In Into the Wild, why did Chris McCandless keep to himself?

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Chris McCandless is portrayed as a moral absolutist who left his privileged life behind to embark on an epic journey into the Alaskan wilderness alone, where he could genuinely experience the natural world and discover the "inner country of his own soul." While Chris is described as a charismatic, likable guy, he became more aloof and distant from his family during his later college years. In college, Chris became fascinated by the works of John Muir, Henry David Thoreau, and Leo Tolstoy, which influenced him to push his boundaries, distance himself from society, and experience the natural world on his own.

Krakauer compares many adventuring-seeking individuals to Chris in an attempt to examine his mindset and motivation for embarking on such an arduous adventure alone. One such adventurer, Everett Ruess, shared many traits with Chris McCandless, and his writings provide some insight into Chris's thoughts. Everett Ruess was a young man who "walked into the desert (in southern Utah) and never came out." In one of Ruess's letters, he wrote,

I have been thinking more and more that I shall always be a lone wanderer of the wilderness. God, how the trail lures me. You cannot comprehend its resistless fascination for me. After all the lone trail is the best....I feel more detached from life and somehow gentler....I have some good friends here, but no one who really understands why I am here or what I do. I don’t know of anyone, though, who would have more than a partial understanding; I have gone too far alone. I have always been unsatisfied with life as most people live it. Always I want to live more intensely and richly (Krakauer, 64).

The excerpt from Ruess's letter sounds eerily similar to Chris's message to Wayne Westerberg when he wrote,

I’ve decided that I’m going to live this life for some time to come. The freedom and simple beauty of it is just too good to pass up (Krakauer, 64).

While one can never fully grasp or understand Chris's true motivation for keeping to himself, one could argue that in order for Chris to truly feel alive and experience the natural world, it was imperative that he remove himself from all social influence. Krakauer suggests that Chris's motivation for pushing his boundaries and living an intense life meant that he had to distance himself from all humans in order to discover the inner workings of his own soul.

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Without being able to directly ask Chris McCandless, the answer to this question will probably forever remain a mystery.  Krakauer does a nice job of trying to "get inside" McCandless and figure out what makes him tick, but it's still Krakauer's best guess.  Krakauer also does a nice job of illustrating how McCandless wasn't the only ascetic to be drawn to the road and Alaska.  Krakauer spends chapters eight and nine comparing McCandless to Gene Rosselini, John Waterman, Carl McCunn, and Everett Reuss.  All of those men felt the pull of a solitary life.  They all died in that life too.  That doesn't mean that they were unsuccessful though.  Similarly, I don't think that McCandless failed in his quest either.  

But why exactly McCandless wanted to live the life that he chose to live might best be explained by using a Henry David Thoreau quote.  

"I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms."

I think that is exactly why McCandless kept to himself.  He wanted to live his life to the fullest.  For McCandless that meant paring his life down to the bare essentials.  It also meant that he needed to be free to make his own decisions about his own life direction all of the time.  In order to do that, McCandless had to live a solitary life.  Being around people always resulted in those people trying to force their will and opinion on McCandless.  Even Ronald Franz tried to do that to McCandless at one point. 

After attending church that Sunday, Franz decided to talk to Alex “about how he was living. Somebody needed to convince him to get an education and a job and make something of his life.”

By living alone, McCandless is free to do what he wants to do. 

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