Billie and Walt McCandless quietly shed tears concerning their twenty-four year old son, Chris McCandless, who had not talked to them for over two years and was found dead in the Alaskan woods. They question why their son had left society, left his own parents nevertheless, and risked his life which ended in his fatality. The transcendental principles which include rejection of society, intuition, and searching for a purpose of life may have guided the aforesaid experience-seeking individual. Chris McCandless’s identification as a transcendentalist is confirmed through his nonconformist actions, his human relationships, and his quest for a higher truth.
Ralph Waldo Emerson is considered the Father of Transcendentalism because he first introduced the idea of a simplistic and intuitive way of life. He claims, “Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist . . . Nothing is at least sacred but the integrity of your own mind” (“Self-Reliance” 392). Nonconformity is an essential part of Emerson’s definition of a transcendentalist. To be able to live a truly boundless and accomplished life, one must not fall into the daily, busy life of society. He or she must stand out and follow their intuition, even it is not considered the norm. The only way to be content is to trust one’s instinct, not be jaded by the pressures society.
Chris McCandless, throughout his journey across the country, performed numerous acts which are divergent from the rest of society. For example, he burned $123 in order to show that material things are of no real significance to his life (Krakauer 29). Furthermore, Chris points out in a letter to 81-year-old friend, Ronald Franz, “So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future” (Krakauer 56-57). Chris exemplifies a unique and separatist attitude through his rejection of a secure and normal lifestyle. He urges others to step out of the constant steps of civilization, and pursue a nonconformist, adventurous lifestyle.
Chris would most likely be considered a nonconformist in the eyes of Emerson. Emerson argues that for a man to go into solitude, he must leave both society and “his chamber” (“Nature” 219). Similarly, Chris proclaims as he arrives into the Alaskan wilderness, “No longer to be poisoned by civilization he flees, and walks alone upon the land to become lost in the wild” (Krakauer 163). Both of the two aforementioned men believe in the importance of independence and nonconformity. Chris ultimately followed his own heart which, although it may have seen irrational to the casual observer, relieved his “itchy feet” (Krakauer 39). By following his or her own ideas and thoughts, however controversial, virtually all...