Chris McCandless’ Behavior in “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer

The closer analysis of the character of Chris McCandless, in Jon Krakauer’s novel “Into the Wild”, points out to his personality as such that can hardly serve as a “role model” for young people, due to the fact that McCandless’ “pro-nature” stance appears to have been an intellectual by-product of his strongly defined anti-social attitudes, as it is the case with the majority of people who consider themselves being an adherent of so-called “New Age” philosophy.

It is not simply a coincidence that, throughout the novel, the author continuously refers to McCandless’ as someone who is being fascinated by Tolstoy’s ideals of “simplicity”, “non-violence” and “closeness to earth”, thus revealing him to be a typical White Liberal, whose existential inadequateness often sublimates itself into such person’s tendency to whine about “world’s injustices” as his or her full-time preoccupation, while growing to be increasingly concerned with the issues of “morality”: “Chastity and moral purity were qualities McCandless mulled over long and often. Indeed, one of the books found in the bus with his remains was a collection of stories that included Tolstoy’s “The Kreutzer Sonata”, in which the nobleman-turned-ascetic denounces the “demands of the flesh” (Krakauer Ch. 7, p. 47).

As history shows, the practical implementation of every social philosophy or religious worldview, for which the principles of “morality”, “simplicity” and “equality” serve as its metaphysical foundation, always result in ensuing death and destruction (Christianity and Communism). Therefore, the fact that Chris had ended up losing his life was not an accident, as many people tend to believe – it was nothing but a logical consequence of this novel character’s unhealthy fascination with essentially self-destructive philosophical ideas.

In its turn, this explains why citizens that are not being deprived of their ability to think logically cannot help feeling contempt towards the full spectrum of ideas, for which people like McCandless stand up as spokesman. In “Into the Wild”, Krakauer quotes from the letter of Nick Jens: “Over the past 15 years, I’ve run into several McCandless types out in the country. Same story: idealistic, energetic young guys who overestimated themselves, underestimated the country, and ended up in trouble… they are almost collective cliché” (Krakauer Ch. 8, p. 51).

One of the most characteristic psychological traits of people as McCandless is that their existential idealism extrapolates itself in the form of love towards vaguely defined concepts of “humanity”, “animal welfare”, etc., even though they appear as being incapable of loving a concrete person or a concrete animal.

As Eric Hathaway had described his former high school friend: “He’d tell us to think about all the evil in the world, all the hatred, and imagine ourselves running against the forces of darkness, the evil wall that was trying to keep us from running our best” (Krakauer Ch. 11, p. 78). This is the reason why, while continuing to complain about “society’s wickedness”, as such that derive out of the process of people growing increasingly “less human”, Chris never even considered giving a call to his emotionally distressed parents, in order to at least partially relieve psychological anxieties, related to their son’s disappearance.

As history shows, degenerates may even be willing to risk their lives and freedom, in order to prove their love to “humanity” or to distance themselves from “society’s evilness” (as was the case with McCandless); however, the sense of love to a concrete person is virtually unknown for them. In its turn, this explains why McCandless remained emotionally cold while pursuing a relationship with Tracy Tatro. Moreover, it also explains why Chris continued to advise 80-year-old man Ron Franz to “get off his ass” and to become a hitchhiker – apparently, “Supertramp” never ceased to exist in the state of perceptional denial, which eventually had brought about his ultimate demise.

The attentive readers will undoubtedly notice the fact that McCandless is being presented as simultaneously the fan of both: Alexander Tolstoy and Jack London, which could not possibly be the case, simply because London used to hate Tolstoy with utter passion, as the promoter of spiritual decadence. Whereas the characters of Jack London used to impose their will upon the nature, while often being able to beat the impossible odds by application of their sheer will-power, Tolstoy’s characters appear to be solely preoccupied with “moralizing” on the subject of “oneness with nature”, in order for other people to think of them as being “intellectually sophisticate”.

The fact that Chris was unable to recognize a striking difference between the writings of both authors strengthens the paper’s thesis as to the utter ignorance, as such that represents an integral part of this character’s existential mode. As a typical representative of Generation X, Chris had proven himself utterly incapable of utilizing his apparent intelligence to benefit himself or society, despite his seemingly active stance on issues of socio-political importance.

McCandless’ sense of idealism has been unnaturally directed inwards, which eventually caused the novel’s main character a great deal of harm. As Wayne Westerberg had described his former acquaintance: “You could tell right away that Alex (Chris) was intelligent… He read a lot. Used a lot of big words. I think maybe part of got him into trouble was that he did too much thinking” (Krakauer 15). It is quite impossible to disagree with Westerberg’s insight into the true nature of Chris’ problems.

Just as Jesus’ Apostles, Chris had a taste for living like a bum, while relying on people’s charities as the only means to sustain its existence. He could not care less about his personal hygiene – it was namely his body odor that prevented Chris’ employers from keeping him employed over lengthy periods of time. Apparently, Chris really did believe in Jesus’ idea that it is not necessary to wash hands before eating; thus, proving itself as belonging to a psychological type, strongly associated with first Christians – a delusional, self-righteous, and sadomasochistic individuals, who took particular pleasure in “destroying flesh”, as the ultimate purpose of their existence.

Therefore, it will not be an exaggeration to suggest that the character of Chris McCandless actually provide readers with insight on why it is only a matter of time, before White people in America will be turned into “minority” and eventually, into “second class citizens” – the majority of these people had been deprived of the existential vitality of their ancestors. It is namely people like Chris who tend to indulge in social escapism while preferring not to notice that their very neighborhoods are being turned into Third World slums, as time goes by.

These people can spend hours discussing what can be done to “save whales”, while drinking an organic coffee at Starbucks, without being able to recognize the fact that they themselves need to be “saved”, as representatives of a race that stands on the brink of extinction. These people can never get tired, while promoting the concept of “simplicity”, without being able to understand that their preoccupation simply indicates that they are being subjected to intellectual decadence.

Just as decadent Romans, in time of Rome’s decline, many today’s Americans seriously believe that practicing such “simplicity”, on their part, might turn the world into a “better place”. They could not be more wrong – as history shows, when a considerable group of people, within a particular society, begins to endorse the ideals of “simplicity” and “closeness to earth”, it becomes only a matter of very short time, before this society would eventually be sacked by barbarians. Thus, McCandless’ fate has deeply symbolical subtleties, as it shows that no matter how “progressive” the ideas promoted by Liberal “lefties” might appear on the outside, the very essence of these ideas never ceases to remain utterly destructive.


Krakauer, Jon “Into the Wild”. 2002. Scribd. Web.

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