In "Into the Wild," why did McCandless reject his parents' lifestyle?

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Chris's adherence to the ascetic principles set forth by the likes of Henry Thoreau and Leo Tolstoy set him on a path of self-righteous rejection of the rampant materialism with which he was raised. Chris grew up in an affluent suburb, raised by parents who enjoyed the lucrative gains of...

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Chris's adherence to the ascetic principles set forth by the likes of Henry Thoreau and Leo Tolstoy set him on a path of self-righteous rejection of the rampant materialism with which he was raised. Chris grew up in an affluent suburb, raised by parents who enjoyed the lucrative gains of their hard work. Chris's household was abusive, though, and his father had fathered a child with his first wife after marrying Chris's mother. Chris saw such violence and hypocrisy as further evidence of wealth's corruption.

However, it is important to note that Chris's rebellions against his privileged upbringing were very much enabled by that very privilege. Being white, male, straight, able-bodied, wealthy, and college-educated allowed Chris to pursue his wanderlust and voluntary poverty with a golden ticket out of that lifestyle whenever he wanted it. The book suggests that Chris's Alaska adventure was to be his last before he began living more conventionally. Thus, it seems that his rebellion was a phase that is natural to many post-adolescents, but exacerbated by his particular family situation and made easier by the very privilege he was deriding.

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Chris rejected his parents materialistic lifestyle because he thought his father used money to try to control Chris. He didn't want to be controlled, so he rejected what was being used as leverage. He even went so far as to burn his cash when he set out on the road. Chris had learned firsthand that money doesn't buy happiness: there was a good deal of tension in his affluent household as he was growing up, as well as conflict between he and his father as he became a young adult.

Beyond that, Chris had immersed himself during his college years in writers who rejected materialism to embrace a simpler way of life closer to nature, such as Thoreau, Tolstoy, and Jack London. He carried their books with him on his travels and took seriously their wisdom about how to live a full and vital life.

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Chris was an intense, stubborn and determined young man, much like his father.  When he and his sister were young, their parents worked long hours at an aerospace business that Walt had started, which left little time to spend with the children, but brought a lot of money to the household, making Chris a child of some privilege.  The real difficulty arose when Chris discovered the truth behind his father's divorce from his first marriage.  Walt began a relationship with Billie (Chris' mother) and fathered Chris, while still being romantically involved with his first wife.  Walt lived a double life, even fathering another child with his first wife despite having a life with Billie and his new family.  When Chris found all of this out he considered his father to be a hypocrit, and never forgave him. (Krakauer, Chapter 12)

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Chris McCandless was very angry toward his parents, but why isn't really clear. More of his anger is directed toward his father, and we know he condemns his father for the end of his first marriage, holding his father to an extremely high standard. Perhaps Chris and his father were too much alike or were too different to be able to get along. Many times, fathers will hold their sons to a high standard that the son doesn't feel he can ever achieve or live up to. Chris also felt his parents were tyrants, and he was resentful and bitter toward them. He was at an age where he wanted to prove himself, and his adventure into the wilderness seems to be a journey to find some truth about mankind. There's no doubt Chris was stubborn and determined and wanted to do things his way, which of course led to his death in the wild.

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