April 30, 2015
Christopher McCandless In August of 1992, at the Stampede Trail of Alaska, several groups of hikers and hunters discovered a dead body, shriveled up in an old abandoned bus. That corpse was later identified as Christopher McCandless, an adventure-seeking, young man who had died due to starvation and poisoning. In the summer of 1990, Christopher had left behind his family and friends, to venture off and experience life for what it actually was. He traversed all across the nation, met many new people along the way, and managed to live off of the land. He kept detailed records of his travels and various encounters in his personal journal. Into the Wild is a book written by Jon Krakauer in attempt to shed light on Chris’s journey to Alaska.
Christopher McCandless was running away from a pathway that had been strategically paved for him, by his affluent parents, a pathway which would have led Chris to great heights of materialistic success, and power. Although his intentions were ambiguous in the beginning, towards the end of his journey, clearly he wanted to attain a sense of self-fulfillment, without any type of interference or assistance.
Walt McCandless and Billie Johnson, Chris’ parents, contributed to Chris’ departure in a number of ways. Although many misunderstandings, and differences of opinion existed between Chris and Walt, Chris always respected his father. As Carine, Chris’s sister, reminisced, “he was grateful for all the things Dad had done for him.”(118) All of that changed very soon after the summer of 1986. Chris decided to take a road trip across the country. After his departure from Virginia, he drove southwest towards Texas, passed through New Mexico and Arizona, and finally arrived at his destination: California. Chris paid a visit to his old neighborhood, El Segundo. There he met with some old family and friends in hopes to find answers for various queries that lingered in his mind. Chris had stumbled upon a life-shattering truth about his father. Walt was involved in a previous marriage, and continued to carry on that relationship even after Chris’s birth. According to Krakauer’s description, “[he divided] his time between two households, two families.”(121) Upon Chris’s return from the trip, Billie recalls, “He seemed mad at us more often and he became more withdrawn.”(121) Carine explained, “Chris was the sort of person who brooded about things.”(121) Without justifying his withdrawn attitude, or confronting his parents about the truth, Chris continued to let the anger and frustration build up inside of him. Soon, even old friends like, Eric Hathaway, began to pick up on the unusual coldness and cynicism that Chris incessantly began to exude, through conversation. All in all, the truth of Walt’s double life had made a deep impact on Chris.
Alongside his father’s betrayal, there was another conflict of perspective between Chris and his parents. As Krakauer speculates, “Perhaps the greatest paradox concerned his feelings about money.”(115) Although his parents wanted the best that money could buy for their beloved son, Chris, on the contrary, wanted nothing more than to detach from his parents and from everything that they stood for. His disdain, for his family and their affluent ways, was transparent. According to Billie, “[Chris] believed that wealth was shameful, corrupting, and inherently evil.”(115) In contrast to Chris’ beliefs, “[Walt and Billie] saw nothing wrong with enjoying the fruits of their labor.”(115) There was one particular incident that made the clash of beliefs evident. After Chris’s graduation from Emory University, his parents insisted on buying a new car for him, however Chris thought it to be a waste/unnecessary. He loved his old Datsun dearly, and felt that as long as it was running perfectly (which it was), there was no need for a new car. As a result of this constant clash over money, Chris decided to take drastic measures. Upon his