Christopher McCandless Lived an Inspired Life

Christopher McCandless Lived an Inspired Life

Christopher McCandless lived an inspired life. Director, Sean Penn was inspired to create a movie about his life many years later. McCandless graduated from Emery College in 1990. He was 22 years old at the time. The book and movie “Into the Wild” is a chronicle of his life path that followed after graduating college. McCandless was outraged by his parents’ societal creed. He hated that they cared what the neighbors thought. He hated that they were judgmental and focused on money. So upon graduating, McCandless decided to do something drastic. He sent his life savings to charity. Then he took his car and drove out of Georgia, away from society… away from the normalcy of modern day life. He made it as far as the Mojave Desert, and then he abandoned his car when he found himself caught in a flash flood. He stripped it of the license plates and then burned his ID, social security card, most of his possessions and remaining money. He sought to travel as a lonely warrior.

The movie: Into the Wild wouldn’t be released until 2007, almost 20 years later. Jon Krakauer was inspired by McCandless’s story as well. Krakauer, based out of Seattle, WA is a mountain climbing enthusiast, novelist and writer for Outside magazine. He is the author of Into Thin Air. This is a gripping novel about the true story of eight climbers who died on Mt. Everest on this day (May 10th) back in 1996.

What prompted Sean Penn to produce a film about McCandless’s life in 2007? The book and the movie are roughly 10 years apart, in terms of production. Penn opens the movie with the following “There is pleasure in the pathless woods, / There is rapture on the lonely shore, / There is society where none intrudes, / By the deep sea and the music in its roar; / I love not man the less, but Nature more.” This is quoted by Lord Byron, from his poem Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. This poem, believed to be published between 1812 and 1818 runs along the same theme as the story of Christopher McCandless. The poem: Childe Harold's Pilgrimage contains some lines and prose that are thought to be autobiographical. The poem is about a young man, world-weary (similar to the way McCandless felt before embarking upon his journey) and describes his travels to foreign lands, while filled with disillusionment and pure wanderlust.

For two years McCandless traveled around the US and parts of Mexico. Later in his journey, he would spend his final days in Alaska and venture Into the Wild. There he would spend 113 days in the wild and sometimes unforgiving Alaskan bush before he died of starvation in 1992.

When viewing this film, I cannot help but think that Penn thought of himself as similar soul. He related to McCandless, just as Jon Krakauer did. Just as I have, hence writing this article.

The story is just as haunting today (in 2011) as it was four years ago when the movie came out, or fourteen years ago, when the book came out. Two decades later and the story still captures as many hearts today as it did almost twenty years ago.

I highly recommend reading the book by Krakauer first, then the movie and comparing Penn’s and Krakauer’s visions of McCandless’s attempt to flee society. Then ask yourself how your own feelings about the story fit into the picture.

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