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Jon Krakauer, the author of the novel into the wild, explores the entire life of a young man. Krakauer explores the main character, Chris McClandess’ determination to live a life free from oppression, which underscores the theme of ultimate freedom.
After graduating from the University of Emery in Atlanta, McClandess decides to pursue his dream of living an independent life free from slavery. He embarks on a secret journey to Alaska where he changes his name to Alex.
None of his family members even his favorite sister knows about his whereabouts. Unfortunately, contrary to his expectations, the journey is not as easy as he had thought; it has many ups and down. Luckily, during tough times he meets several good-hearted people who help him through.
Finally, he reaches his destination, the Alaskan wilderness. Unluckily, he dies after eating some wild fruits called Eskimo potato. Although he acquires freedom from the rest of the world, it turns out to be tragic and therefore enjoys it for a very short time.
Nevertheless, despite the sad ending of this masterpiece, the theme of ultimate freedom stands out conspicuously throughout the story.
The search for freedom
McClandess is determined to acquire a life free from oppression. In the process of pursuing his freedom, he experiences different dramatic life events as he heads to the Alaskan wilderness.
First, he secretly escapes from his parents’ home carrying with him all his documents before changing his name to Alex (Smart 2). Besides that, he has given all his saving of about twenty-four thousand dollars to charity before embarking on his jaunt.
Unfortunately, on his way, the car breaks down because of floodwater, which destroys the car battery. He decides to abandon the car at Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
Additionally, his driving and registration licenses are out of date. McClandess decides to get rid of all unnecessary baggage and burns all of his money about one hundred and twenty-three dollars.
This is because he does not want to explain to Bud Walsh, the ranger in the park, why he lacks the vital documents. These events, therefore, conceal his identity. Back at home, his parents are unable to trace him because he left secretly and changed his identity hence living a free life.
The theme of ultimate freedom comes out here because he is not around to explain to the authority why he did not have the right documents. Moreover, his tyrannical parents are not around to question his actions or take him back home.
McClandess decides to hitchhike, and he eventually secures a job at a farm belonging to Crazy Ernie. Unluckily, due to selfishness, Ernie does not pay for his labor. In retaliation, McClandess steals Ernie’s bike and leaves the farm secretly.
McClandess hitchhiking behavior brings out the theme of ultimate freedom in that none of the people he offers rides knows him and hence he is not accountable for anything. He steals from Ernie and runs away to get freedom from oppression and slavery in pursuit of ultimate freedom.
On the other hand, he is not available to account for his actions like stealing. He also acquires freedom of movement in that, he meets Bob and Jan Burres, stays with them for a week and again moves on.
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During his adventures, McClandess lies that his home in South Dakota yet he hails from Virginia. This is for security reasons hence freedom because he cannot be traced back home.
In South Dakota, Wayne Westerberg employs him. Unlike other employees, he does all sorts of odd jobs. Although he is very close to Gail Borah, the girlfriend to Westerberg, McClandess remains very secretive. McClandess does not tell Borah about his personal life or family.
After a few weeks, he moves out. Westerberg describes his character as a hard worker besides being intelligent. He says, “I’ve given jobs to lots of hitchhikers over the years. Most of them were not much good, did not want to work; Alex was the hardest worker I’ve ever seen” (Krakauer 17).
McClandess character of being secretive underscores the theme of ultimate freedom in that; he does not want to reveal anything about himself or his family, which may end up disclosing him as a missing person.
He works hard by doing menial jobs to ensure he earns enough money for survival hence being able to pursue his dream of getting freedom.
In the process of asking free rides from passing motorists, he meets with Jim Gallien but introduces himself as Alex and not McClandess. He also gives his home as South Dakota and not Virginia, his original home.
McClandess also lies to Gallien that he is going to spend some few months in Denali National park. When he explicitly outlines his plan to stay in the Alaskan wilderness, Gallien tries to convince him to change his mind because he knows life is unbearable in the wilderness.
Gallien tells him “living in the bush ain’t no picnic” (Krakauer 5), but all these fall on deaf ears. In a bid to convince this stranger, Gallien offers McClandess boots, lunch, and promises to buy him a new car but McClandess is reluctant to change his destiny.
After Gallien realizes he cannot change anything, he gives McClandess his phone number and tells him to call when he manages to get out of the wilderness alive. McClandess is not interested in two-piece advice from a mere stranger, and nothing will change his desire to live a free life (Medred 7).
McClandess determination underscores his sole purpose in life, to attain the ultimate freedom and nothing will stop him from realizing it. As Gallien had predicted, McClandess dies in the wilderness. Although he achieves his dream of freedom, it is short lived as he dies prematurely.
McClandess life ends tragically because of starvation and poison leading to poor health. However, if I were in his shoes, I would take some quality time to plan my journey carefully.
I would seek employment for about five years to make an incredible amount of savings, which would last me a lifetime especially during my pursuit for freedom. Additionally, I would acquire a large, powerful motor vehicle to use when traveling to the Alaskan wilderness.
This would also ensure I do not interact with anybody on my way to Alaska as this could one day reveal my identity. Although my journey would be a secret, I would carry along a phone for limited communication especially to my sister who is very close to me.
This would also ensure I contact my family in cases of catastrophes like starvation or illness among others. Additionally, I would carry enough food, utensils, and water in the wilderness.
Medical equipment like first Aid kits and essential medicine would be part of my luggage for health purposes in my pursuit of ultimate freedom, which according to me can only come by living an isolated life.
McClandess feels oppressed by his seniors especially his parents and the government, which constantly directs his life. Therefore, he decides to live in isolation, probably in the wilderness for then he would find the ultimate freedom.
McClandess secretly escapes from home and heads to the Alaskan wilderness. However, his journey is not as easy as he thought. Due to ravaging waters, his car breaks down forcing him to travel as a hitchhiker.
All the people he interacts with are ready to help him some even going ahead to give him employment, McClandess is not interested in their benevolence; after all, he is running from any human associations.
He conceals his identity by changing his name to Alex, burning all documents that could identify him, and lying that his home in South Dakota and not Virginia.
On the contrary, his search for freedom ends up tragically. As the story closes, his body is rotting in a broken bus in the middle of Denali National park with a note begging for help. Although McClandess acquires his freedom, it turns out to be short-lived and tragic.
Nevertheless, just like a good soldier, McClandess dies fighting (Dexter 12). In a recap, Krakauer exploits the theme of ultimate freedom by profiling McClandess life events and adventures.
Unfortunately, what many might perceive as freedom might turn out to be disastrous; maybe the true beauty of living which underlines independence comes from within.
Dexter, Filkins. “The Good Soldier.” The New York Times Sept. 2009.
Krakauer, Jon. Into the wild. New York: Anchor press, 1996.
Medred, Craig. “McClandess fatal trek: schizophrenia and pilgrimage?” Anchorage Daily News Apr. 1996.
Smart, Simon. “On the road in search of freedom: reflection on into the wild.” Centre for Public Christianity Aug. 2009.