From Into the Wild, what were Chris McCandless's main ideals?

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belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Chris McCandless was an idealist in the vein of Leo Tolstoy and Henry David Thoreau, both of whom he considered inspirations and mentors. He believed that the pursuit of wealth was corrupting society, and that man was meant to live in the pursuit of personal growth and mental development. Like Thoreau, he chose to travel and live in the wilderness to try and free his mind from societal convention.

He was an extremely intense young man and possessed a streak of stubborn idealism that did not mesh readily with modern existence... In college McCandless began emulating Tolstoy's asceticism and moral rigor... When the boy headed off into the Alaska bush... peril, adversity, and Tol-stoyan renunciation were precisely what he was seeking.
(Krakauer, Into the Wild,

In Chris's mind, freedom from material goods and worry about a personal future were things that took up space in the mind, leaving no room for other mental growth. By escaping from society and attempting to sever all his emotional ties to people, Chris wanted to find a meaning of life personal to him. Even those who did not share his ideals thought he was on a path to greatness; unfortunately, he was so consumed with the idea of hard wilderness living that he rushed, unprepared, into a situation that eventually killed him.

thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Chris McCandless believed in transcendentalism, as demonstrated by his ideas, thoughts, and actions. He was greatly influenced by Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, whom he referenced a number of times in his journal. Thoreau and Emerson were both transcendentalists, and Chris sought to emulate their idealistic lifestyles. The basic principle of transcendentalism is the pursuit of truth through communicating with nature and finding oneself. McCandless loved to be alone with nature, as witnessed in his adventure to Alaska, as well as in several previous trips.

McCandless believed in independence and nonconformity and that evil accompanies materialism. For this reason, he abandoned all aspects of modern life, cut off communication with family, disposed of all his money and possessions, and ventured into the wilderness, believing himself capable of self-sustenance. Unfortunately, his very beliefs caused him to venture out ill-prepared, and he died of what seems to have been chronic starvation.

Jessica Gardner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Chris' ideals followed those of the transcendentalists, like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Throeau. In regards to nature, transcendentalism "promotes the idea of nature as divine and the human soul as inherently wise." Transcendentalists like Chris want to escape the confines of society, which is viewed as stifling to the soul. 

What this means is that Chris valued nature and the purity of the human soul over material possessions and familial relationships. That is what spurred him to cast off his possessions and inheritance and strike out into the wild. It is also what led him to reject others' offerings of deep personal relationships. He strove to be alone with nature, as he valued that to be the most perfect, purest existence. 

Unfortunately, Chris' ideals were to be his downfall, as he was uncompromising in his plans to survive alone in the wilderness--a dangerous undertaking. He died in the pursuit of these ideals.

mminor15925 | Student

Can you simplify this please?

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Into the Wild

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