The unique writing styles of simplicity and irony are intermingled with an interview style, employed by John Krakauer in “Into the Wild” serve to exemplify the main themes of existentialism and materialism.
“Into the Wild” is a biography written three years after the events transpiring within the novel. “The Metamorphosis” is a social commentary written in the form of a novella. Both books follow the predestined stories of young men struggling to embrace the materialistic demands as well as their own existence in their respective societies, who are yearning to break out of a predestined struggling to embrace the materialistic demands as well as their own existence in their respective societies, who arewith a predestined life already set for them yearning to break out of a predestined life that society and family set out for them.that break out of the mold of being ‘normal’, McCandless by escaping into the wilderness of Alaska, and Samsa by literally turning into a bug creature. Throughout these two books, tThere is a strong rejection of all social norms that mandate the society in which the characters live. Chris Mccandless escapes his overbearing parents and the social expectations of …to escape into the wilderness of Alaska, whilst Gregor Samsa’s escapism takes the form of a metamorphotic transformation into a venomous, monstrous roach that cannot perform his day to day mundane routine. From the recurring theme of materialism within either book, and the main characters rejection of it, they ultimately meet their demise.
Christopher McCandless, an intelligent graduate, rejects the ultimate American dream and its materialism by walking into the wilderness of Alaska, escaping a predestined life and Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning accompanied by the gothic background of Prague, and finds himself unable to climb out of bed and trapped within a verminous version of himself. The research question is, “To what extent and to what effect do the author’s use the theme of materialism to foreshadow the main character’s demise in “Into the Wild” and “The Metamorphosis”?”
Both these characters circumstances have led to the research question that this essay will explore. This essay will therefore look at the role of ‘greed’ and the ‘desire to gain’ and how people may either prosper from this or fall victim to it.
History and Materialism:
The Metamorphosis ’ is written very bluntly and in a disconnected way which emphasizes the existential angst that is prevalent in Samsa’s life. The novella exemplifies the alienation that Kafka himself felt in his life, due to the forced acceptance of his overbearing father’s expectations.. This serves to make the events that occur in the novel that much more impactful to the readers. The simplistic way of the writing in the book does not romanticize the feelings of pressure and alienation but does romanticize the feelings of being entirely misunderstood.
The way in which the book is written most directly relates to the character of Samsa. Once turned into the horrendous bug, he does not question why it has happened, or even how to reverse the effects. Gregor accepts what has happened, and laments about the repercussions of it than the immediate effects.
Bourgeoisies,Bourgeoisies are some of the people, who can be said to have a better embracement of materialism, in such a way that their human nature is suddenly restricted. Such is shown by the fact that the manager, was the first to abandon Gregor after his value to him had deteriorated. According to the Engels and Marx, the bourgeoisieis a class of people that have resolved personal worth into the exchange of value (Marx and Engels 771). Thus, as soon as the manager saw that Gregor had undergone a transformation, he quickly fled the house and never returned, even to inquire how he was going on with his life. Such shows that for a materialistic person, once something ceases to be of important, especially contributing towards income generation, then all the links to the person being cut. Such indicates how the materialistic society, is very inhumane, especially when it comes to the interpersonal relationships in the society. As such, without any form of labour to offer to the bourgeoisie, Gregor was deemed worthless, and he qualified to be expended.
Due to the issue of materialism, family bonds and ties are also seen to be heavily dependent on the economic situation that is currently prevailing in the family. Such is witnessed by the fact that after Gregor is unable to support the family with the necessary finances, they finally make up a time to abandon him, just like the manager did, as they no longer saw him to be useful again. As such, due to the materialistic nature of the current society, the bourgeoisie have,in turn, torn the sentimental of the families and their veil and thus, families are held together, not because of love or harmony, but because of the money relations (Marx and Engel 771).
The picture that Samsa has of the beautiful girl that he had cut out from the newspaper and framed in his room carries a heavy meaning behind what it is meant to signify. This symbolizes the love that Samsa cannot achieve. The significance is so important because a photo of a girl would be framed and hung up when the two people are in a serious relationship, with the promise of love. The theme of the absence of love continues in the novella with the relationship between Samsa and his sister. Though initially, it is seen that the sister is the only one to care for Gregor, and even takes the time to find out what kind of food Gregor can eat as a bug, she ultimately is glad to be rid of the burden that Gregor became. The sister herself grows at the end of the book to become another object that the poarents think of marrying off. Though Gregor was not married in the literal sense, his family had thought him to be married to his work and to the way that he was meant to support his family all throughout his entire life. This also introduces the theme of entrapment. Because of how strict and materialistic his family has become, there is no way for Samsa to find love for himself. This is seen when his mother tells the manager that Samsa has a very picture of a girl that he has cut himself. This would not be something to be proud about or feel pride about. Normally families would defer this pride to their sons or daughters in law, but in this case, they have tried to instill the same value system into Gregor that the superficial equivalent of what a life is meant to be will be good enough to satisfy him.
By doing this, the author Kafka is able to prove that the modern family is more in a money relation with each member, due to the fact that after Gregor was unable to fend for his family, his relationship with them was cut short and severed. Furthermore, the father to Gregor, with whom he is shown to have the least amount of emotional contact, is the one who is portrayed to be harshest to him, especially after the predicaments that faced Gregor. After the transformation of his son, the father never offers at all, to help in any way. Such is shown by the fact that, “upon seeing his transformed son, he clenched his fist, as if to drive Gregor back to his room” (Kafka 15). Moreover, one day, when the son is trapped while out of his room, he reacts by attacking him, by throwing him a fruit. Although the scene was presented as being comical, the wound that Gregor sustained, lasted on him for about a month (Kafka 40).
Such also unveils the prowess of Kafka to use irony, to bring forth his anti-materialistic views, which shows that after years of hard work and labour that Gregor did, in a bid to help his father, he is being repaid by such deeds and hate from his father. The father quickly forgets what the son did to him, and as such, due to the fact that he no longer earns wages, he is deemed as not being any more useful to the family at all. As such, by portraying how the relationship quickly breaks down, with the absence of money, shows that in the first place, the relationship was only builton the basis of money, which is one of the things that is inherent in any materialistic society.
As seen, although the exact story that is told by Kafka in the text cannot be taken to occur in the real world, except in fantasy, it, however, represents some of the materialistic beliefs and norms, which occur in the modern world. In this, it represents a scenario in which a worker is abandoned by their family and even employers, owing to the fact that they are unable to support themselves financially or being unable to work. As such, by looking at the text from the materialistic and Marxism perspective, it is observed that there is always a conflict between the bourgeoisie and the proletariats. The main reason for all this is that the issue of materialism and economics, come before anything else, in an economy that is mainly capitalistic. As such, a citizen who is unable to work or earn wages is quickly forgotten and thrown out of the picture. Kafka brings all these issues, in a bid to showcase his strong views, regarding the support of anti-materialism and how capitalism, affects the harmony in the society. By the eventual death and life of Gregor, the entire lifecycle of wealth accumulation, together with its consequences, are seen to lead to the corruption of the moral fabric of the society.
Though, on the surface, the two books do not seem to be very similar, save for the main character being a young, Caucasian man. Once the subtler implications of both novels are explored, it is understood that both books follow their journeys in turning away from what the rest of society considers important and necessary. The authors employ both basic and higher order devices to share the stories which they both encompass. However, Krakauer and Kafka explore these themes and the ideas of society in different ways.
“Into the Wild” follows a biographical story of Chris McCandless, though not chronologically. The author artfully renders a story especially through the blunt, honest style of writing that is present throughout the novel. Before each chapter, Krakauer uses a short excerpt from a story or poem called an epigraph. These epigraphs are directly related to the theme of the chapter, setting the mood and tone for following text. The epigraphs are generally read as a look into the thought process of Chris McCandless, relating the reader to the text by relating the epigraphs to Chris McCandless’ way of thinking. They are taken from passages speaking about adventure, about discovering who you are meant to be, which is what McCandless journey through the book was. The young man who grew up in a middle-class suburban home grew up by his own terms; differently than what was expected of him.
The honest, straightforward way that the book is written gives the readers an encounter with the decisions made by McCandless without giving the reasons behind them. The blunt way in which the entire book is written does nothing to take away from the reality of the harsh fate that had been dealt to McCandless. Krakauer uses a journalistic style in some parts of the book, adding articles and excerpts to authenticate the life and the experiences of the young man who wanted to get lost in Alaska.
In explaining the theme of anti-materialism according to the nonfictional biography of McCandless as written by Jon Krakauer, references to Henry Thoreau’s economic ideas as well as liberalism and his references to the issue of nature and wilderness will be compared and discussed.
One of the motifs, as seen in the text, ‘Into the Wild’ by Krauker, is the interpretation of Thoreau as an anti-materialist person, who is opposed to the ideas of capitalism and market economy. From the cover of the book, the reader first comes to learn that before McCandless undertakes to start his journey, he decides to give away much of his wealth and savings to charity. Furthermore, the author, Krakauer, undertakes to reports that Chris, undertook to burn all the cash that he had remained with, in a gesture that would have made Tolstoy and Thoreau proud (Wild 29).
Furthermore, when Krakauer starts to address the relationship that exists between McCandless and his parents, he basically starts this chapter with some form of the epigraph from Walden by Thoreau as highlighted by Chris. By the aid of this passage, the author is able to show the strict moral code that McCandless used to measure those around him and himself. In this, it is seen that McCandless, would rather know the truth and values of sincerity as opposed to the love of money and wealth (Wild 117). As seen from the passage, it does not only give a reflection of the reason why Chris felt a little aggravated when he came upon the discovery that the father mainly lived as a bigamist, but also serves to show the main principles that he might have followed when it came to his actions of burning the money.
The opposition of McCandless towards the issues of market economy and being anti-materialistic is very much in line with the interpretation of the Walden as one of the experiments that attempted to result in an organic as well as transcendental form of economy that is opposed to the market economy, associated with the antebellum of capitalism. In this, Krakauer explains that just like Thoreau, McCandless, always desired to know or have the truthis given to him, rather than the money. Such also describes why Thoreau, desired to have a new sort of economy, all by himself.
As seen, the character, McCandless, is seen to follow the same principles, regarding the issues of economic ideas and repulsion of wealth, as observed by Thoreau. First, the mainconcept of Thoreau, with regards to the repulsion of wealth and the philosophy of anti-materialism, was that such a stance would result in the achievement of personal growth. It is seen that the main reason as to why Thoreau went into the woods, was to achieve personal growth and thus liberate himself and be able to learn of new life facts (Walden 1028). As such, it is seen that Thoreau, went on eh Walden Pond, all in a bid to use as much time as possible, to do what he really wanted and grow both spiritually and physically.
Such is opposed to the notion of accumulation of material wealth, which is one of the main goals of the market economy, and any capitalistic idea. As such, one of the central beliefs of Thoreau was that money,and material wealth only provided hindrances to the elevation of the humankind (Walden 987). Furthermore, he reported that a man is considered to be rich, owing to the proportions of the things that he would agree to let go than have them (Walden 1023). Just like Thoreau, Chris wants to avoid the accumulation of wealth and any other materialistic things, as he saw them as being the ones that would prevent him from having the joy in his life. Such is proved in the letter that he sent to his friend, Westerberg, in which he regretted ever meeting, and adding that his days were happier, when he had no pennies or any other materialistic wealth, which humans, in the capitalistic era, would use to rank or judge others (Wild 33). As such, we can see that the ideas and beliefs of Thoreau, which he shunned materialistic possessions, seems to be echoed in nearly the same vigour that Krakauer brings out in McCandless.
However, the statement by Krakauer, which contends that Thoreau, would have been proud by the choices made by the character McCandless, is merely based on the traditional interpretation of the economic views that were held by Thoreau. However, this can be taken to be an idealised interpretation, which in many instances, does not really take into consideration, the various practical philosophies that were held by Thoreau, in Walden. Due to this, the statement that McCandless would have made Thoreau proud, it illustrates the prowess of Krakauer to use the technique of fiction, all in a bid to bring out McCandless as being a hardcore adherent to the various philosophies of the Thoreauvian economic principles.
The understanding of the anti-materialistic themes are th Such, in most cases, shunned the idea of accumulating material wealth, and so these as being as some of the main hindrances to the growth and progression of a person, with regards to their material wealth. Such is shown, by the excerpt, “Bullhead City doesn’t seem like the kind of place that would appeal to an adherent of Thoreau and Tolstoy, a philosopher who expressed nothing but contempt for the bourgeois trappings of mainstream America. McCandless, nevertheless, took a strong liking to Bullhead” (Wild 40).
Through this, it is seen that Krakauer, is evidently reminding the readers and the audience of the book of the various aspects of the protagonist in the text, who in many times, had continued to showcase his dislike for material wealth accumulation and even money, despite the fact that he had even opened a savings account, and continually flipped quarters at the McDonalds (Wild 40).However, these were some of the main reasons that McCandless created poverty for himself, as inspired by the principles of Thoreau, which majorly condemned the market economy. However, by burning all his money and trying to live off the land, it is in this instance that shows that McCandless opposed the principles of Thoreau, concerning the politics and economy, which can be said to be one of the things that could help a person to find a balance between the market economy and one’s personal goals. As a result f this, it can be said that by the use of Thoreau anti-materialism, the author mainly brings forth into light, his own cultural context.
It should be sensitized that at the time, ‘Into the Wild’ was being written and published, it becomes evident that the economic growth for a person, did not result in the self-fulfillment, that people thought would be acquired through the accumulation of wealth, which suggests consumption of certain materialistic things, past a certain point, was not resulting into people being more happier than the others.