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Into The Wild: Was Chris McCandless A Transcendentalist - With A Free Essay Review

Chris McCandless believed in the concept of non-conformity. His upbringing impacted his life of ease and simplicity. However, he always felt as if he was independent but never was able to fully arrive at complete independence. Chris’s constrained values of appreciation of the power of nature and non-materialism brought him to be labeled as a transcendentalist.

Alexander Supertramp was the epitome of non-conformity. That is the reason Chris created him. “To symbolize his complete severance from his previous life, he even adopted a new name. No longer would he answer to Chris McCandless; he was now Alexander Supertramp, master of his own destiny.” (p.23) He felt as though he had accepted society too deeply into his life to regain happiness into his life as Chris. So he created an alter ego that was and did everything Chris wanted to but could not because of his acceptance of society. Alex was a totally independent man who was in control of himself.

The main concept of transcendentalism is living and communicating with nature to find yourself. Chris did exactly that by journeying into the Alaskan wild without any preparation to fill the emptiness he felt. "Gallien offers to drive Alex all the way to Anchorage, buy him some decent gear, and then drive him back to wherever he wanted to go.’No, thanks anyway.' Alex replied, 'I'll be fine with what I've got.'" (p.6) Chris's refusal of Gallien's help proved his loyalty to the values of Transcendentalism. He knew there was no other way to find what he was looking for but to go into the wild away from society.

Many view Chris McCandless as a transcendentalist. However, throughout the story he did small unnecessary things that seemed like the total opposite of what could possibly be in a transcendentalist’s mind. “For some reason I am taken aback to find a collection of his possessions spread across its ticking: a green plastic canteen; a tiny bottle or water-purification tablets; a used up cylinder of Chap Stick; a pair of insulated flight pants of the type sold in military-surplus stores… a bottle of Muskol insect repellent, and a full box of matches..” (p. 178) Multiple manufactured items that Chris had brought were found by the author inside the bus Chris was living in. It seems as if Chris wanted to live completely off of the land by just bringing the bare essentials. Yet he brought items that people living in society don’t always use. Chris was throwing the values of transcendentalism to the wind. He had not been living entirely detached from the world. This presents the idea that once you have lived in society and accepted it as Chris did, you can never completely convert your ways.

*****I need a conclusion paragraph. What can I write?******



The first problem with the essay is that it is not clear what, or who, it is about, surprising as that may seem. I see from the title that the book that you are discussing here is Jon Krakauer's _Into the Wild_, but you do need to identify the book and its author in the essay itself, and also make it clear whether the book itself is the real topic of the essay. The problem is bigger than it might at first seem because although the book (which I have heard of, but have not read) is nominally non-fictional, it is not the only evidence available about the life and death of Chris McCandless. From your opening sentence, your essay appears to be about Chris McCandless himself, and not about the account of him to be found in Krakauer's book, but it seems from the rest of the essay that you rely exclusively on that book for information about Krakauer. If that is the case, your essay ought to clarify at the outset that you are writing about Krakauer's account of Chris McCandless. I leave it up to you to decide whether you should also compare that account with other accounts. If you do not, and if you don't want to defend the authenticity of Krakauer's account explicitly, your conclusion (whatever shape it takes) should probably be openly about Krakauer's version of McCandless and not Chris McCandless the actual person. The reason what I am saying here is not trivial is that the significance of McCandless's adventure and misadventure is, as you know, a matter of debate. You do mention that "many view Chris McCandless as a transcendentalist," of course, but you don't identify or cite any of the holders of this opinion, and in the very next sentence you refer to "unnecessary things" that McCandless did in "the story" (referencing, again, presumably, Krakauer's book) rather than in life. So the problem of what your essay is about is not confined to the introduction, but instead remains a problem throughout.

The second problem with the essay is that it proposes to determine whether McCandless can be viewed as a transcendentalist. This is a problem because the essay only engages with the concept of transcendentalism in a very limited way. At one point, you define what you call its "main concept" ("living and communicating with nature to find yourself"), but it's not clear what the source of this definition is (is it Krakauer's book, or some other book, or do you offer that definition as an encapsulation of common knowledge?) and, worse, it is a very poor definition of transcendentalism. Moreover, even if it were a good definition, I'm not sure the definition would support the consequences you want to draw from it: McCandless is transcendentalist in that he doesn't take Gallien, whoever that is, up on his offer to drive him to Anchorage so he can get "some decent gear"; or McCandless is not transcendentalist because he used "manufactured items ... that [even] people living in society don't always use." If the question of whether McCandless was a transcendentalist amounted to asking whether he used man-made objects, it would (a) be a boring question, and (b) be readily answered without the need to write an essay about the subject.

It seems to me that you have two options here.

1. You can undertake a study of some relevant document of transcendentalism. Perhaps the easiest way to make a meaningful study that would impact your reading of the McCandless story would be to read Thoreau's Walden, since that is about someone who goes (not very far) into the woods in order, as he says famously, "to live deliberately." In that case the thing to do would be to compare what Walden does, and his reasons for doing it, with what McCandless does.

2. You can look at the problem that seems to be at the bottom of all this talk about a transcendentalist McCandless. The question, it seems to me, is really just whether there is something noble and heroic and meaningful about McCandless's journey to Alaska, his intention to live off the land, and apart from society, or whether instead he was just a fool on a fool’s adventure who threw away his life for no good reason. You can probably write about that question without going into the problem of the meaning of philosophical transcendentalism. I have a feeling that Krakauer is on the "noble-heroic" side of the debate, but either way, you could examine the reasons he (Krakauer) offers for the interpretation of the significance of McCandless's life that he offers.

If you tackle these two problems, then the conclusion, which you express concern about, will probably take care of itself.

Best, EJ.

P.S. If you want to quote from a book, introduce the quotation and provide whatever information is necessary for your reader to understand its context.
Submitted by: marlo


This essay helped me start my 5 page essay on how Chris McCandless applies Tenets during his life. I will be posting mine soon! I defiantley want a professional to help me on my essay so that I can pass English!
June,09 2015

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