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  • Published on: 7th September 2019
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Materialism and Human Interaction

Section I: Introduction and Context

Every person on the planet has at one point in their life felt as though they can live without all the material things in their world, that they could run off and be just fine. What many people don’t come to realize is that all of the materialistic things in the world that they surround themselves with, to some extent, keep them alive. These trivial things that they think they could go without can make or break them. All humans are reliant on one or more material things, this could include their homes, clothes, technology, and so on. In the nonfiction book Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, he opposes the popular opinion that humans can live without material items and person relationships by showing that a human needs material things and those personal relationships in order to survive in any situation.

Section II: The Author’s Background

Jon Krakauer grew up in Oregon. Since the age of eight he has been interested in nature and mountain engineering. After Jon Krakauer graduated college, with an environmental science degree, he spent time roaming around Alaska, Colorado and all around the pacific ocean (Jonkrakauer). During this time, he was mostly earning his money as a carpenter or fisherman. He also had an interest in climbing mountains, and that is what he did for twenty years.

Krakauer climbed Mt.Everest in 1996, he was one of the few people to survive out of his group. This climb inspired him to write the book Into Thin Air. Into Thin Air “became a #1 New York Times bestseller” (Jonkrakauer) . Krakauer had an “Into the Wild” experience during these times in his life, therefore he is a very credible person to discuss the topic of Chris Mccandless and his endeavors. Jon Krakauer having this background make this book so much more effective because the audience is able to really believe what he is saying and the experiences he talks about. This can happen because he first hand experienced these things. Krakauer could be biased to Chris Mccandless and his journey, because he knows how hard it really was so he is able to fairly judge if Mccandless did the right things or not. Jon Krakauer has written several other books which also include stories of the wilderness and Krakauer’s own examples. His motives for writing this book are pretty sound, he just wanted to get the story out about Mccandless and let the public know his personal story. Into the Wild is over all very credible because it was written by Jon Krakauer, because he has experience in the field of exploration, he is easy to trust and very credible.

Section III: The Book’s Argument

In the book Into the Wild, Chris Mccandless, the main character, gives up his possessions and desired to be alone where he was the most comfortable, and wouldn’t have to worry about making those human connections. Mccandless believed that he could do everything on his own and that he needed no help at all. This mindset seems to be very common nowadays, but is being completely on one\'s own the best thing?

Solidarity was very important to Mccandless and Jon Krakauer, the author, wanted to make that very clear. Jon Krakauer on page 55 said that Mccandless was always relieved when he would be able to escape the threat of any type of human intimacy. Krakauer does this by providing short stories of all of the people that Chris Mccandless ran into. Through these short anecdotes the audience can gather that Mccandless was “thrilled by minor brushes with the law, savoring the intermittent company of the other vagabonds he met along the way” (Krakauer 29). Mccandless was pleased with the simple aspects of life. He didn’t feel as though he needed any family, however his actions contradicted this. Through the anecdotes, Krakauer tells the audience becomes aware that Chris Mccandless stays in touch with a select few people who helped him along the way, demonstrating that a person does need human relationships and contacts in their life.

Into the Wild’s story isn’t just something that Krakauer thought would be interesting to read. Krakauer wanted to make a point to the world that material things and human contact are essential to survival. This is supported through Krakauer’s previous experience in hiking through the wilderness, the audience is able to trust what claims he produces because he has legitimate examples. Again all through Chris Mccandless journey he met people, and these people thought the world of him. Mccandless met a lady named Gail Borah, when Chris Mccandless he  “hugged Borah good-bye” and she states that she “noticed he was crying…” (Krakauer 68). Mccandless crying shows that even though at the time he was thinking he would be gone for a while knew deep down that this would be the last time he would see her, which made him very sad. This story is put into the book to show that this man who claims to not need anything from anyone, did grow these bonds with people that he was inevitably very sad to say goodbye to. Krakauer’s use of anecdotes really portrays this for the audience, describing his encounters with Wayne Westerberg, who gave Mccandless a job. Jan Burres and Bob, Jan took a mother figure in Mccandless’s life, he mailed her post cards occasionally to let her know he was okay. Ronald Franz, who gave Mccandless a ride to many different locations and develops a fatherly love for Chris Mccandless and asks if he could adopt him. All of these stories show that Mccandless was a good man and that he needed that human interaction that he claimed to hate.

The subtle message that Krakauer wants to implant on the audience is that it is okay to be different than what society says is the norm. Chris Mccandless’s whole life juxtaposes what regular society says to do and have. Society tells the world to have the newest things and to be up with the latest fashion, but Chris Mccandless literally burned his money, he abandoned everything that a modern society claims you need. Mccandless felt \". . . extremely uncomfortable in society …  and [needed to] return to [the] road immediately\" (Krakauer 37). The road is where Chris Mccandless felt safe.  Krakauer wanted the world to know that if they go against what is considered to be socially acceptable that it is okay because people will still accept them and love them.

Krakauer is very formal within this book, it is set up with interviews of different people who Mccandless affected. Although his sentence structure was varied all throughout the book. When Krakauer would be describing something he would use long descriptive sentences, but when showing dialogue between Mccandless or any of his interviews the sentences would be short and simple. For example, when Gallien is remembering Mccandless and discussing him with Krakauer, his sentences are short and simple, \"...Gallien remembers. \"He was determined. Real gung ho. The word that comes to mind is excited\" (Krakauer 6), vurses when Krakauer describes Gallien his sentences are long and flowing, \"Gallien, a union electrician, was on his way to Anchorage, 240 miles beyond Denali on the George Parks Highway; he told Alex he\'d drop him off wherever he wanted. Alex\'s backpack looked as though weighed only twenty-five or thirty pounds, which struck Gallien - an accomplished hunter and woodsman - as an improbably light load for a stay of several months in the backcountry, especially so early in the spring\" (Krakauer 4). This difference in structure shows the audience a distinct difference between Krakauer and the interviewees, and how they communicated. This as well demonstrates Mccandless’s ability to communicate, by the shorter sentences and simplicity, it shows how he chooses to communicate opposed to Jon Krakauer.    

Section IV: Opposing Points of View  

Into the wild poses the idea that it is impossible to live out in the wilderness and survive with nothing. However, a man named Richard Louis Proenneke has proven this belief to be wrong. When he was 50 he moved to live out “his dream of living alone in the Twin Lakes region of Southwest Alaska” (Nobel life). He planned out how he would do this and prepared very much, opposed to Mccandless’s journey in which he did it as a spur of the moment adventure. Mccandless only brought “a ten-pound bag of rice” as well as “cheap leather hiking boots [that] were neither waterproof nor well insulated” (Krakauer 5). Chris Mccandless had “no ax, no bug dope, no snowshoes, no compass” (Krakauer 5), he only had a map he got from a gas station that he ends up leaving in the truck of Gallien who drives him to his location. While Proenneke “cut down trees and made his boards by hand, and he fashioned door hinges from empty metal food tins. He hunted, gathered and grew his own food, meticulously detailing in his journals how it was processed and stored” (Nobel life). This is where the idea that a human can not survive in the wild without any material things is proved wrong, because Proenneke did in fact make it through his experience in the wilderness because he was prepared and used his resources, opposed to Mccandless who went in with nothing and was very unprepared. Perhaps if Chris Mccandless had been more prepared and had planned ahead, then he would have been able to survive. This example with Proenneke contradicts what Krakauer had implanted into Into the Wild showing that it is possible to live in the wild if one is prepared and knows how to use their surroundings to benefit them.

Jon Krakauer introduces situations with Chris Mccandless where it appears that Mccandless just wanted to escape society and that was his reason for the escape. However, sources say that the true reason the made Mccandless leave home and search for this type of life is in fact his childhood and his parents. Chris Mccandless and his siblings had “a childhood marked by domestic violence at the hands of an abusive father and an enabling mother” (Schonfeld), this is a contributing to why he decided to embark on this new type of life. These events affected Mccandless in many ways, according to abuse is the biggest reason why children run away from home and is something that children can carry throughout their lives. This home abuse had remained hidden for twenty years until his sister decided that she wanted the world to know Chris Mccandless’s real story, so that everyone could know the truth and learn from it. These facts were not in the book Into the Wild because again the family had no released this information to the public at this time, so Krakauer did not just leave it out. This new added information contradicts many ideas for why Mccandless and sheds a light on his true thinking to get away from everything.  

Section V: Conclusion

Into the Wild is a very enlightening book to read, it proposes many different aspects of a way that one can carry on their life. The book was a testament that a person does not need all of the newest things in life, however, they do need essential things as well as human contact. The major part of Into the Wild served a huge lesson was how Mccandless claimed he did not want any contact with people, that he didn’t need it, yet the whole book is scattered with people that he influenced and stayed with. This shows that people really do need relationships and other to share experiences with because “happiness [is] only real when shared” (Krakauer 189).  If the world were to follow what Chris Mccandless believed he wanted in life, to be cut off from society then there would be no real connections in the world, people would be all alone, and that is no way to live. Jon Krakauer in this nonfiction did an excellent job on capturing Chris Mccandless as a person and displaying his story with all the information he had.  Into the Wild was overall a great read which encompassed many aspects of life. The lesson to take away from Into the Wild is that it is okay to be different than what society says is “right” but the most important thing is to make sure that one never underestimates their strength and can rely on their relationships and surrounding materials to get them through.

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