The Impossibility of Total Self-Reliance in the Novel “Into the Wild”


In his book Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer describes a man who gets away from his family home and goes into the wilderness. Chris McCandless, the protagonist in the story, seeks isolation after his graduation. Evidently, a central theme of this novel is that total self-reliance is impossible in a person’s life. For one to succeed in life, the help and support of other people are crucial. Chris thinks that he can make it in life alone and hence, he does not require the help of his family. However, when the story ends, it is revealed to the reader that his move to escape the society leads to a tragedy. He becomes unable to rely on himself and dies in the wilderness. This unique personality, which Chris portrays, creates a moral compass that is questionable. As such, Chris introduces the reader to the importance of being self-principled, while also communicating that appreciating the help of others is significant for leading a happy life.

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The Impossibility of Total Self-Reliance in a Person’s Life

From the novel, the reader is able to see that Chris isolates himself from the society where he grew up and wants to be alone and become self-reliant. However, his quest to have perfect self-reliant life results into his death. The book gives many interviews that Chris attended and elucidates numerous people who helped him, particularly in getting a job. However, Chris is still not able to note how important other people are in his life. The book strongly highlights that humans depend on one another to succeed in every aspect of life, and one cannot make it on his or her own. The illusory nature of self-reliance that Chris yearns to have leads him to death. He aspires to live in an abandoned bus, and he does not want to make a shelter of his own. Undeniably, it can be noted from the novel that while adherence to self-principles is an admirable character in Chris, it is also significant for one to know that ignoring the contribution of others does not help. It is morally wrong and raises a moral dilemma.

The dominant theme in the book also shows the struggle of man against nature due to the choices he makes. It is ironical to note that after Chris graduated from college, he terms his family to be purposeless and vapid, yet they are people who have worked hard to keep him in school. Chris lives in the wilderness, thus portraying a theme of struggle against nature. He rejects the environment in which he was born. He decides to go to Alaska and other isolated places in the United States to work there in an attempt to live a happy life. This vividly demonstrates the eager of a man who wants to be with nature and survive what nature would throw at him. Chris wants to derive meaning in his life through becoming a self-reliant person, thus eliminating the need for society around him. Unfortunately, the struggle he has does not end well, as he dies at the whim of Mother Nature. His choice of getting lonely creates an internal conflict, leading him to develop a disdain for things around him. As such, he says, “I just don’t want anything” (Krakauer 131). This statement sums up his arrogant nature and an attitude denoting losing hope in life.

He comes from a rich family, but he decides to entirely renounce the materialism lifestyle he grew up with, hence welcoming loneliness, separation, and simplicity of his own life. Chris leaves his society behind in exchange for refreshing rawness in the wilderness of Alaska. He wants to discover how to live alone, thus going far from his home. The book elucidates that Chris abandons any material possession he has, and this includes a $24,000 trust fund. Notably, he struggles to survive in the wilderness. He only has a 10-lbs. bag of rice and his rifle, which he lives on them (Krakauer 201). This sustains him until when he died on August 18, 1992.

A reader is able to note that Chris had everything in life that a person would wish to have. He was talented in athletics; he had financial security, and he was an intelligent man who performed well in academics. Surprisingly, he chooses to leave all the good things he has and decides to live alone in isolation. He abandons his wealthy life, and according to him, the material possession is not everything in life. Chris is portrayed as man who comprehends that having the considerable money, together with other materials of richness, does not amount to happiness. In the letter that Chris writes to his friend Ron, he explains:

So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind. But in reality, nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit of a man than a secure future. (Krakauer 39)

Chris knew that the only way in which a man can break free from social conformity is through making personal decisions to line their life. Making decisions involves restricting material distraction and completely isolating oneself from the society. This is evident when Chris sets himself into the primitive existence. However, his tragic end poses a significant moral lesson to the reader. Choosing to live in remoteness and abandoning family and friends is not the right way of life. Chris risks his life by escaping civilization and the conformity of the world and ends up dying in the wilderness.


Into the Wild is a story that evokes a fundamental moral lesson that one should appreciate the help of others in life. Valuing family and friends is an important aspect of life. The society is essential, as it helps one to succeed. Whereas an individual should be principled, the contribution of people surrounding us, especially our family members, cannot be underestimated. When Chris makes a decision to leave behind the family he has and go into isolation, he becomes devastated and fails to manage in achieving his dreams. Tragically, he dies in the wilderness.


Work Cited

Krakauer Jon. Into the Wild. Pan Macmillan, 2011.