The Bravery of Chris McCandless: Unconventional Happiness


Christopher McCandless, the central figure in Jon Krakauer's "Into the Wild," exhibited a level of courage that defied societal norms. McCandless sought a life beyond the constraints of modern society, aiming for adventure and freedom that eluded conventional existence. This essay delves into McCandless's unconventional journey, exploring his pursuit of happiness in nature, his acceptance of mistakes, and the societal perceptions that surrounded his daring choices.

McCandless's Quest for Unconventional Happiness

McCandless's discontent with modern society and its offerings is evident in his decision to abandon his given identity and adopt the moniker "Alexander Supertramp.

" Dissatisfied with societal expectations, he craved a life distinct from the ordinary. His friend notes, "He was looking for more adventure and freedom than today’s society gives people" (Krakauer 174). Renouncing his former self, McCandless embraced the persona of Alexander Supertramp, symbolizing his determination to be the master of his destiny and break free from societal shackles.

In a letter to Franz, McCandless emphasizes the multiplicity of sources for joy, asserting, "You are wrong if you think joy emanates only or principally from human relationships.

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God has placed it all around us" (57). McCandless found true happiness in nature, rejecting the conventional notion that joy is solely derived from human connections. This perspective reflects his belief that personal fulfillment can be discovered outside the confines of societal expectations.

Before his untimely death, McCandless captured a moment of true happiness in a photograph. Krakauer notes, "Chris McCandless was at peace, serene as a monk gone to God" (199).

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Despite facing the hardships of solitude and starvation, McCandless radiated contentment. His pursuit of happiness, devoid of materialistic and societal constraints, led him to a state of tranquility rarely achieved within the confines of conventional living.

Acceptance of Mistakes and Bravery

McCandless's journey was not without its share of mistakes, such as the flash flood incident that resulted in the loss of his car. Rather than succumbing to despair, McCandless embraced the mishap as an opportunity to shed unnecessary baggage. Krakauer notes, "Instead of feeling distraught over this turn of events, moreover, McCandless was exhilarated" (29). This resilience in the face of adversity showcases McCandless's bravery and his ability to transform setbacks into catalysts for further exploration.

While acknowledging McCandless's fatal errors, it's crucial to recognize his moral contemplation. Krakauer points out, "Chastity and moral purity were qualities McCandless mulled over long and often" (65). Despite his mistakes, McCandless maintained a sense of morality and reflection. His bravery was evident in facing the consequences of his decisions, and his internal moral compass guided him, even through the challenges of his unconventional journey.

A significant testament to McCandless's bravery is evident in his climbing experience: "Awkwardly, stiff with fear, I started working my way back down. The rime gradually thickened. After descending about eighty feet, I got back on reasonably solid ground" (137). This episode highlights McCandless's ability to overcome daunting obstacles, distinguishing him from others who faced similar challenges. His bravery allowed him to navigate terrains that many deemed insurmountable.

Societal Perceptions and McCandless's Pursuit of Happiness

While some labeled McCandless as foolish for forsaking his wealth, family, and possessions, his actions were a deliberate choice to forge a new beginning. Residents of Healy deemed him a "nut" for giving away his fortune and embarking on an uncharted adventure. However, McCandless's intention was clear: to break free from societal norms that restrained his pursuit of happiness (71).

The question of why McCandless would cause pain to his family persists, with a reader of Outside magazine pondering, "Why would any son cause his parents and family such permanent and perplexing pain?" (71). McCandless's departure, though painful for his loved ones, was a testament to his unwavering commitment to finding happiness on his own terms. The pursuit of an unconventional life, far removed from societal expectations, was his chosen path to fulfillment.

Despite societal judgment, McCandless was determined to follow his own definition of happiness. He acknowledged the potential consequences in his final postcard to Wayne Westerberg: "If this adventure proves fatal and you don't ever hear from me again, I want you to know you're a great man. I now walk into the wild" (133). McCandless, aware of the risks, believed that the real experience of living independently and freely was worth the potential dangers.


In conclusion, Chris McCandless's pursuit of unconventional happiness marked a brave departure from societal norms. His quest for freedom, nature, and self-discovery led him to transcend the ordinary and embrace a life less conventional. McCandless's ability to find joy in nature, accept mistakes, and confront societal perceptions with bravery is a testament to his courage. While opinions about his choices may vary, McCandless's journey remains a powerful narrative of one individual's determined pursuit of an unconventional and, in his eyes, a more fulfilling life.

Updated: Dec 01, 2023
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The Bravery of Chris McCandless: Unconventional Happiness. (2016, Mar 20). Retrieved from

The Bravery of Chris McCandless: Unconventional Happiness essay
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