Is Chris McCandless a Hero?

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Chris McCandless said, “The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure.” Chris McCandless was an adventuristic tramp who enjoyed the glories of nature and the wild, traveling all over North America by foot. McCandless lived out Transcendentalist philosophies by showing that nature is reliable in all aspects of life. McCandless’ journey was quite courageous and inspiring.

Chris McCandless, also known as Alex Supertramp, was an adventurous man who sought the joy of freedom that nature gave.

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He had a very difficult childhood and life, growing up in Virginia. His father was living a double life with two families and Chris was made to feel that he was the cause of the families’ problems, including his mother’s abuse. After graduating from Emory University in 1990, McCandless traveled all over the United States, and then went on to hitchhike all the way to Alaska in April of 1992.

McCandless’ body was found in a bus on a hunting trail. It was decomposed and only weighed 67 pounds. Chris starved to death, due to the weather and lack of resources.. He got to live as an astounding yet tragic hero, daring to live an unmediated life. Unfortunately, McCandless made many small mistake in all of his escapades, that may have not seemed drastic at the time but in the end led to his death.

Chris’ decision to be a tramp was not just a random decision he made one day, it was something serious to him. McCandless seemed very normal, he was an honors student, star athlete, loved brother, great son, and from a wealthy family, but childhood is a key piece in understanding why he wanted to do and did go off into the wild. In a CBS episode that looked into all of Chris’ life, his sister, Carine McCandless talked about how drastic their childhood was. She talked about the many cases of her father abusing their mother, and then how their mom put the blame of her abuse onto Chris. He was seen as the reason she was with their father. His mother, Billie McCandless, got pregnant with Chris and stayed with his father, Walt. At the beginning of the couple’s relationship everything was fine, they went on to have another kid together. As Walt got so caught up dealing with two families, his one with Billie and another with Marcia, where he had 4 more children, he began to abuse his wives. Billie would talk to Chris as if she would not be abused if she had never had him, as if he is the cause of her abuse, making Chris feel guilty despite it not being any of his fault. This form of verbal abuse led Chris to further himself from his family, and later to go out on his own.

McCandless was only searching for a life of simplicity and solitude. He wanted to get away from his toxic family, wanting adventure and freedom, escaping the “evilness” of corrupt society. Chris felt strongly about traveling and the thrill of being adventurous, as if they were needed to enjoy life to the fullest. He very much related to the Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. His extreme liking for nature makes up the core beliefs of transcendentalists. In Emerson’s “Nature,” he talks about finding one’s own understanding of the universe. McCandless was very much influenced by Emerson and became a living example of his works. Emerson states, “The happiest man is he who learns from nature the lesson of worship.”(Nature Chapter 7) He did not like materialistic items and he was interested in nature and surviving off of it. In Thoreau’s 1861 work, Walking, he states, “All good things are wild, and free.” McCandless stated, “The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun” McCandless is stating that people need to step outside their comfort zone so that they will have the best possibilities and outcomes in life. McCandless lived life following the inspirations of the transcendentalist authors, showing their wok live threw him.

Despite how adventurous McCandless was, most of his actions had faults. Some see all of what he did as a young, ignorant kid who had no clue what he was getting himself into, yet this is far from the truth. Chris followed his dreams, pursuing his passion of nature and all that living on your own could bring. In no way were his actions naive. Chris was not trained to live in the conditions that he did nor did he know where or what he would he would find himself in, but this was all apart of his adventure. He did not want to know what he would find, because the thrill of the surprise was just as important as the outcome. He made quite a few mistakes on his long journey but his personality would go to show that he would not change a thing about it.

In conclusion, Chris McCandless was a brave and daring young man whose story ended tragically, but with inspiration and compassion. McCandless’ journey was courageous and inspiring. He lived by the works of transcendentalists, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, showing his love for nature and adventure. He was a strong, smart, and driven man who had a rough childhood. He was blamed for all the faults in his family, despite them all being his father’s. He was all but physically abused in his home, watching his mother be beaten, and being targeted for it. He grew up with his full sister, and later met his 4 half siblings. He showed his love for nature and all that it offered in his many journals and signs, further showing his relation to Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Chris McCandless pursued all of his dreams unlike most people, daring to be unique and adventurous.

Works Cited

Power, Matthew. “The Cult of Chris McCandless.” Men’s Journal, 4 Dec. 2017,

Lewis, Robert. “Christopher McCandless.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 5 Jan. 2018,

Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Nature. James Munroe and Company, 1836.

Thoreau, Henry David. Walking. 1861.

Goetzen, Ferdinand. “Into the Wild: The Beauty of Travel and the Amazing Story of Christopher McCandless.” Ferdi’s Blog, 1 Dec. 2014,

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Is Chris McCandless a Hero?. (2019, Jun 21). Retrieved from