I’ll admit, this was one of the few occasions I have seen the movie before reading the book. Therefore I first came across the story of Alex Supertramp (Chris McCandless) on the big screen. In of itself, it was definitely a solid movie, well worth the 2 hours spent viewing it.
His life is an intriguing one however and as usual, the book was able to shed much more light onto what made him tick and ultimately, how he came to die alone in the Alaskan Wilderness.
It’s been some 24 years after Chris McCandless met his demise and still, his tale remains popular in our collective conscience. There was a recent article published in Outside Online titled “The Chris McCandless Obsession Problem“
Every year, scores of Into the Wild fans tackle a dangerous river crossing to visit the last home of Alaska’s most famous adventure casualty. Why are so many people willing to risk injury, and even death, to pay homage to a controversial ascetic who perished so young?
The story is an incredibly divisive one. Many admire Chris as a brave, adventurous soul who put it all on the line to prove to something to himself, that he had the ability to be truly independent. He could survive, even thrive, outside the boundaries of society. He had forgone wealth and with it, the pleasures & comforts many of us take for granted. he was one of the few who had the courage to truly follow his dreams.
On the other hand, many dismiss Chris as a crackpot, an arrogant and incompetent young man who had no business venturing into the parts of the world that ultimately cost him his life. The story shouldn’t have been popularised and certainly not glorified, as it sets a bad example to those who may attempt to follow Chris’ lead. There is also the view that McCandless was suicidal, venturing into the wild as a last hoorah. An adventurous demise.
I tend to lean towards the former view of Chris, as I believe, does the author, Jon Krakauer. Many of us at certain age have the desire to prove something. Many feel the need to prove to their fathers, their peers or to the world at large that they are worthy. Others, I include myself in this category, want to prove something to ourselves. This no doubt, is the category Chris fell into. He knew the fate that may have awaited him when he made his journey into the wild, but he went anyway.
He confronted his fears & his doubts, summoning the courage to follow his dreams, what he truly felt he needed to do. If it wasn’t for a few minor errors along the way, he would’ve proven that to himself and probably lived a much more contented life thereafter. Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be and although the story of Chris McCandless appears a tragedy, I don’t think he would’ve seen it that way.
He had the courage to live life on his terms and whatever the outcome, I think he proved that to himself. Ultimately, he’s proven it to us as well.