The Truth outside Society in Penn’s Into the Wild
In order to live, one must know the truth about the meaning of life, but in order to know the truth, one must escape one’s society. This thinking follows Henry Thoreau’s Walden…
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Chris McCandless (Emile Hirsch) is a modern version of Thoreau and Into the Wild is his Walden. Director Sean Penn uses Jon Krakauer’s book that has the same title to depict the inspiring life of McCandles. McCandless leaves everything behind- his family, savings, and material belongings- so that he can experience what it means to truly live. Some people might think that McCandless is a reckless nut and a narcissist, but he can also be seen in a more complex way. McCandless is reckless in a way that he is not fully knowledgeable enough to survive his “great Alaska adventure,” but he is not a wacko and a narcissist; instead, he should be admired for his naturalist idealism on human existence, wherein he reconnects to his soul through nature, while at the same time stimulating others to search inward for their happiness too. McCandless is reckless in a way because he fails to understand the range of skills and knowledge required to survive his lifelong dream. His lifelong dream is more than escaping the bitterness of his family’s reality because since he was a young child, he found happiness in his wanderings. He tells Ron Franz (Hal Holbrook) that he does not live alone and in the wild because he is “destitute,” but because it is his choice. He believes that travelling is the best way to live. Being a “tramp,” which refers to people like him who are nomads by choice, however, is not easy, especially in the wild. McCandless buys a book on local flora and fauna, but because of his lack of knowledge and skills in understanding the difference among plants, he eats a poisonous plant that looks like a wild potato root. This plant has the side effect of starvation and death if left untreated. His death is a product of his lack of full understanding of the forces that he must be able to handle in the wild. The scene where he dies alone is one of the reasons why some people criticize McCandless as a narcissist because he thinks he is good enough to survive alone. Instead of seeing him as a narcissist, he is more of a reckless inexperienced young man who has not attained critical knowledge and skills for long-run survival in Alaska. Perhaps if he studied Alaska for a few years, it could have increased his chances for survival. But he is impatient and he wants to live his dream immediately and because of this, he faces higher risks. McCandless’ recklessness is in his reluctance to wait and to be the best supertramp for his Alaska adventure. Despite some degree of recklessness, McCandless is not a wacko because he is prepared for his journey physically and mentally. Physically, he is an athlete, so he has the stamina to live off the land. He has the physical framework that gives him the strength and endurance for long-run walking and running. Moreover, McCandless has mentally prepared himself for the physical demands of trekking, hunting, and cooking and keeping himself warm during winter season. McCandless knows the risks of his tramp lifestyle and makes necessary preparations to ensure his self-reliance. For instance, he learned how to survive in Alaska from a friend. His friend told him what to do with his food once he kills it. McCandless also worked on a calisthenics program through exercise and walking steep mountains every day, so that his body can withstand the physical rigors of continuous mountain hiking. Also, in the beginning of the film, McCandless sends a note that he has bought a book on local flora and fauna, which means that he wants to know about the land, so that he can survive it alone. He adds that he has “stocked all necessary comforts to live off the land for a few months.” He used his money from the last job he held at Burger King to buy essential supplies. These preparations indicate that he used his
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