Into the Wild' Romanticism Essay

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In the film Into The Wild, Sean Penn alters a variety of aspects originally found in the book which removes emphasis on Chris, but at the same time, preserves the crucial components of the story, making the movie seem less biased, and straightforward.

Throughout the book, Krakauer mentions and thoroughly describes stories of other individuals which he ultimately uses to compare and contrast with Chris, but these are not even mentioned in the movie, as Penn attempts to emphasize Chris’s story as much as possible in the limited running time offered in a film. The stories of McCunn, Waterman, and others, are juxtaposed with Chris and his travels to normalize the latter, as these other adventurers and their lives were filled with more abnormal details and events. In the reading, this makes these stories a crucial component that makes up a large chunk of the author’s bias within the book, as it changes the reader’s perspective on the protagonist by forcing him/her to constantly think of one of the many individuals mentioned in the reading, an overflow of information that ultimately has an impact on what one thinks of Chris. Without the inclusion of these details, Penn is forced to introduce new elements such as music, to recreate the bias present in Krakauer’s writing, but he directly addresses McCandless and his life throughout the whole film, preserving the emphasis that lies upon the main character.

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One of the most notable differences between the book and the film is the lack of a narrator, a component that is crucial in determining the presence of bias, which is also a unique element that characterizes Krakauer’s writing. Without a narrator, a portion of Krakauer’s style is lost, but Penn implements a wide array of songs into the film to try and preserve the romanticizing of the story present in the book. Throughout the movie, Eddie Vedder (lead singer of Pearl Jam) strikes the audience with short, acoustic songs based on the themes of life, nature, and the evils of society, the latter most notably present in the song ‘Society’, where one of the first lines says “You think you have to want more than you need until you have it all you won’t be free, Society”, clearly referring to avarice and its presence in society. This song serves as a tool to critique one of the many evils the author believes are present in the world McCandless is trying to flee, and successfully replaces many of Krakauer’s comments more silently, indirectly romanticizing Chris and his travels through a combination of sweet-sounding acoustics, and deep lyrics. Ultimately, by replacing direct opinions with songs, less emphasis is placed on the comments themselves, and from a general point of view, the story of Chris becomes the only present topic in the film, disregarding the director’s bias, which can be appreciated when analyzing his technical choices.

Visual cinematography is an area where Penn preserved Krakauer’s style at its finest, transforming his written descriptions into magnificent shots. As imagery is one of the key components that help make the story of Chris unique, Penn made sure to include as many clips of the astonishing landscapes as possible, to further romanticize the travels, as done so in the book. These impressive shots taken of the mountains in Alaska, amongst others, help fill in the void created by the lack of dialogue and blend in with McCandless and his story to become a crucial component in the film. The effect of these visuals is magnified when combined with the soundtrack, a powerful combination that goes head to head with the descriptive language Krakauer employs when describing a setting.

To conclude, Penn fully preserves the core components of Krakauer’s Into the Wild, most importantly the romanticization of Chris and his story, the thorough descriptions of the landscape, and the presence of hidden bias. It is clear that the director carefully removed elements from the story that consumed too much time and attention, and replaced them with more universal tools that serve a wider array of purposes, such as the soundtrack, which along with developing the calm ambient of the film, helps romanticise the plot in a hidden manner, unlike more visible kinds of bias present in the book. With this said, Penn successfully adapted the book into his movie, leaving the core of the story untouched, and increasing the emphasis that lies upon Chris.

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Into the Wild’ Romanticism Essay. (2024, February 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 18, 2024, from
“Into the Wild’ Romanticism Essay.” Edubirdie, 09 Feb. 2024,
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