Archive for the ‘Krakauer, Jon’ Category

Into the Wild

May 8, 2010 Leave a comment

 I both read the book « Into the Wild» written by Jon Krakauer and saw the movie. I’m afraid to say I don’t really feel any admiration towards Christopher McCandless. Unlike most films shot after a book, “Into the Wild” is close to the book story and doesn’t edit much.

 It is the true story of Christopher McCandless, who graduated from college and donated all his money to charity to travel to the West like a hobo on the road. The book tells about his journey, the people he met, the people he stayed with and tries to describe his personality to explain his choice and his way of thinking.

He renamed himself Alexander Supertramp and tried to reinvent himself through his going to the West. In doing this, he is right into the tradition of the USA : a country where people came to have a new life. A country where people who already had a life on the East Coast could start a new life by settling in the West. A country where the myth says one can always have a fresh start somewhere else and succeed.

However, he just fancied the first part of the myth, the fresh start part, for he was not seeking for a successful life the way Americans usually picture it : money, big cars, big house. He wanted to live like a hermit, to fulfill his basic needs, and no more.

 He wanted to live into the wilderness, not like a Jim Harrison character but like a Jack London one. He was full of Thoreau. He wanted to experience the adventure of the wilderness the way the pioneers of the 19th century had. That’s why he ventured into the Alaska wilderness without a map, and without sufficient an equipment. He died there, of food poisoning : he ate the wrong wild potato.

 In fact, he stayed in the wood a longer time that he really wished to. Indeed, he tried to go back to civilization but he found out that the stream he had crossed by foot on the early spring was a huge torrent in the summer. A river that could not be crossed by foot. He thus returned to his previous camp base and that proved fatal.

So apparently, he died of food poisoning and bad luck. But for me, he died out of stubbornness and self-confidence. Had he be humble enough to take a map with him, he would have found the bridge he needed to cross the river, for it was not very far from his camp and he would have come home safely.

 That lack of common precaution irritates me a lot. He was not stupid. He was not trying to kill himself. He was over-confident and stupidly romantic. He would die like a character of a romantic novel of the 19th century.

 This is not the only thing that displeases me in his story. I understand that he had issues with his parents. His childhood had been quite miserable because their marriage was a disaster. Later, he discovered that his father had had another wife and family and he was really upset and disturbed by the lie. So I can understand why he left everything, not telling them where he was, wanting to take a fresh start.

 But he had a sister, Carine, whom he was very close. How could he leave her without ever calling her ? How could he wander two years without showing her he was alive and happy ? This is something I cannot forgive him. I cannot truly sympathize with his early painful death because I cannot forgive him that selfishness.

Whatever the quest for purity he had, his wanting to live like Thoreau and everything, nothing can justify that one hurts their family by disappearing without ever giving any hint that they were alive.

 I’m sorry for all the admirers of Christopher McCandless’ courage and choice. I respect his quest but not the way he did it, because he could not not know he would hurt his family. He should not have indulge himself into hurting his sister.

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