Sean Penn’s “Into The Wild”

I just saw Into The Wild – it finally arrived on a screen within an hour of me. I have not read the book and there will be some spoilers in this discussion, although they are mostly obvious anyway.

It wasn’t what I was expecting. I’d been led to believe by a couple of reviews and the ad campaign that it was a story of one man’s escape from the rat race. I thought Christopher McCandless’ journey would give me some sort of insight into what I should be doing with my life in somehow mimicking him.

What I saw was the story of how one man affected the lives of others.  Certainly McCandless does some inspirational things, but many of his actions seem those of an idiot.  My appreciation came for what he was able to do (accidentally) for the people he met.  His story acted as a lens for them.  His pure quest for happiness allowed them find the happiness in their own lives.

And because of this, his story is truly a hero’s journey.  We read the stories of heroes to be inspired and to learn how we should be living.  If we’re lucky enough to encounter a hero in our life, all the better.  McCandless leaves the Mundane World, crosses the Threshold, and goes through a large number of Trials, before ending his journey with a revelation, or boon, that makes the world a better place.  That boon is that happiness must be shared to be fully useful.  It’s a superb lesson for a world that is becoming more and more insulated.

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5 Responses to Sean Penn’s “Into The Wild”

  1. David Wagenr October 29, 2007 at 5:19 pm #

    I read “Into the Wild” about 10 years ago, and I just recently saw the movie. The movie was actually quite accurate to the book; however, we have to remember that the writer John Krakauer did not have a lot of information to go on when he wrote the book. Really, only the journals the Chris left behind.

    I agree that Chris did search out his destiny and probably lived more than most. However, one thing that was apparent in both the book and the movie was his selfishness and disregard for those that really loved him. I believe that the impact he made on those left behind should overshadow the adventure itself.

    By the way, I was living in Whitehorse, YT at the time and strange enough I was traveling down the Alaska highway at the same time he was hitch hiking up the highway – probably passed him at some point. Also, walking into the wilds of Alaska with only 25 lbs of rice and 22 rifle is definately no the smartest thing.

  2. Matt Langdon October 30, 2007 at 9:27 am #

    I certainly agree with the disregard he had for the people who loved him. It was plainly stated by his sister when she wondered why he wasn’t contacting her. It was also shown in his middle-of-the-night departures.

    A little while ago I wrote that selflessness is the most important heroic attribute. Chris doesn’t qualify. It’s not until he is near his end that he understands the importance of others. He dies enlightened, but not a hero.

  3. David Wagner October 30, 2007 at 11:15 am #

    I agree with you, I do however feel for him when he is dying. I can’t imagine how scared he must have been, to be alone in the wild with nobody around. Thanks for your insights, and thank you for the comments on our blog.

  4. Billy V October 30, 2007 at 5:42 pm #

    I left Penn Station NY in May of 93 with a backpack and 300 dollars. I rode the train cross country ending up in Portland, OR. I took a bus to Bellingham, WA and took the Alaskan Ferry up the inside passage. I duct taped my tent to the deck and alas – I was on my way to Alaska. That summer in late July, I ended up in Denali where I worked, lived and loved .
    I made the trip to the bus that August when the tundra flowed in fire red and orange. I remember reading the words Chris left behind and just couldn’t help to think why he lost his will to live, to love.
    One can forever debate his choices and his ultimate demise.
    I think it is best to just take the simplistic purity from this story and end the mindfuck there.
    I returned to Alaska for 7 more summers and a Winter. Each time I learned something new, something profound.
    I will always return, I will always believe and respect the strength of that land. How I love it


  5. Anonymous December 1, 2007 at 12:19 pm #

    What book was emile hirsch reading in the movie? anybody know?