How is Henry David Thoreau related to Into the Wild?

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Chris McCandless was an admirer of Henry David Thoreau, and adopted many of the writer's ideals in his own life. He sought simplicity in his own life and tried to live without adhering to material goods and societal norms. Chris also believed that people were meant to "find themselves" through deliberate solitude, and so took steps to live apart from others, even when he shared their ideals. Thoreau's opus Walden was one of the books that Chris took to Alaska.

Unlike... Thoreau, McCandless went into the wilderness not primarily to ponder nature or the world at large but, rather, to explore the inner country of his own soul. He soon discovered, however, what... Thoreau already knew: An extended stay in the wilderness inevitably directs one's attention outward as much as inward...
(Krakauer, Into the Wild,

Chris took his simple life more seriously than Thoreau had, deliberately placing himself in an environment where no other people could come to help him; this turned out to be his downfall. Thoreau's Walden Pond was within walking distance of a town; while there were habitations around Chris's bus, there was no one living in them, and with the river high, there was no traffic to find his final notes pleading for help. In this manner, Chris took Thoreau's ideals to a self-destructive level; Thoreau advocated simple living, but not in a foolish and unprepared manner.


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