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Assessment of Into the Wild

Although precisely on target in his assessment of Chris McCandless being "in touch with the bare-bones essence of nature", Gordon Young's preceding description of Chris should be rephrased: A profoundly Un-American figure, uncompromising in his approach and thoroughly optimistic about the future. For Chris McCandless did not set out to show or prove his American character. Neither does he approve or want to exemplify a true modern American character, because true American character does not seek solitude, preferring "the saddle to the streetcar", or "the star-sprinkled sky to a roof", or, especially, "the obscure and difficult trail, leading into the unknown, to any paved highway and the deep place of the wild to the discontent bred by cities", as states Everett Ruess. In fact, in today's world of never-ending comforts and conveniences, nature and "getting away" means setting up a tent in the backyard, or driving our RV to a campground, plugging in the heat, the television, and the cell phone and drinking a beer.Yes, Chris McCandless exemplified what it is to be unconventional, untraditional, nature-loving. What's more important, Chris showed us a particular degree of freedom, what true liberty is about--the freedom not only of the individual, but the freedom of something much higher than that--the freedom of the mind. Freedom from societal restraints of always having to be someone, playing some role. More than anyone, so far, Chris has shown me a true identity, for in a place where one is alone for miles around, a place where survival is an hourly task, where the only surroundings are the wild life, where one is surrounded by constant paradoxical issues (beauty and danger, life of nature and death in nature, physical restraints such as hunger and complete freedom of the intellect and mind), a place where the only companions are Leo Tolstoy, Henry David Thoreau, and Jack London, themselves unimposed individuals with a capacity t...

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