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Into the Wild: Christopher McCandless’ Transcendentalist Journey

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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 i...

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...and a bit dramatic further manifests his need to go into the wild and become free of the restraints he feels society places on him. Despite, all the challenges he had faced Chris could now fully embrace his individual simplicity.

Individual simplicity is one of the main characteristics of being a Transcendentalist and along with the founding father of this movement Christopher McCandless was able to demonstrate this characteristic in his life. Although, coming from a model family and moving towards success Chris’ drastic changes towards a Transcendental life due to his beliefs shows his individual simplicity. McCandless truly embodied this trait in his reasoning behind his long journey to the Alaskan wilderness and his reflection on why he had made such radical changes in his life.

Works Cited

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