My rating: 5 of 5 stars
“For a few minutes the roof of the bus remains visible among the stunted trees, a tiny white gleam in a wild green sea, growing smaller and smaller, and then it’s gone.” –Into The Wild
In April 1992, a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless but he liked to call himself ‘Alex Supertramp’.
Before, Christopher McCandless’s story unfolded in these pages, Jon Krakauer wrote an article for Outside magazine from where the initial idea to develop this book came to him.
Six years back, I watched a documentary on the television about the story of Christopher McCandless being made into a movie. The theme of that documentary was the nomadic life an enthusiast traveller, inspired by the beauty of wilderness. The documentary mostly covered the making of the movie using the knowledge about McCandless from Jon Krakauer’s book. But it also showed the fascinating wildness where the nomad McCandless wandered in the April of 1992, towards the escapement by setting himself free from all man-made demons that not only consume our daily life and but whose slaves we really are. Though, this fact I realised after reading the book and not watching the documentary, six years back.
“I have had a happy life and thank the Lord. Goodbye and may God bless you all!” -from the diary of Christopher McCandless, dated 12 August 1992. He felt that his body was getting weak, that he was losing weight fast, that his end was near. On or shortly after this day, he died. Three weeks later, his body was discovered by a group of hunters.
The narrative in the book provides an easy picture of Chris and his exploration. After his graduation from the university without considering his family to notify them of his upcoming adventures, in his old Datsun he motors away. In the total span of two years, when Chris exploring his way into the wilderness, he travel to places with extreme conditions without any money, only earning when he felt the need by doing all kinds of odd jobs that no one would like to do. With a mixture of hitch-hiking rides and bonding with fewer people, he eventually leaves on the way to Alaska with a certain determination and under the influence of his own consciousness.
Some might entitle his quest as a self discovery but some might also argue that it was a run away from the everyday grind of the society. I consider it a mixture of both which suites the fact well. There is no doubt the journey must have taught him a lot about himself, his ability to do things in extreme conditions but it was also an escape from the man-made reality which we all are part of. We all want to escape our own realities every day, most of us do, in the form of day dreaming.
After reading Krakauer’s words and learning much about McCandless’s odyssey, I asked myself a question regarding the course of one’s life? Born. School and College. Job for rest of the life. Simultaneously, at some point, pretend to be a part of the society. Retire. And, last but not the least, Die. Is that it? Is that what I am living for. To die! And after I die, whatever happens, no matter how rich I had been or how poor (in terms of wealth) in my life’s course, it will not matter to me anymore. I am dead. Could it still affect me? No.
Don’t get me wrong here. I do not mean that we should leave our jobs or abandon our studies for the sake of doing something which satisfies us and will be a part of our glorious memories in those dying days. But what I am trying to say is that we must try on getting a better use of ourselves in exploring new heights and trying our hands behind new wheels. With fulfilling our necessary needs, simultaneously we must also concentrate to achieve something that can make us feel joyous and proud for the rest of our lives. After all, its in our hands to live our life for ourselves and not for our deaths.
Krakauer has dug deep enough into McCandless’ life. He tries to make sense of McCandless life in his words and through this book. McCandless was mainly influenced by Jack London, Leo Tolstoy and Henry Thoreau and Krakauer makes a well account of these authors words in the book. Nothing comes cheap and easy in life and so the story of McCandless’ reality. It’s definitely a page turner.
I’d like to appreciate Jon Krakauer for this exceptional work. The arrangement of facts and timeline are well suited and enjoyable as the story unfolds to the reader. A lot of hard work goes into developing real stories into books and Into The Wild is one perfect example.