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From Into the Wild, how is transcendentalism important to Chris McCandless?

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khmerkid | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 2, 2011 at 7:26 AM via web

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From Into the Wild, how is transcendentalism important to Chris McCandless?

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

Posted August 30, 2012 at 7:52 PM (Answer #1)

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Chris considered himself a student of Henry David Thoreau, the second most important advocate of Transcendentalism. Thoreau promoted the opinion that Man is meant to live in harmony with nature, being self-sufficient, and rejecting the excess of material wealth and societal pressure. Reading Thoreau along with similar writings by Tolstoy and Jack London, Chris created a personal philosophy similar to Transcendentalism, professing a need to live in the wild and discover inner meanings and strengths based entirely on his own experiences and abilities.

"Deliberate Living: Conscious attention to the basics of life, and a constant attention to your immediate environment and its concerns. Examples: A job, a task, a book; anything requiring efficient concentration (Circumstance has no value. It is how one relates to a situation that has value. All true meaning resides in the personal relationship to a phenomenon, what it means to you).
(Krakauer, Into the Wild, Amazon.com)

Chris attempted to live as his literary heroes did, with few possessions and only the kindness of strangers and his own work ethic for support. He spoke of the corruption of society and the way that greed dictates morality and personal entitlements. At the end, Chris believed himself to have discovered something true about himself; although he did not describe it, the famous quote from Tolstoy ("I have lived through much, and now I think I have found what is needed for happiness") seemed to have been important to him. Chris was a modern Transcendentalist in most respects; he only lacked an experienced mentor to guide his decisions.

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