From Into the Wild, who was Chris McCandless?

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Chris McCandless was a young American traveler and self-described "supertramp," a person who rejected the ideals of modern society to live in constant motion. His philosophies were based in Transcendentalism, which advocates a life of deliberate simplicity. Chris was born to relatively well-off parents, but rejected their lifestyle as being corrupted by materialism. People who met Chris described him as intelligent and quick-witted, and very passionate about his idealism.

He was an extremely intense young man and possessed a streak of stubborn idealism that did not mesh readily with modern existence. Long captivated by the writing of Leo Tolstoy, McCandless particularly admired how the great novelist had forsaken a life of wealth and privilege to wander among the destitute.
(Krakauer, Into the Wild,

Chris spent over two years traveling in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, and eventually found an abandoned bus in Alaska where he set up his camp. He intended to spend time communing with nature and finding his own inner peace and purpose, and according to his recovered journals, he did find what he described as "what is needed for happiness." Unfortunately, he made several critical errors in his knowledge of woodcraft and survival, and eventually starved to death in the bus, where he was discovered by hunters. The book Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer describes this period in his life, and was adaptedĀ  by Sean Penn into an award-winning film.


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