discussed in class, I believe the restless spirit is an inherent quality, and Chris’s type of upbringing would not necessarily have altered his intentions. As we’ve seen from multiple people, Chris was completely dead set in his ways and other people’s opinions didn’t matter. For example as Westerberg says, “Once Alex made up his mind about something, there was no changing it” (67) and Walt agrees, “He resisted instruction of any kind” (111). Chris was actually thankful for his upbringing as we see during his dad’s birthday when “He was almost crying, fighting back the tears, telling Dad that even though they’d had their differences over the years, he was grateful for all the things Dad had done for him. Chris said how much he respected Dad for starting from nothing, working his way through college, busting his ass to support eight kids” (118). I don’t believe his upbringing drove him into the Wild with no intention of returning, but due to Chris’s free spirited nature, it made him more inclined to leave when he did. I think Chris had every intention of returning because he had made plans to work and he cried before he was leaving for his trip. Borah “…figured he wouldn’t have been crying unless he intended to take some big risks and knew he might not be coming back” (68). He didn’t go into the Wild with no intention of returning, but he was aware of the risk that he might not come back. As much as he doesn’t want to admit it and tried to fight it, he had an attachment to people and at times it was hard for him to let go.

message 7: by Skdank09 (new)

Skdank09 | 23 comments This part of the book shined an entirely new light onto Chris for me. We no longer see him as a boy who gained his independence but a son and a brother and a friend, whose family is grieving over their loss. I do not believe Chris would have stayed away forever. His respect for his father and mother and love for his sister would have brought him back eventually if only for a little while. I agree with Kelsey that it wasn't only his parents that pushed him away. He would have done what he had wanted regardless; however, his adventurous spirit pulled him from society.

Does anyone else find it ironic that a book was written about McCandless? I am not sure if I am reading his character right but he doesn't seem like the type who would want people idealizing him or reading about him. Not to change the subject... but any thoughts?

message 8: by Caroline (new)

Caroline | 24 comments I have to agree with sally that it is ironic a book is written about McCandless. Chris wanted no ties to society, he wanted to get and be out of everything. He just wanted to wander and explore with himself and in himself. I believe though that the book was able to be read because of Chris's death. Because if Chris was alive today he would see the book as a tie to society. Even though Chris made relationship with people along his journey, such as Wayne Westerburg, he ended these ties when he traveled once and for all into the wild.

I believe that Chris would have come back, but not our of respect to anyone or anything, but just because he would have found what he was looking for. He would have ened his journey, and from what I gather about Chris's character, he would have felt uneasy about staying after he had answered or gotten whatever he felt was missing.
I agree with Sally again, that Chris would have done whatever he wanted. So in that case, I'm not sure what to say about what he would have done, i can only speculate and believe in what he could have done.

message 9: by John (new)

John F. (Johnferg) | 24 comments I don't think that Chris' upbringing was what pushed him outside of society, other then maybe the influence that his mothers father had on him. I think that this part of the book does a great job establishing what happened in Chris' past, including his family, education, and other relationships with friends throughout his unfortunately short life.

His mother and father worked a great amount to provide the best possible opportunities for their children, and it seems as if both Chris and Carine understood this. Chris' relationship with his sister, which grew stronger when their parents fought or worked long days, surprised me when he left her, let alone his parents. "Chris had so much natural talent, but if you tried to coach him, to polish his skill, to bring out that final ten percent, a wall went up" (111). I feel that despite the presence and manner in which his parents influenced Chris, he was inevitably going to be driven by his itchy feet. I think that a quote from Everett Ruess' last letter sums up how I look at Alexander Supertramp... "It is true that I miss intelligent companionship, but there are so few with whom I can share the things that mean so much to me that I have learned to contain myself. It is enough tat I am surrounded with beauty" (87).

Although I do believe that his itchy feet would have taken affect despite his upbringing, I also believe that there was a small part of his soul that was attached so certain individuals, such as when he cried when leaving South Dakota. I like to think that he would have returned after a while, but his inevitably itchy feet would not have allowed him to stay in one place for too long before moving again.

message 10: by Alix (new)

Alix Gresov | 22 comments I think that Chris knew exactly what he was getting into when he left for Alaska. As he said goodbye to his friends in Carthage there were tears in his eyes, as he knew that he may not return from this adventure, but Chris was stubborn and would not abandon his long-planned journey just because of possible danger; "once Alex made up his mind about something, there was no changing it," (67). Chris knew that this adventure may very well be his last, but the trip was important for him and he had already decided to go. His father's controlling nature, combined with the fact that Chris was used to taking trips all his life, led Chris to a life of excitement and adventure that could not be satisfied by remaining in one place or conforming to other people's rules. He did not head into the wild on an irrational or illogical impulse. "McCandless was a seeker and had an impractical fascination with the harsh side of nature [but he] wasn't mentally ill," (85). Rather he went into the Alaskan frontier perfectly aware of what he was getting into, and I think he did not necessarily plan on returning. While his upbringing certainly had a lot to do with his decision to explore the wilderness, I think that a lot of it was in Chris's nature and he would still have pursued his fascination with nature even if he had had a different upbringing.

message 11: by Mallory (new) - added it

Mallory Garretson | 21 comments From reading this particular passage, I gained the sense that Chris's parents did not place a dictatorship over his head- so I have to disagree a little bit with Meghan. Instead I saw Chris's parents as pretty lenient and chill people. Yes, they did influence him to persue college and get a good job/make money. But on the other hand they let their son travel across the country on his own numerous times, even after knowing that he struggled with his first trip (coming home 30 pounds lighter). I could not say that my parents would let me do that, after just graduation high school, which is perhaps why in my eyes Chris's parents don't seem as strict or dictorial as they are made out to be.
Instead, I think the real motive for Chris's leaving and abandonment of his family was what was channeling and building up in his head for many years, possibly even since his birth. Krakauer states, "...but Christopher Johnson McCandless came into the world with unusual gifts and a will not easily deflected from its trajectory" (106). I would have to agree with Dr. Talbot, and Lauren, as they have mentioned that sometimes people are just born with the urge and need for adventure, for travel. And I think Chris is a prime example of one of these people. He was born with this wanting to escape, set off on his own, explore the unknown. Either you have it or you don't- Chris had it. Like his father quotes, "Chris was fearless even when he was little. He didn't think the odds applied to him. We were always trying to pull him back from the edge" (109). This quote shows how even at a young age Chris was not afraid- I think some people grow out of their fears, while as Chris grew up with none at all. He sometimes appears to me like the modern day Jesus; unafraid to be himself, aceepting of all people, revolting away from society's standards, helping the poor and hungry. There is this very vivid image of Chris as Jesus to me, and Carine even describes him as Jesus when she sees him home after his first solo trip; "He looked like those paintings of Jesus on the cross" (118). Does any one else find Chris portraying qualities of Jesus at times...or maybe it is just me?

*Lauren, I love how you started your discussion with the song lyrics from Eddie Vedder. Although I have not seen the movie I have heard some of the soundtrack and fell in love at the first hearing. Once we finish the book we should all get together and watch the movie!

message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

Sally, you interject an interesting point regarding McCandless’s feelings toward a published book. I found on page 66 that Westerberg says, “He said he was going to write a book about his travels;” so it should be noted that McCandless wanted to garner his thoughts and experiences during his trek because he was compelled to write about them. Whether or not he would share this book with society, if he ever wrote one, is debatable. John Mellon Waterman’s story interested me, specifically on page 78 when Brady explains, “He used to carry around a clack of clipboards and notepads. He’d take copious notes, creating a complete record of everything he did during the course of each day... Somewhere he must have had piles and piles and piles of notes like that, which I am sure would have made sense to no one except John.” It seems as though Waterman and McCandless study people instead of have relationships with them. They try so hard to make sense of every aspect of life that questions unanswered turn them upside down until they are satisfied with answers. Perhaps going out into Nature is like going to the library for them where they can just totally hone in on their thoughts and forget about time and the rest of the world (When I’m studying in the library I do not like to look at the time because it distracts me and makes me nervous. I find that I get so much work done this way that I just keep going back). It becomes an addiction, as Everett Ruess describes when he writes, “I have been thinking more and more that I shall always be a lone wanderer of the wilderness... I’ll never stop wandering... I have gone too far alone” (91).

I definitely sensed McCandless’s frustrated with social normalities and pressures, like when Westerberg offers to buy him a plan ticket and McCandless responds, “No, I want to hitch North. Flying would be cheating. It would wreck the trip’ (Krakauer 67). McCandless knows what’s good for him and he does not want other people to take care of him, emphasizing his self-sufficiency. Back to Constructivism again, constructivists believe that people cannot fully communicate what they are thinking and this leads to conflict. McCandless knows that what he is doing does not make sense to most people, but it makes sense to him and to his favorite inspirational authors, and that’s all that matters. I don’t think that McCandless was trying to make a statement to his family, friends, and the world and he wasn’t trying to make a difference. To me, he knew that he wasn’t satisfied with his life and so he was proactive about it. He is selfish, but he doesn’t think the world revolves around him.

message 13: by Maggie (new)

Maggie | 22 comments I can't tell if I feel this way based on my own personal experiences, or if this is at all reflected in “Into the Wild,” but I feel like one of the main reasons that McCandless needed to abandon his family was out of guilt, not just oppression from his parents (and society).

Looking at my own life, I have always felt a sort of pressure to think that my parents are great, or dare I say “perfect,” because that’s what everyone around me has always said/ thought about them. Everyone in my hometown knew me and knew my parents and just assumed that we lived an ideal life. However, there are many instances that make me believe that I actually lived a childhood fairly similar to McCandless. My parents are very much overbearing and overprotective and have the desire to control everything. I can totally identify with McCandless’s feelings of being oppressed by his parents, even if his parents were just doing their job and telling him to be careful because they’re worried about him.

I know that my parents once started out with very little and they both worked so hard and sacrificed certain things to give me a better life. Because of this, I feel like I have no right to disagree with their oppressive or hypocritical lifestyles today. There is an overwhelming feeling of guilt knowing that, despite all the obnoxiously controlling things my parents have done in my life, they have given me so much more. It’s kind of like a little threat, or blackmailing, like…just because they once did ABC, my parents think that it’s now okay to do XYZ, and I have no right to protest because ABC > XYZ. If that makes sense.

This is something that I don’t really expect society (mainly people in my hometown) to understand. Like I already mentioned, there is such a societal strain to fit that ideal image of a “perfect family,” and disagreeing with something that the “perfect parents” do makes me feel even guiltier. I have felt so many times that just escaping the entire situation is the only decent/ humane way to solve this imbalance of feelings toward my parents. And because of all of this, I felt a huge connection to McCandless in this section. There are so many dimensions to relationships that are just so hard to explain or to deal with, and I feel like this played a major role in McCandless’s decision to go into the wild.

And Mallory, I totally agree – a TNF Movie Night sounds fantastic.

message 14: by Amy (new)

Amy Yao | 21 comments When I compare Chris to the other young and brash expeditioners that Krakauer mentions (namely Everett Ruess), Chris comes across as the sanest of all of them. I think it is important to remember that Chris always intended to come back. It's evident on page 68 when Gail Borah says, "He wasn't planning on being gone all that long," and even more so when he writes, "It might be a very long time before I return South." Chris definitely had plans for the future, and as difficult as his home life might have been, it pales in comparison to most other domestic struggles.

I therefore don't think that it was necessarily the drive to get away from relationships that sent Chris into the Alaskan wilderness; I believe it was something much simpler: the quest for beauty. Page 88 describes Everett Ruess as being "after... beauty...conceived in pretty romantic a way of life, it sometimes attains dignity." I recently started my own graphic design business, and that quest for beauty, of something that will speak volumes to everyone, is something that I've been on since I discovered what art was. I believe Chris was an artist in the broadest sense of the term, because he was able to see value in things other people couldn't, like his precious Datsun--causing him to lash out when his parents suggested buying him a new one.

message 15: by Ali (new)

Ali Hiple | 23 comments I have conflicting views as to why I think Chris was able to make the drastic leap into the wild, so I guess I'll just put them both out there. On the one hand, there is no escaping the fact that there was certainly an innate character trait that drove him to this. Wanderlust, itchy feet, adventurousness, whatever it may be, I think this is simply just an aspect of one's personality that Chris happened to be born with, and that did not allow him to be content with his current life. It sounds to me like his life was relatively easy and comfortable; he didn't have to work too hard in school, had natural talent in music and athletics (or at least running), had a pretty happy home life. Perhaps this "easiness" in and of itself was enough to drive him out to seek the challenges that life on the road would bring him. Certainly this can be seen in the instance where he passes up a plane ticket in favor of hitch hikihg up to Alaska, as well as in the numerous other times when he refused someone's offer to make his life a little bit easier. Chris, it seems, was someone who preferred to live strictly off his own efforts.

And then, also, I do think Chris was searching for something on his journey. Way back at the beginning Westerberg says of Chris: "I think maybe part of what got him into trouble was he did too much thinking. Sometimes he tried too hard to make sense of the world..." (18) and on page 42 he is described as "a kid who was looking for something...just didn't know what it was". It seems to me like Chris had unanswered questions about the world, life, etc. and knew he wasn't going to answer them if he stayed at home. Perhaps his journal keeping and photography were efforts at understanding things- writing definitely helps me sort through my own confusions.

Essentially I think it was a combination of a thirst for adventure, a desire to challenge himself and sustain himself, and a quest after some potentially unanswerable answers that drove Chris to the road.

Also, I have to add that after reading this section I don't think a fear of relationships had any factor in Chris's journey. I think perhaps he disliked the ties and the obligations that often go along with relationships, but it seems to me that he truly valued the time he spent with all the people he encountered on the road, as evidenced by his will and desire to stay in contact with them.

message 16: by James (last edited Feb 27, 2012 12:06PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

James Augustine | 19 comments I think a letter that arrived for Ron in Franzs' mail box can put the appropriate concluding remarks on what is a pretty remarkable story that has touched the lives of many people. The letter is long and there is no need for me to sum it up in entirety, as you've all read it, but there is a passage that can possibly help everyone understand the real motive behind Christopher's actions. I would not say it is necessarily pyscoanaylisis because we do not have viable evidence to make any conclusions, but it is insight to the thought processes that McCandless has. He quotes," 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 damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man's 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" (56). I have spent years of my life, YEARS, trying to explain this to my parents, brother, friends, and teachers hoping to weedle them into believing that he has merit in what he is saying. Mor Only one of my friends understood this notion and not surprising has a wildly adventurous spirit, like myself. His name is Tyler Mauri who remains my best friend and is someone who I consider a brother. I guess that one I am trying to say is that for many year I had this adventurous spirit, this attitude, stubbornness, fear of nothing, that led me to believe this life was plausible. Then I learned. I learned about how money affected people, how it made people and broke people. I learned the importance of family, friends, and a lifestyle that is beneficial for kids to learn and flourish. I learned that humans can live with nature without living in nature. And all the while the candle has not gone out, but it has certainly dimmed. Maybe, just maybe if I took the adventure that I always dreamed of, the candle would be burning brighter.

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