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Christopher McCandless' Misunderstanding of Transcendentalism Essay

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Is a person that leaves everything behind to find individualism in the wilderness a genius or another insane person? Christopher McCandless is the main character in the novel Into The Wild. He is an idealist, extremist, and a bright person when it comes to academics. He read books by Henry David Thoreau, Tolstoy, Jack London, and even Ralph Waldo Emerson. This is significant because each author have stories about transcendentalism or even about how society wants people to conform. Thoreau, founder of transcendentalism, wrote the book called “Walden” that talks about Henry David Thoreau building a cabin from nature and living there away from society in solitude. Emerson wrote “Self Reliance” that talks about not conforming to society that which has ideas that are hypocritical to the ideas of self-reliance.
McCandless used the idea of escaping society from “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau and tried to mesh it together with the ideas of solitude and isolation to form his own beliefs. McCandless misinterpreted what Thoreau was saying. Thoreau states, “I had not lived there a week…It is true, I fear, that others may have fallen into it, and so helped to keep it open.” (Thoreau 3).Thoreau specifically states in this quote that he does not want others to follow or even go do what he did. He also did build the cabin a few miles away from a town because he knew he would go back one day. Thoreau was a sane person in doing this because crazy people stray too far away from society despite the consequences. He believed that he had other things to do with his life and not spending a minute more in that lifestyle. McCandless still went out into the wilderness away from society against Thoreau’s words. Chris was crazy to shun s...


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...nt back into it several times throughout the last half of his journey to go work for people. Chris was not justified for shunning social norms in favor of individualism because he kept coming back into society to interact with people so he could earn some money for food. Chris misinterpreted Emerson’s words and did actions that contradicted themselves later on in his journey.
Christopher Johnson McCandless was not justified for shunning society and social norms in favor of individualism. McCandless misinterpreted “Walden”, was crazy to shun society, misunderstood “Self Reliance”, and committed actions that contradicted themselves. McCandless was misguided, insane, and had no idea what he was trying to accomplish because he got two simple things like solitude and isolation mixed up.



Works Cited

Krakauer, Jon. Into the Wild. New York: Anchor, 1997. Print.


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