Christopher McCandless’ life had a very transcendental twist to it. He believed in losing oneself and forsaking society in order to find happiness and peace. For this reason he left the company of people and traveled into Alaska, where he would be completely alone and have to depend on himself for everything. The movie, Into the Wild, does an amazing job with showing the path he took in preparing for his adventure in Alaska. The soundtrack inspired by his story was written by Eddie Vedder, and the lyrics outline the ideals shared by Chris and the transcendentalist he studied. Chris believed in non-materialism and had a strong appreciation for the beauty and power of nature. These two values had him labeled as a transcendentalist, but he wasn’t really. He followed many of the same ideals, but also strayed from them and developed his own opinion on true happiness. His life exemplified the ideals of transcendentalism, even though he didn’t follow them to the letter.
The soundtrack from the movie has several songs that provide a look into what was running through Chris’s mind during his sojourn. The song “Society” talks about the skewed vision that society as a whole has. It talks about the greed of people, how everyone is always simply wanting more than they have, even if they have it all. There is also the song “Long Nights” which in the opening verse states one of the biggest ideals followed by Chris, and the transcendentalists. “Have no fear for when I’m alone I’ll be better off than I was before.” (Long Nights) Chris believed that happiness would be achieved by being alone and without any type of connection to the world. He did contradict himself a bit though because he carried with him several manufactured items, including matches, insect repellent, water purification tablets, and chapstick. Towards the end of his life he realized that happiness is only true when shared with other people. He writes that he becomes trapped in the wild rather than simple living in it.
Chris’s awe of the natural world was one of his strongest values in the face of his adventure. He stopped many times just to explore it, like on his trip down the river to Mexico, and when he climbed hills as part of his exercise routine then stopped to just gaze out at the world. In Alaska he spent much of his time studying the wilderness around him and learning how to live off it and with it. “The freedom and simple beauty is too good to pass up…” (ITW) When he killed the moose and ended up losing the meat he felt the pain of the loss deeper than most people usually would because he felt he had taken it’s life for no reason, and it had been a true tragedy to him because he felt so close to the word around him. Along the way to Alaska he meets many people whom he has an effect on, in some way or another. He makes them think about the way they are living and about what life really should be, “The core of man’s spirit comes from new experiences.” (ITW) he believed in never falling into a rut, but always traveling and doing new things to widen the horizon of what one believed and knew.
Although he was very transcendental in many ways, forsaking everything including his identity, Chris, or “Alex” had many ideals of his own that contradicted those of the fathers of transcendentalism. When he sets out on his journey to Alaska he believes completely that he will find happiness while alone and living off the land. “You don’t need human relationships to be happy, God has placed it all around us.” (ITW) He thought he could achieve spiritual freedom and pure happiness through nature alone, which is what the transcendentals based their beliefs off. As his journey and life came to an end he started to realize he was mistaken, when he found he no longer could return to the society he had tried so hard to escape he began to feel trapped in his own freedom. “Rained in. River look impossible. Lonely. Scared.” (Diary of Christopher McCandless) He also realized that he needed people, living without them wasn’t possible without suffering from loneliness. “Happiness only possible when shared.” (Christopher McCandless) The weeks leading up to his death were painful both physically because he was starving and weak, and emotionally because he had attempted to follow his dreams and had failed.
Christopher McCandless was a true transcendentalist, up until the end of his life when he began to have different views on life. He believed solely in the joy and peace to be found in nature and in himself when he became one with nature. Although he did contradict himself by keeping a few things and through some of his actions, such as working and writing letters to people, he stuck to the teachings almost exactly. For awhile he did find the peace and happiness he desired, it was only when he realized he couldn’t go back that he began to realize he needed to. Nature wasn’t enough at the end, and he learned it the hard way.