"I think careers are a 20th century invention and I don't want one." Evaluate this quote from Chris McCandless in Into the Wild.

Expert Answers

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

McCandless rechristens himself Alexander Supertramp at some point along his cross-country travels, an indication that he believes the world is what we make it to be.

Rather than accepting what he has been told as the “way it is,” McCandless always questions why things are the way they are. He is unwilling to pursue the conventional lifestyle of his parents because he thinks it is a man-made invention that breeds complacence and a middle-class malaise. By definition, a career is a professional track of employment in which one is expected to work one’s way up the ladder of success within a given field. For McCandless, a career is a mindless, hollow pursuit that wastes away one’s life.

When he says that careers are inventions, he is directly criticizing the materialistic, consumerist culture in which he was raised.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

This idea expressed by McCandless early on in Krakauer's account gives us a key insight into his personality and worldview.  His is not an original idea, in fact we saw many people come to the same conclusion during the late 1950s and 60s, when young people began to explore alternative styles of living, even to the point of establishing communes because they had become disillusioned with what society and their parents expected of them.

McCandless is cut from the same cloth, and has the added motivation of his parents perceived betrayal.  Chris is very much his own man, and a key event in his final evolution as a person is his renunciation of worldly things, including the promising career and privileged life that probably awaited him.  Adventure and a new life beckons to most of us at one point or another, but few of us take the definitive steps McCandless did, and I think that is a key attraction for us to his story.

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 Team