What is a major theme from the film Into the Wild?

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scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The film Into the Wild remains quite true to Jon Krakauer's biography by the same name. Both works focus on several themes, but one of the most fundamental themes is the struggle of man against nature. After Christopher McCandless graduates from college, he views his life, and especially the lifestyle of his parents, as purposeless and vapid. This, in and of itself, is a struggle against nature--Chris rejects the environment into which he was born. When Chris rids himself of most of his earthly goods, he sees himself as getting back to nature. Similarly, his choice of Alaska and other isolated areas in the U.S. where he chooses to work, demonstrates his eagerness to be one with nature and survive all it has to throw at him. It is not that McCandless has a death wish; he simply wants to derive meaning from his life by becoming self reliant, eliminating all unnecessary "unnatural" elements. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, McCandless's struggle against nature does not end well. His real life could be practically mirrors his beloved Jack London's short stories in which inexperienced, unprepared protagonists meet their end at the whim of Mother Nature.

Ironically, one of the key moments in the film which illustrates Chris's desire to separate himself from mere things and his parents' alleged materialism centers upon a car (Chris is later found dead in a relic of mankind--a bus--abandoned in the Alaskan wilderness). In the film, when Chris is arguing with his parents about not wanting or needing a new vehicle, he angrily says,

"I just don't want anything."

This statement sums up not only McCandless's disdain for materialism but also shows his own uncertainty about what he wants from life. He originally believes it to be living a life of adventure in the wilderness, but the note he penned from his deathbed illustrates that his quest did not provide him with all the answers he was seeking.

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Into the Wild

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