Into the Wild: Henry David Thoreau and Chris McCandless

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Transcendentalism was an American philosophical movement of the early nineteenth century. It revolved around

the idea that the unthinking conformity of the surrounding society was not sufficient enough in life. Henry David

Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson were notable figures in this movement. Emerson once urged his followers to search

for “an original relation to the universe”. It is evident that the best way to become a transcendentalist is to sacrifice your

life at hand and form a strong bond with the nature around you. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer showcased Christopher

McCandless, a man who was inspired by these early transcendentalist figures, and by the end of his journey he is

comparable to Thoreau.

Thoreau lived by a few basic, but important, principles. One included that an honest man “has hardly need to

count more than his ten fingers… simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!” (Thoreau). He criticized the working class by

saying “men labor under a mistake” (Thoreau), and had a firm belief that living deliberately through nature was the

source of true happiness and understanding. It seemed as if from the start, Chris McCandless was heavily inspired by

Thoreau. McCandless read his books prior to the expedition and gave his best attempt at following in his path.

McCandless had been working very hard the past few years in college and finally realized that he had not yet found true

happiness, so he wanted to change. He burned the cash in his wallet, gave $25,000 to charity, abandoned his car, and

abruptly left his family. He seemed to be replicating Thoreau's life of solitude within nature when he lived in a cabin for

years and wrote Walden. Amidst Chris' journey he said, “I'm going to paraphrase Th...

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...ture. His new life of solitude strongly enhances his spiritualistic values.

This becomes apparent in his last hours on earth when he writes “I HAVE HAD A HAPPY LIFE AND THANK THE

LORD. GOODBYE AND MAY GOD BLESS ALL!” (199). It seems as if he finally finds happy and thanks god for

providing this opportunity for him in nature.

There is no argument that Henry David Thoreau was a transcendentalist. He was a minimalist who had strong

spiritual values and he lived amongst nature for an extended period of time. Chris McCandless successfully followed in

Thoreau’s footsteps by giving up human relationships, becoming a minimalist, and increasing his spiritual values. He

truly found happiness within nature when he lived a life of solitude and lived off of what nature provided for him.

Work Cited

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