Into the Wild' American Dream Essay

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There is a lot to say about Chris McCandless. Some say he was an idealistic genius who followed his dreams to the fullest extent. Others say that he was an idiot. Both are true, to a point. The man lived for 113 days in the wilderness off of what little supplies he had with him at the time and that is quite impressive considering the circumstances. The point that I am trying to make is that McCandless was smart, but not in the way that many people may think, he just did not have any common sense. In this essay, I will revisit examples of what led him to his death and how his lack of competence was arguably the cause of his death.

My first and probably most valuable point is the fact that we were not prepared for his adventure. He wandered out into the bush with only a ten-pound bag of rice, clothing unfit for the weather conditions, boots that were not waterproof, and a small caliber rifle without a map or a compass to guide him to civilization in case of an emergency. People would say that he was stupid because he went out there with gear that was “exceedingly minimal for the harsh conditions of the interior, which in April still lay buried under the winter snowpack” (Krakauer, page 5). So many people believe that this makes him a bush-casualty stereotype, which means he is just like any other imbecile who thought they could survive without preparation or any prior knowledge of how to live in harsh conditions. Jon Krakauer, the author of the book Into The Wild, claimed that McCandless was more of a pilgrim than a bush-casualty stereotype because his journey was for enlightenment and to be free from civilization. Krakauer then compares him to the Papar monks who would risk their lives in the search for a new home because their land had become too crowded. I think that Krakauer does not want to believe that Chris or Alex or whatever you want to call him was an idiot because he was the same way when he was younger. Much like the other adventurers, Ruess, the monks, etc., Chris lost his life doing something stupid.

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My second point is the fact that the romanticism of the wilderness is what drove Chris McCandless to go to Alaska for this great adventure that he did not survive. The stories told by Jack London were a huge influence on Chris and they were not even really based on facts or true stories. Chris was just “so enthralled by tales, however, that seemed to forget they were works of fiction” (Krakauer, page 44). I believe that the stories were the main cause for his demise because if it were not for such “amazing” stories he would not have had the idea to go out and try to survive in the bush in the first place and even if he did go without reading those stories he probably would have been better prepared for the conditions instead of believing that he did not need much to survive the freezing, harsh conditions there. Living off of the land is a lot harder than most people like to believe because it’s not just bugs, finding fresh water, and weather conditions, it is also the fact that hundreds of animals want to eat your face off while you sleep, luckily, Chris never ran into such animals. Whether you are trying to prove yourself a man, become enlightened, or make an escape from civilization, you need to be prepared for everything, the romanticisms of the wilderness are not always true.

My third point is that Chris McCandless was extremely smart, but was a vane, self-absorbed person. This was shown when Krakauer talked to members of Chris’s family and they said “he measured himself and those around him by an impossibly moral code” (Krakauer, page 123). He did this because he held himself to a higher standard than most people in his life, making it impossible to please him no matter what the situation consisted of. This is shown throughout the book through his various experiences working, traveling, and socializing, from what little socializing he did. In my opinion, this is a very important trait of the personality of Chris McCandless. He thought of himself so highly that he did not expect to go out into the wilderness and fail at what he thought was possible for him to achieve. No person can walk out into the Alaskan bush and survive for a long time without being significantly prepared for every possible situation. Somehow, Chris managed to survive for 113 days because of his will to survive and his ability to be active in the wilderness. When I say being active I mean being able to hunt, gather, and fend for himself.

He may have survived if he had brought a map with him to know where he was because there was a ranger station literally 6 miles away from his position that he could have hiked to and saved himself. He thought he didn’t need any of those life-saving supplies, but it turns out that he desperately did. In the words of DJ Khaled, “Congratulations, you played yourself.”

My fourth point brings up the idea of how his family talked about him after he had died. For starters, his father had said “Many people have told me that they admire Chris for what he was trying to do. If he’d lived, I would agree with them” (Krakauer, page This shows that his father was so disappointed in his son because he did not notify them no matter where he was. Chris did not want his parents to know he was out on his adventure because he felt like it was less freeing and it ruined the purpose of losing himself just to find himself. His sister on the other hand was extremely proud of him because he followed his dreams. She talked about his past, relations with girls, and all of those good memories that she had of him. She also described him as a recluse because in public settings he would either be that guy in the corner of the room or the guy that tried to show his extensive intelligence on certain subjects such as computer programming, which was a class that he had taken in college. I think that his parents not accepting who he really was led to him wanting to be out on his own just as much as the romanticism of books that he read influenced him to leave. Family is an important aspect in every single young person’s life. It helps them develop a sense of right and wrong by showing them respect, love, and humility. Without a strong family to support young adults, they will lose a sense of what is right and what is completely crazy, kind of like traveling the country without any money whatsoever. Maybe if his family would have loved and accepted him he would not have starved or froze to death in the wilderness of Alaska, but that is just my opinion.

I feel like the argument about whether or not Chris McCandless was either a complete idiot or an idealistic genius goes back and forth so much because of all the contradicting points as to why he lived and why he died. I am stuck in the middle because he acted like a snob and died like someone who had no idea what they were doing but still survived for 113 days. I know I keep saying that, but it is the truth. He was not as incompetent as people may think. He had a very genuine and heartfelt dream and he chased it to the point that he died doing what he wanted to do. I admire that about him because many people will give up on themselves or their dreams because of a couple of setbacks. We are all guilty of that in one way or another. However, he was not prepared, he believed in things that were not true at all, he completely dismissed the fact that other people were just as intelligent as him, and he severed all ties and died in a wasteland. I believe that if Chris would have had even the slightest bit of common sense he would have either not gone on his odyssey or had been more prepared for what was to come.

Everybody has their own opinion on what kind of person Chris McCandless was. An idiot, a genius, an idealist, a master of not having common sense, these are all things that he has known. For the longest time, I did not know what I would call him. Now I just know him as an idiot who went into the wild and died.

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Into the Wild’ American Dream Essay. (2024, February 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 19, 2024, from
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