Chris Mccandless was a young man living in the suburbs that was discontent with his lifestyle. After graduating Emory university as a top student and athlete, he decided to reject society and change his way of life. He was influenced by the works of Thoreau and Emerson and traveled across the country practicing a transcendent life style. Many Americans castigated Mccandless behavior and other praised, which led to Krakauer’s investigation of his journeys and values. Chris Mccandless embodies American ideals and values through his own belief of Transcendentalism by his rejection of modern society, his search for freedom and self-reliance, and his sense of righteousness (good and evil).
American values revolve around the idea of the American dream- going to college, getting a job, buying a house, having a family, etc. But the American dream is NOT American values. The six core values are liberty, equality, self-reliance, individualism, diversity and unity. While most Americans believe in these values, not many of them are applied in their daily life. Chris Mccandless exemplified all these values but did not attempt to achieve the American Dream as most of society does. Authors like Thoreau and Emerson wrote about achieving these values.
Mccandless illustrates what it is like to be unconventional and free. He believes in himself and his abilities and goes on a spiritual journey searching for a new path without the help of modern society. Liberty proclaims that people should be free to think, speak, and act as they choose, as long as they do not offend the rights and freedom of others. His journey shows a new level of liberty and freedom for the mind and soul. His belief of liberty and freedom are much like Thoreau, a fellow transcendentalist. Thoreau wrote “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived,” . They both wanted to live in nature and connect spiritually, without the disturbance of society’s laws and conformities.
Before Mccandless set off on his journey, he was known to be a righteous and well-behaved kid. When he was younger, he would spend his weekends in the “bad” side of town, feeding and speaking with prostitutes, homeless people, and addicts. It was briefly mentioned but, he also strongly believed in equal rights. Equality is ensuring individuals or groups of individuals are not treated differently or less favourably. Krakauer wrote that a piece of graffito was carved into a piece of wood that said “Jack London Is King” and Mccandless highlighted passages written by London. This goes on to show that Mccandless is a huge supporter of Jack London and his work, which includes fighting for women’s suffrage.
Emerson’s “Self-Reliance” was a huge encouragement to Mccandless spiritual journey. A huge trait in Mccandless journey was to rely on himself. He was not afraid to take risks and followed his own soul. Americans are known for their self-reliance in most aspects of their life. They work for themselves and as soon as they develop into adults, begin to depend on themselves. Chris showed this throughout his whole journey. Whenever he needed money to go on to the next part of his journey, he worked at Mcdonalds. Whenever people offered to help him (someone even wanted to adopt him) he rejected them, wanting to be independent. He rejected society and spent his whole life trying to find a different way to live compared to the majority of others.
Mccandless had a strong sense of individualism. He was a transcendentalist and preached his beliefs. The United States is particularly known for individualism, as it was founded on the concept of religious freedom. Transcendentalism is a philosophical movement that protests the general state of culture and society. Many of them try to connect with nature as an escape from society and to gain ideas, much like Chris. In Emerson’s Self reliance line 15, it says “Whose would be a man, must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.”. Here Emerson is saying that people who are transcendentalists are people who are nonconformists and do not like the modern society they live in. This is very similar to Chris Mccandless’ behavior and belief. For example, whenever he gets rid of his money by burning it, it shows that he will not conform to society’s concept of materialism.