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