Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Into the Wild

It's become a new site of pilgrimage over the years since Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild first told the story of Chris McCandless, a.k.a. Alexander Supertramp -- the abandoned Fairbanks City bus, #142, that stands a in a clearing a couple hundred feet off the legendary Stampede Trail, a track first blazed by a miner to his claim back in the 1930s. If airfare to Fairbanks and a ride to the trailhead aren't on your calendar, or in your budget, you can even see it on Google Earth, where it's marked "Stampede Trail Magic Bus," a name which invokes another, mobile bus, a.k.a. "Furthur," aboard which Ken Kesey, Wavy Gravy, and others of the Merry Pranksters embarked upon trips of another kind in the 1960's. This bus had been towed (along with another now gone) to the site as temporary shelter for workers years before, and had been fitted with box-spring beds and a stove; when the work was done, the bus was abandoned.

It now has a granite plaque, placed by his family, marking the bus as the end of the trail for McCandless. When his body was found there by moose hunters in September of 1992, his family had not known his whereabouts or even heard from him, for more than two years. A young man full of promise, an A-student with a degree from a top college, no student loans, and a $25,000 start up savings from his parents, he seemed like a young man who had it made. And yet, before he departed on his curious quest, he'd given all that money to charity, burned the cash in his wallet and (soon after) abandoned his car. Changing his name to Alexander Supertramp, he traveled by hitch-hiking, crashing on couches, and working -- apparently hard and well -- at a series of farm jobs. He made friends everywhere he went, and yet at the end, he didn't want anyone to go with him. Krakauer, a journalist for Outside Magazine, was hired to do a story, which he did (it appeared in 1993), but he was still unsatisfied. Tracking down more of McCandless's friends -- some of whom contacted him after seeing the article in the magazine, helped fill out the picture, while Alex's few leavings -- postcards to friends, notes scribbled in the margins of books, and such -- offered the bare outlines of a journey.

Into the Wild, the resulting book, was a huge bestseller, and in 2007 was adapted as a film by Sean Penn. And yet, despite the book's immense popularity, readers have remained divided: for some, McCandless is a true hero, a voyager of the spirit whose restless trek symbolizes everything great about the human desire to explore the world -- while for others, including quite a few Alaskans, he's just one of the apparently endless stream of inexperienced, foolish, and just plain stupid people who head out into the wilderness without the knowledge, skills, or materials essential to surviving. The debate is not an entirely new one; as Krakauer observes, a similar argument has long raged over Arctic expeditions such as that of Sir John Franklin, which -- though sanctioned by the British Empire and provided with what was though the best equipment -- canned food, two enormous ships, flour, buscuit, and rum -- proved unable to survive in the harsh Arctic climate, even though, a few miles from the stranded ice-bound vessels, Inuit families were enjoying a rich meal of seal meat and muktuk, and bouncing healthy babies on their knees in their snug igloos.

32 comments:

  1. If I had to describe my opinion of Candless at this point, it would be this: although he was book-smart and somewhat street-smart, he was NOT a survivor in the wilderness. The fact that he died is evidence enough that he had no clue what he was really getting into, even though he seemed sensible enough.

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  2. For a while I have been contemplating on going on a cruise to Alaska and now that I am taking this class there is no doubt that it will happen soon. There is so much to see, so much to learn about that I do not know why I never considered it earlier. When I started reading Into the Wild I was a bit confused, it seemed like it was a bunch of short stories about different people that had gone or been to the Stampede trail and did not know where the book was heading. Now, that I am on chapter 4 of the book, I am amazed by Alex’s story. I admire someone like Alex who can give it all up, start a new life, and follow his beliefs. It is impressive how he did not care about money or commodities, he just wanted to live his own way; cannot wait to read more about him. I wish I could be as adventurous as he was! But I am too attached to my family and moving to a new country frightens me since we had to do it once when I was little. I’m looking forward to learning more about the Artic.
    Laura Ramirez

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  3. I'd like to see all 50 states and like Laura, I too would like to see Alaska particularly for the Aurora Borealis, but I don't do camping. I don't even do glamping. I work too hard NOT to live like I'm homeless, even if it's for a weekend.
    Could this be a cautionary tale of non-conformity to society's rules? Stick to the rules and you won't starve to death alone in the woods of Alaska, Alex/Chris. OR perhaps we're overlooking that this a story of a suicidal man who with all the hope of the world that he'd survive and could get through anything, really underestimated the bite of Mother Nature and paid the price with his life? Let's not forget that he CHOSE to go to Alaska. If he was looking for a fresh start, to become someone else, he could have gone to Hawaii - much warmer there and plenty of Spam (yuk). My point here is that when we go on vacation, aren't we different people? The locals don't know who we are or where we come from - we could be a rocket scientists for all they know.
    There's a saying management about the 5 or 6 P's, depending on how politically correct you chose to be, and that is: Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Alex, based on items he chose to take with him (more books that actual supplies), was significantly underprepared both mentally and emotionally which is what our author points out when Gaillen points out about Alex's rifle choice, the fact he's traveling alone, his family and friends don't know he's doing this, and that Gaillen even gives Alex an old pair of boots and some of his lunch his wife packed for Gaillen.
    ~Sally R. Nihill

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  4. As I read about Mr. Mccandless seems like he has a death wish. I have never go out in nature alone but I sure know that I have to learn many skills to be in the wild. I have read and been told how brutal nature can be. People have to be trained for years to be able to survive. From what I read, Mccandles is very smart and so far made good decisions, until he decides to go to Alaska. Unfortunately, it did not end well. He seem to like the idea of living off the land, which I can see why he is fascinated by. In my opinion, being out in nature is a great experience everyone should have at least once. That being said, he took it to an extreme. Such as, he threw away the maps and only brought insufficient amount of money. Regardless will never understand the choices he made or why he would want to do it.
    -Leuyen Huynh

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  5. I think that the story of Chris McCandless is a good eye-opener for all. Whether or not someone thinks he is an adventurous, brave young man or a fool, there is much to learn from Chris. His death was avoidable and unnecessary. If you are planning to stay in the wilderness, especially a harsh environment like Alaskan winters, you must prepare well and pack essentials to survive. You should always have safety measures and back up plans. Another thing you can learn from Chris is that don't give up on your dreams. Chris just wanted to experience new adventures and experiences. Chris did just that, he followed his dreams, sadly it ended his life, but he did not settle for his materialistic life he led as a youth. There is many things that can be learned from the book and from Chris himself. Love this book!

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  6. I agree with Le,It seems like Chris/Alex had a death wish and no intention on ever returning home. He gave away all his money to a charity dedicated to ending hunger and then ended up starving to death which I found iroic. He stopped contact with his close family and it seemed like he had nothing really to live for. He went into the wild very under prepared even against the advice of others so it just seems as though he was curious to see how long he could last out there and already made peace with the fact that he would not be returning home alive. Too bad the television show Naked and Afraid was not around back then, because he could have just gotten his nature fix from being on the show! -Heather S.

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  7. I have previously read Into the Wild my senior year in high school. Upon beginning this novel once again, I cannot help but think that Krakauer does present Chris McCandless in a seemingly biased way. Throughout the chapters, the author draws parallels from other men that had previously embarked on journeys vey similar to Chris'. I cannot help but think throughout reading that Chris' venture seemed almost careless. He would dump materials he was given along his way, which one could infer demonstrates a sense of self-dependence and stubbornness. He was ill-prepared with his gear and one could also infer that Chris began on this venture, throwing caution to the wind, and disregarding and almost ultimately decided his venture would, in fact prove fatal. -Laura N.

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  8. As I read this book it became very clear to me that Chris McCandless had no intention of ever returning home. He left to start this journey with little to nothing to use for his survival on this journey He did not tell anyone where he was going, he stopped all contact with everyone he knew. I understand he may have wanted to experience this alone, but why not let someone know where you will be. I really do believe that Chris McCandless knew he would be dying on this journey, and would not be returning home.
    -Nadia Nada

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    1. I agree with your point of view Nadia. I intially thought the same. He left his home and went far away to a place where help cannot be found. it seems to me that he wanted to be far away from civilization as possible. As much as I can understand why he wanted to do so, he also took it to an extreme. Risking his life for a dream that he was ill prepared for. I believe if he brought some kind of emergency tools such as cell phone, things would end differently. He could have brought emergency items in case of problems such as starving to death. -Leuyen Huynh
      (My second response)

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  9. Chris McCandless in my opinion seemed very uneducated about his future plans. He wanted to go to Alaska to be in isolation, but there was no true other purpose. It makes one wonder if he would have ever returned to his family after so many years in isolation, however I do not think that would be the case. Lets say he never died of ingesting of a poisonous substance and he lived in isolation for many years. I think instead he would have went insane, and would have probably ended up forgetting who he is, and the purpose for even going out there. I think if I could have gave Chris McCandless some advice, I would have said be to educate yourself on culture and see the positive of the world and appreciate the life which is beyond his family troubles. I would have also gave him a map of Alaska to really help him through his endeavors. People often want to escape the negativity instead of trying to fix the root cause of the negativity. This negativity will just increase in later years and even though this is an extreme example, if negativity in this world increases, we will have more people like Chris McCandless who will try to avoid the negativity by running away from the problem.

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  10. As for someone that can't even imagine being in the wildness, I do give Chris points for trying to live through it. However, I do believe he went about it the wrong way. Chris himself had absolutely no experience or knowledge of surviving in the wild was very foolish, especially because I do think he is a smart man. I believe he was very anxious to get away from everything back home. Instead, he should have educated and trained himself on what to expect in the wild. He should have done more research about Alaska and their harsh winters because a man like Chris is not expected to survive on his own.

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  11. I definitely agree with Melinda. I would never be able to live in the wilderness. Watching the movie was eye opening though. His parents had such a messed up relationship that involved verbal and physical abuse which drove him completely away. I can not believe he graduated from College and left it all behind to embark on a journey he knew nothing about nor was he trained for. I do admire him though for doing what he wanted to do. One thing he wrote really stuck out to me. He said/wrote in his journal some of his best days were pennieless. Where he was he could appreciate the world and nature for what it is. We in today's world are so worried about materialistic things in life and money in general we forget to appreciate the small things and the things we have that money can't buy. Seeing the film is truly eye opening.
    Tara Carpenter

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  12. That is to funny. Watching the movie made me think about Naked and Afraid. It also made me think about the show Alone. He would have been perfect for both shows.
    You wrote about him not contacting his family and his parents I can somewhat understand why he didnt contact them. But I feel so bad for his sister. He did not even reach out to her and when he was at the phone booth, I really thought he was going to call her, instead he gave the quarter to the gentlemen using the other pay phone.

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  13. My second post was in response to Heather S.

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  14. Muhammad Basit AzizJuly 2, 2017 at 7:23 AM

    After reading the book and watching movie, people criticized McCandless for being selfish and unprepared for his trip. He started his trip without a map and proper survival gear, and he had gone to great lengths to make it impossible for anyone to find him. But today, hikers from around the world still make the two-day trek to the bus, which has become a shrine to the young man many idolize as a symbol of adventure and a turning away from material things. For me, he was a success and I have learnt some important life lesson from his story. Everybody should try to find happiness in their struggles. As Chris’s journey was an ambitious struggle from start to finish. In the end, your struggles will become a part of the journey. Hardships that lend you to your expedition, become part of your character. Another important lesson is don’t worry about the other people opinion in the journey of chasing your dream. If Chris had listened to the opinions of people, he would undoubtedly never be able to chase his dream. In fact, it is important that the opinions of society had a lot to do with why he chose to desert society in the first place. Never allow the thoughts and negativity of other people to control you and your actions.

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    1. I would have to agree with Muhammed. I do believe that McCandless was a success. We are all students reading about this mans life account. There is something for us all to take away from his story. I love Muhammad’s line “hardships that lend you to your expedition, become part of your character”. This is very true. It is the choices we make in life, that make us who we are. McCandless could have just been complacent and fell into the monotony of life, but he did not. He took control of his own destiny. Im not sure that is something we can all admit to. McCandless life was not in vain, nor was it selfish. This was a man that lived, truly lived. Regardless of countless opinions, and negative comments, he was able to succeed.

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  15. In my opinion, Chris McCandless did not have a death wish. It seems to me that he really wanted to explore the world himself, not as an armchair explorer. I am aware that is is a common opinion that he was unprepared, and not educated in survival. However, I feel he had a raw intuition for the wild. He seemed to be attracted to self discovery, experiencing life first hand. This was a man that buried his books and burned his money. The materialistic world meant nothing, life experience and giving was everything. Was the plan to end up in Alaska and die? No, I don’t believe so. I truly believe he thought he was capable. There is an old aboriginal mindset regarding the outback. You carry nothing, remove nothing. What you could ever need will be placed in your path as you go. I think this resonated with Chris. I believe he thought the universe would provide, until it wouldn’t. I don’t think he wanted to die, or had a death wish. I just think he relied on the universe to provide, until it provided no more.

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  16. I believe that McCandless was an idealist, he just wanted get out of the conformity of the society that he grow up. Alex wanted to forget his past and all the sadness moments that he lived with his parents, which at the end, on my point of view caused a childhood trauma for him. The fact that he changed his name to ''Alexander Super tramp’ ‘showed to me that he just want to be someone totally different, and changes his name was just the first step. McCandless chose to be and feel free. He chose to live as he wanted. I think that he was brave but he but forgot to take great care in his journey. I describe him as a rebel, hardworking and sensitive person. Also the fact that he donated all this money to an organization that fight hunger and he died of starvation, showed me that Alex could have done all those things that he wanted to do, If he acted with more caution and intelligence.

    Elianna sosa paulino


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    1. Why Alaska though? There are so many places that are more hospitable than the Alaskan tundra that could have factored into success while at the same time living "off the grid" in the wilderness.

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  17. danielle cascellaJuly 3, 2017 at 7:58 AM

    My view on this is that McCandless wanted to go to Alaska to escape his issues at home. He left his problems behind but they still were very much a part of him as you talks to himself and repeats fights that happened between his parents. He put all his focus on going to Alaska to try and escape his issues and in the end he died because he didn't actually have what it took to live in the wild as he thought.

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  18. majorine kabiiteJuly 3, 2017 at 11:32 AM

    At first I didn't have much sympathy for McCandles, here is a boy who comes from a well off family, seems to have everything, money, nice home, finished college, bank account funds most adults don't even have and he throws everything a way and for what? But later when he is talking about the trauma and destress his parents caused him and what society has done to him, i start to see when he is coming from going off into the wild like that, to get away from everything and everyone.

    the scene in the movie i found kind of funny was of Mads and his girlfriend Sonja, they are by the water and Mads says to Alex "this is nature" while his boom box is playing hammer time in the back ground, Sonja is applying makeup and they are grilling hotdogs on a small grille.

    was that an actual moose he cut up?
    why doesn't he try to contact his sister?

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  19. I very much agree with majorine. Initially I was unsympathetic towards McCandless. A young man with a bright future and a somewhat normal family uprooting and leaving everything to venture into a world he knew virtually nothing about seemed more than impractical. But finding out the secrets that were deeply seeded sort of justified his disconnection with society and his identity.
    I've also noticed that many of you stated how unprepared he was but I was more overtaking with his natural ability to survive (canoe through river and forging for food) for someone who's traveling with just a book about plants.

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  20. I honestly believe if I didn't have kids the same age as McCandless, I would view him as an enthusiastic kid that was looking for an escape from everything. Maybe even searching for meaning in his life. I do detect more of an arrogance in him to the point to which he refuses help when needed. Shooting the moose was a good example of how much he was out of his league. It does seem at times he begins to second guess his decision but out of pride (it seems) he is too stubborn to return to his former life. Or even the lives of many of the people who welcomed him into their homes. The kayak, I believe he just got lucky he didn't get killed. Coming out alive does not necessarily mean that you knew what you were doing. Book smart does not automatically make you knowledgeable. Common sense and some humility could have made his adventure a successful one.

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  21. Chris McCandless seems naive, maybe due to his age, he is able to get through some of his journey by sheer luck and the help of strangers. He is helped by many people who give him shelter, food and money. These things he pretends to act like aren't necessities but are. Even when he makes it to Alaska the bus he finds is crucial in his surviving for so long. I believe if he had taken it more seriously, researching and learning about his environment he may have survived. I get a strange feeling reading his journal, and his letters to others he may not have wanted to or didn't expect to survive. I also noticed the people he met along his journey were like parental figures towards him and that might not have been an accident. He seemed to want support that he didn't get from his real parents.

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  22. The story of McCandless is vary interesting. While I was watching the movie " In To the Wild", I sympathized towards McCandless and his sister at the same time. At first I was thinking how selfish and arrogant is he to just leave his sister behind knowing how they both went through when they were kids, but then he has his life and he might have had reasons we might not know. For him the city seems more dangerous than the wild. He didn't like living with his abusive parents and I think he used his disappearance as a way to punish his parents. He also might have used it to see if they would get better, and it worked as his sister mentioned. she said the parents got better after McCandless disappeared.

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  24. There could be a million things going on with Christopher McCandless or not. His motivation could have been something as simple as wanting to get away from the competitive society he had disdain for, but I think it was likely much more than that. He could have been punishing his parents by disappearing and at the same time trying to prove something to himself.... that he could survive without their help and without the modern conveniences and luxuries, if you will, that we take for granted. It may seem morbid, but there's this thought I have that keeps looming that perhaps he decided if he could not survive without conveniences, money and luxuries that he'd prefer to not live at all (in a world like that).

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    1. Good point. Kids, no matter how old, can sometimes feel they need to punish their parents (or whomever). Typical "I'll teach you to...(fill in the blank). His parents were good examples of how success can ruin the family dynamic.If that's all McCandless saw his entire life, why would he want to return to it? In areas where you have housing "communities" (where the houses are similar and perfect and the lawns are perfectly manicured)instead of the average neighborhood, appearance seems to matter more than what the neighbors can't see. It's too bad he couldn't see a better life with all or any of the people he met on the road. However, he seems to struggle with a type of PTSD from the abusive home life he grew up with and may have feared any family situation had the potential for turning out badly. His rejecting offers for help and homes may have been his protective barrier that would save him from a bad situation.

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  25. After reading this book for a second time I feel as though McCandless really did appreciate the world. The first time I read Into the Wild I found that his lack of knowledge or wanting more knowledge about the area was extremely foolish. I felt as though he was setting himself up to fail. He knew basics about the area, but was too stubborn to take a map with him. After this reading I understand why. He was so discontent with the life he was living, the society he was living in, that rash decisions became solely logical. It appears to me that McCandless was indeed prepared to live off of the land making his final mistake with the seeds his fatal action. Before this, he was gathering plants and food and could fend for himself. He showed a true appreciation for the earth by integrating himself in a natural way of living. Although I could not foresee myself making this trip like McCandless had, I can appreciate why he did it. He truly wanted to remove the false being within and become a new person, one that can walk into the wild and live a full life. Chris McCandless, although stubborn, was not a foolish man with the intentions of dying in the Bush. He was not not someone content with one final expedition, he was an adventurer who I believe understood the world more than most ever will.
    -Amanda Crawley

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  26. Just a thought... Has anyone considered an alternative ending? With so little factual information on Alex's death, he wrote about being scared lonely, and happiness is only real if it is shared. Could his death have been intentional? Not necessarily suicide, but a lack of concern of the outcome, basically giving up. Did he give up caring about what he was eating in the end to worry about the finality of his choice? The thought of "if I die I die".

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  27. In my opinion, Alex lived his life the way he wanted even though he could have prepared more with living in harsh conditions. He gave up his life with society and his family but making a life he wanted with traveling and living the way he wanted. In the end, he could have survived if he only prepared better when he traveled.

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  28. Based on the movie, Alex did not seem to really know what he was getting himself into, or did not care about putting his own life in danger. Living in the wilderness with basic knowledge and limited supplies is not a smart thing to do, despite him graduating with top marks from college beforehand. However, I believe he wanted the thrill of being with nature trying to survive with the bare minimum, because it would not be a thrill without some challenge involved. Perhaps, since he died so soon in the Alaskan wilderness, he gave himself too much of a challenge in the end.
    -Brent Schlicht

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