Opinion: Lessons learned from “Into the Wild”

Megan L. Brown

Megan L. Brown

Megan L. Brown is a junior journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].

Pieces of literature have always had an impact on society. There can be something about a novel that takes you into a different world. You can escape reality.

When I first read Jon Krakauer’s “Into the Wild” during my high school years, I was beyond excited to start reading it. I knew of the 2007 film version directed by Sean Penn starring Emile Hirsch, but I never thought of reading the book.

“Into the Wild” is one of those books that you cannot put down.

It takes you through the life and death of Christopher McCandless, an intelligent, young college graduate who believes that life is best lived alone, in nature. He refers to himself as “Alexander Supertramp” or just “Alex.” We see all the advantages and luxuries given up by McCandless to just live his life as his own within nature.

As I read the book, I felt so connected to him. I literally wanted to drop everything I was doing and travel in a peaceful state of mind. I then realized I actually couldn’t do that but instead his journey was teaching me about accepting yourself and not worrying about what others may think.

This book addresses the issues of being accepted into society and how finding out who you are sometimes clashes with being an active member in society. This is extremely important for us as college students. We are pounded with the stress of classes, exams, work, and on top of that, society wants us to be something so great.

An exceptional quote from McCandless is “happiness can only be real when shared.” I completely agree. He went alone into the wilderness to experience the ultimate adventure in search of what life was about. He realized that everything he was fond of in nature and life are only best shared with someone. Being alone really wasn’t the answer to his problems. The same goes for students in college. With all the anxiety and stress we have, we cannot give up. We have to try our best to achieve what we deserve. Maybe you feel like college isn’t right for you, but don’t give up until you’ve tried.

Christopher McCandless’ name is still being brought up today. New evidence has been found that Krakauer’s prediction of McCandless’ death has proven to be correct. The probable cause of death, according to the coroner’s report, was starvation. Krakauer speculated that he had unintentionally poisoned himself by eating seeds from a plant commonly called wild potato, known as Hedysarum alpinum. A few months ago he found Ronald Hamilton’s paper “The Silent Fire: ODAP and the Death of Christopher McCandless,” which offered convincing new evidence that the wild-potato plant is highly toxic. His astonishing theory confirmed Krakauer’s conviction that McCandless wasn’t as clueless as his critics had made him out to be. The plant’s seeds were sent away for testing and were proven to be toxic and had several side effects, including death.

Individuals may be hesitant to travel through the wilderness because of Hamilton’s discovery that McCandless died because he ate the toxic seeds. Maybe if the guidebook to edible plants that McCandless had with him warned him that the seeds could cause paralysis, he would have been able to leave the wild without difficulty, and would still be alive today.