Thoughtful Thursday: Into the Wild


I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this story in the last week or so since finishing the book, even though I had seen the movie a long time ago. I strongly empathize with Chris McCandless’s need to escape from a society that by and large did not share his values. I wavered for a while, thinking he must have had some sort of psychological detachment issues on top of all that. And I don’t think it was as simple as a rebellious kid being unprepared and stupid.

But I don’t think at this point that he had mental issues. I think he was young and still had some emotional maturing to do — even though he was pretty certain he had it all figured out, as young people tend to do. Towards the end of his life, he finally realizes what the reader sees he was learning all along — true happiness is only real when shared with others. Solitude, in whatever form one prefers, is a temporary, though sometimes very necessary relief.


A friend of mine used to say that life is all about balance. This thought always appeals to the Libra in me (illustrated by the scales of justice in my sign). It’s how I might describe the way I reason. And it affects my emotions — I am not a fan of “extreme” anything. Temperatures, opinions, volume levels. I think Chris McCandless was on his way to figuring out that idea about balance when he died. I mean, I love camping and hiking and traveling and being somewhat of a bum at times. But I would not give away my life savings or stop speaking to my family and friends in order to commit myself to experiencing those things. That would be…unbalanced.

And his last writings indicate that he did do some growing up in Alaska. The trip may well have been the “ultimate adventure” he needed and wanted in more ways than he thought it might be. It’s unfortunate that a simple mistake prevented him from enjoying that new wisdom in life. But perhaps he learned the lesson he was here to be taught, and he completed his purpose.

Have you read it? What were your thoughts?



  1. July 23, 2009 at 5:56 am

    Thanks for reminding me. Another book that I have been meaning to read for years, and then a new release distracts me. I will put it on my list.

  2. Aaron Lesher said,

    July 23, 2009 at 9:41 am

    M, I agree with you about the need for balance, which I don’t think McCandless had. I’ve given this book a lot of thought too, because it seems so cool and revolutionary to do what he did (before going into the wild, that is). But I have to disagree about his mental issues. I think him going into a fierce country without basic survival skills (like the ability to keep food around, or get across a raging river) was dumb. If I had the desire to get alone for a long time, being an adult, I would prepare myself enough to prevent myself from dying.

    I liked the book. The movie was ok. I thought the interplay with his parents and sister was fascinating and the movie could have done more with that. Anyway, cool subject.

  3. meggitymegs said,

    July 24, 2009 at 2:24 am

    Aaron, I also thought the movie could have done more with the family dynamics. Even in reading the book, I felt like there was probably a lot left out there.

    I don’t think it was mental issues as much as arrogance and immaturity. The word, or the state, of “adult” is relative to the individual. And some people are just more practical than others to begin with. I’ll have to think on it some more.

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