What did Thoreau mean by "truth," and why might McCandless have identified with this quote?

"rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth."

Quick answer:

What Thoreau meant by “truth” was that which lies beyond us, far away from the superficialities of daily life. Christopher McCandless felt the same way. He identified with the above quotation because he saw that the world of wealth, fame, and material possessions was ultimately antithetical to the truth, and so he chose to retreat from it.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

For a mystical thinker like Thoreau, truth is not to be found in the here and now, in the everyday world in which we live. It is transcendent; it lies beyond the restrictive bounds of our normal, everyday existence. If we wish to get at the truth, then, we need to retreat from a world that is hostile to the very notion of truth and find a place where we are no longer subject to the petty distractions of everyday life, with its unhealthy obsession with getting and spending.

To that end, Thoreau spent two years in the woods, leading an isolated existence in a log cabin he'd built all by himself. In doing so, he believed that he was getting much closer to the truth of humanity's existence and of our overall place within the cosmos.

In his own way, Christopher McCandless sought to do much the same thing. Bored, disgusted, and thoroughly disillusioned by a comfortable bourgeois existence, he, too, headed off into the wild in search of truth.

Like his hero Thoreau, McCandless believed that modern society, for all its scientific and technological advances, corrupts the hearts of human beings with its love of luxury and rampant materialism. He wished to retreat from that society, to find a place where he could be at one with nature in all its pristine simplicity and innocence.

By stripping away the veneer of civilization, McCandless hoped to get at what he saw as the truth beneath, a truth that had for so long been distorted by the illusory notion of human progress.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial