Into the Wild: Christopher McCandless’ Journey of Individuality
Individual simplicity is rarely a cornerstone in literary works. Yet, in the Transcendentalist movement of the 1830s and 1840s transcendentalist writers such as Emerson and Thoreau frequently discuss or illustrate individual simplicity in their works. Similarly, Krakauer describes this theme of individual simplicity in his novel Into the Wild, documenting and analyzing Christopher McCandless’ transcendentalist journey. In the novel Into the Wild, the character Christopher McCandless demonstrates the Transcendentalist characteristic of individual simplicity through his adventure to Alaska and his reflection on the journey to Alaska.
Transcendentalism was a powerful movement which inspired many to make drastic changes in their lives, one of the most important of which was individual simplicity. Individual simplicity, while important, was also the simplest of the cornerstones to achieve in order to live as a Transcendentalist. This cornerstone is defined literally as to enjoy life’s bare necessities, fend for oneself, and separate from society. This cornerstone was demonstrated by Ralph Waldo Emerson when he described how he felt in nature, “I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the universal being circulate through; I am part or parcel of God (389). Emerson is often referred to as the founder of Transcendentalism, and as a founding father his references to the cornerstones of the movement he helped start are some of the most clear and illustrative. Emerson described himself in nature as “A transparent eyeball” and “I am nothing” these descriptions of his personal feelings in nature show individual simplicity. Using the odd analogy of a transparent eyeball helps show that he felt powerful and invigorated being able to have this god like ability of being able to see everything. By his statement that he is nothing it helps to understand that he referencing that although he in nature he feels as if he has this god like ability of seeing all he still remained down-to-earth in the sense that he doesn’t feel the common societal need of being someone. He was able to maintain his individuality and assert that he is nothing; simple.
Christopher McCandless also shares the need for simplicity through his journey to the Alaskan wilderness where McCandless experienced his achievement of individual simplicity. McCandless had dreamed of spending an extended time in the Alaskan wilderness and eventually tramped his way across the country from Carthage to Alaska. Prior to, reaching the Stampede trail, where he intended to begin his journey, he had to hitch many rides. One of these rides was with Gaylord Stuckey who on their arrival in Fairbanks, asked Chris why he was making this journey and recalls...