Chris McCandless, fresh out of college, wanted something more from his life. He gave his life savings to charity, deserted his car, and burned all of his possessions. During McCandless’s two years of traveling, hitch-hiking, and exploring, he became friends with many new acquaintances along the way. He received supplies, job opportunities, and transportation because McCandless was open to meeting new people everywhere he went.
McCandless relied heavily on others. Although McCandless was not self-reliant, he showed qualities in the other three categories of transcendentalism, proving that he was a “Modern Transcendentalist.” McCandless did not conform to society, he lived a simple life, and in McCandless’s final months, he became fully immersed in nature.All throughout McCandless’s childhood, he showed qualities of stubbornness and independence, especially with his parents. McCandless disagreed with Walt and Billie McCandless a lot; however, Hathaway, a childhood friend of Chris, said that Walt and Billie are not to blame for any of Chris’s actions.
Hathaway continued to explain that “Chris just didn’t like to be told what to do… he had trouble with the idea of parents” (Krakauer 115). McCandless’s transcendentalist journey is the perfect example of this quote. Chris made his own rules and decisions and had no one telling him what to do or how to conform to society.
Another example of McCandless’s nonconformity is when he changed his name. After leaving Atlanta to embark on his great adventure out west, McCandless decided that “no longer would he answer to Chris McCandless; he was now Alexander Supertramp, master of his own destiny” (Krakauer 23). This new alter ego of McCandless symbolized a cut from all ties that led back to Chris’s previous life. While in those short months in Alaska, McCandless carved out an excerpt in the abandoned bus he lived in, making his mark in the world.
He mentioned in the excerpt that he was “no longer to be poisoned by civilization he flees, and walks alone upon the land to become lost in the wild” (Krakauer 163). And that is signed and dated, not by McCandless, but by “Alexander Supertramp, May 1992” (Krakauer 163). Between these two Alexander Supertramp events, there were two years filled with telling many strangers that his name was Alex.
This reinforces the idea that McCandless changed his name because he did not want any part of his past to be in his current life. So he decided that with a name change, he could become an entirely different, and independent person.Shortly after McCandless set out for his journey west in 1990, his beloved car, a yellow Datsun, goes through a flash flood. The car had trouble starting, which eventually drained the battery. The last thing Chris wanted to do was to get the police or his parents involved. So McCandless thought that “there was a way to avoid such aggravation. He could simply abandon the Datsun and resume his odyssey on foot” (Krakauer 28). He felt it was too much of a hassle to get the authorities involved, so he took matters into his own hands, and simplified his life completely.
Many would think McCandless would be heartbroken after he abandoned the car he loved so much, but he was almost the opposite, “exhilarated” even. McCandless “saw the flash flood as an opportunity to shed unnecessary baggage” (Krakauer 29). This event of simplicity excited McCandless, which gave him the thrill of being a true “Modern Transcendentalist.” The last person to see Chris McCandless alive was Jim Gallien, a kind man who picked up the hitchhiker.
Jim Gallien saw that McCandless had supplies, but clearly not enough. Gallien offered to buy McCandless some decent gear, but Chris replied, and said, “I’ll be fine with what I’ve got” (Krakauer 6). McCandless’s response to Gallien’s nice offer was Chris wanting to keep it simple. McCandless didn’t need new gear or more supplies to survive. Chris believed he could make do with the bare minimum.A huge part of transcendentalism is to be one with nature, and Chris McCandless achieved that.
While Gallien drove McCandless to the Stampede Trail, Chris explained to Gallien that he doesn’t “want to know what time… what day… where I am. None of that matters” (Krakauer 7). These are McCandless’s hopes and dreams for his upcoming stay in Alaska, and that he wants to be completely submerged in nature without any external interference. When Gallien finally dropped Chris off, McCandless was filled with joy, “he was about to be alone in the vast Alaskan wilds” (Krakauer 162). McCandless was so excited because he finally arrived at where he dreamed to be, Alaska. Fast-forward four months to August 1992, to Chris’s last day on Earth.
“One of his last acts was to take a picture of himself… Chris McCandless was at peace, serene as a monk gone to God” (Krakauer 199). McCandless had lived a good life, and died satisfied and happy. In Alaska, Chris became a true “Modern Transcendentalist.
“Throughout this essay, it is consistently supported that Chris McCandless was a “Modern Transcendentalist.” However, the self-reliance aspect of transcendentalism provides a counterexample to this claim. This opposition is still necessary to include, as self-reliance is a key feature to transcendentalism. McCandless was independent and didn’t mind being alone, but that does not mean that he was self-reliant. During McCandless’s journey he comes across a town in South Dakota, “the place suited him McCandless just fine and that fall he developed a lasting bond with the town and Wayne Westerberg” (Krakauer 18-19). This showed that Chris found a new home, and he relied on the town, and his friend Westerberg for comfort and support. Another person Chris relied on a lot was his sister, Carine.
In a letter to Carine, Chris explains that “I like to talk to you about this because you are the only person in this world who could possibly understand what I’m saying” (Krakauer 179). McCandless vented to Carine and trusted her, which resulted in Chris and Carine relying on each other. Lastly, McCandless’s realization of the need to rely on others to achieve happiness is best shown in the quote McCandless wrote in his journal, in Alaska, “Happiness is only real when shared” (Krakauer 189).
This quote showed that the lonely journey made a significant change in Chris’s perspective. Being alone impacted his outlook on how people must rely and depend on each other, to live life to the fullest.To conclude, Chris McCandless was a “Modern Transcendentalist.” McCandless did not conform to society, and he did not do what everyone expected him to do.
Chris also believed in keeping everything simple and appreciating the beauty in nature. Even though McCandless was not self-reliant, Chris expressed himself as a “Modern Transcendentalist” in the other three categories of transcendentalism: nonconformity, simplicity, and nature, rather well.