Transcendentalist McCandless What is transcendentalism? How is Christopher J. McCandless a transcendentalist? Transcendentalism is a philosophy, and a way of life. It consists of being a non-conformist, becoming one with nature, and rejecting materialism. Throughout Jon Krakauer’s novel, Into The Wild, McCandless happens to achieve all of the above. “Whoso would be a man, must be a non-conformist” (Emerson). He defied society, lived in the wild, and never cared about “things”. He existed off the land in Alaska, the west coast, and even Mexico. McCandless did not want anything else in life but happiness; he found this in the wilderness.
As Emerson states in Self-Reliance, “society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of ever one of its members. ” Conforming to society means to not be true to oneself. McCandless thought that conforming to society would make him another robot citizen. He believed in having his own opinion, being original, and living how he wanted to. He proved this by “wandering across North America in search of raw, transcendent experience” (Krakauer authors note). This describes the adventure of his life, what he wanted, and what his plans were. Nobody knew Chris had planned on this.
During his time working at McDonalds, McCandless also refused to wear socks. The assistant manager, George Dreeszen, even says that Chris “just plain couldn’t stand to wear socks” (40). McCandless did not care what people criticize him for, he did what he wanted to do, not what others told him was proper. In fact, as soon as he was done work he would immediately take his socks off. Another way McCandless proves to being a non-conformist is by living in the Slabs. Anybody could live in the Slabs, “the retired, the exiled, the destitute, the perpetually unemployed.
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Its constituents are men and women and children of all ages…the middle-class grind” (43). Any type and every type of person lived in the Slabs. Chris felt accepted here, for nobody was judging your every move. By wearing no socks, living in the Slabs, and doing what he wanted made McCandless a non-conformist, a social outcast. Throughout the novel, it is evident that McCandless promotes becoming one with nature by talking about it with other employees when working at McDonald’s, writing about it in a letter to Ronald Franz, and writing about it in other letters as well.
For example, in a letter McCandless wrote to Ronald Franz, he talks about becoming one with nature. He pressures how Franz should life his life. McCandless states, “you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of... Don’t settle down and sit in one place. Move around, be nomadic, make each day a new horizon” (57). McCandless not only wants a life in the wild, he is also trying to spread the wilderness lifestyle to Franz. Likewise, while McCandless was employed at Bullhead’s McDonalds, he tends to talk about becoming one with nature.
Other employees could tell that he loved nature by spending very little time with him. Lori Zarza, the second assistant manager of the McDonald’s, states that, “he was always going on about trees and nature and weird stuff like that” (40). McCandless was infatuated over the idea of living in the wild. Moreover, in another letter that McCandless wrote, he talks about how nature has transformed him. McCandless states, “The beauty of this country is becoming part of me” (91). He is absorbing the country; it is changing the way he looks at life. McCandless can only fixate on becoming one with nature while he is not in its presence.
Christopher McCandless rejects materialism during the course of the novel and pursues the simple life by refusing a brand new car from his parents, rebuffing Jim Gallien’s watch, and giving his savings away, and burning his cash. McCandless first rejects materialism by burning all the cash he had left after giving away his savings. He did not wish to be able to use money as a way to help him. “He changed his name, gave the entire balance of a twenty-four-thousand-dollar savings account to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, [and] burned all the cash in his wallet” (Author’s Note).
Any materialistic person would consider him crazy for his bizarre actions. Then, he turns down a brand new car his parents offered to buy him. He believed his car to be in perfect condition. McCandless states, “I’ve told them a million times that I have the best car in the world… yet they ignore what I say and think I’d actually accept a new car from them” (21). McCandless has visibly made his point that he does not want any “things”. McCandless then goes on to decline Jim Gallien’s offer to take his watch. He did not want to know the time nor where he was.
Gallien states that wished not, “to know what time it is. I don’t want to know what day it is or where I am” (7). McCandless wants to be as free as he can, having a watch will give him too much unnecessary information. A typical materialist has reasons to believe McCandless as outlandish for his discarding of his money, and not wanting a free watch or car. McCandless did not worry about the “things” in life; he just wanted happiness. Krakauer proved McCandless to be a transcendentalist. McCandless could not care less about the standards that were bestowed upon his generation.
He wanted to be himself, not a societal robot. McCandless did not enjoy wearing socks, he lived in the Slabs; a place where almost all non-conformist go. He left the Slabs to live in the wilderness; he worshipped the wilderness, which led to his demise. Of all the things that were offered to him, McCandless accepted none. “Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth” (117). He just wanted the truth to his family. He wanted happiness, McCandless wanted to know everything would be safe and sound. McCandless is a transcendentalist, he only wished to be happy, free of all the “things”, and in the wild.
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