Romanticizing the Last Frontier: An Exploration of Christopher Johnson McCandless’s Understanding of the Alaskan Wilderness in Into the Wild
Vegt, A. van der
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This study researched Christopher Johnson McCandless’s understanding of the Alaskan wilderness, based on the main question: “In what ways does Christopher McCandless thematize and conceptualize the Alaskan wilderness in the novel Into the Wild.” This study is relevant, since it provides insight into McCandless’s motivations to seek out a solitary existence in the wilderness without including the findings of Into the Wild’s author Jon Krakauer. This study has regarded Christopher’s personal writings: his journal, letters to friends, notes in margins of books he owned and a graffito inside his place of residence in Alaska. By dissecting the concept of wilderness through nature theory, analysing and interpreting the literary choices in the writings of McCandless and relating them to psychological theory, this study has constructed a contextual framework for the contents of McCandless’s writings. By relating these findings to his written accounts, and introducing additional theory by Abraham Maslow and Gary Snyder, among others, this study has constructed a multidimensional interpretation of his understandings. The results of the analyses show that Christopher McCandless’s created a romanticized ideal of wilderness, not rooted in reality, but based on the writings of literary heroes, his own need to separate from society and the ambiguity of the concept of wild nature. This ideal of wilderness was to aid him in the rejection and ‘death’ of his old, socially imposed, self, and the emersion of a ‘true self;’ a transformation that was to match the writings of his literary heroes.