In Emerson’s essay “Self-Reliance”, an essay that Chris McCandless used as a guide for his way of life in the wild, presents the relationship between nature and Manhood; and these beliefs are what led him to his demise.
Emerson states that you must first begin your journey and have the desire to take the first steps into finding adulthood. Chris McCandless began his adventure “immediately after graduating, with honors, from Emory University in the summer of 1990” (Krakaur 4). A passage from “Self-Reliance” can explain this disappearance when Emerson says, “A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise, shall give him no peace” (Emerson 2). McCandless is a brilliant student and on his way to becoming a great citizen in society, but he left it all behind. He left it behind because as Emerson says, one man can be satisfied with his work if his heart into it but if he has a passion for something else, his soul will not be at rest (2). McCandless has had a great passion for the wilderness since he was young. (Krakauer 83) He left to go into the wild (not completely knowing what he was doing) because he believed the words of Emerson; that “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.” (Emerson 21). Although peace may have been brought to McCandless after he died, his adventure was left unexplained. Emerson states that “the nonchalance of boys” is merely a façade, although it “is the healthy attitude of human nature” (3). He says that “A boy . . . tries and sentences them on their merits, in the swift summary way of boys, as good, bad, interesting, silly, eloquent, troublesome”(3). Chris McCandless fits this description perfectly because part of his mission to adulthood is to prove to his parents that he can survive without them. The letter McCandless writes to his sister portrays that he does not want his parents helping him and acts as though he is insulted by their help (Krakaur 19). These acts are of a boy, and by him venturing out for his great journey to Alaska, he attempts to prove that he can live outside of what his parents say he should do. A fool’s way of trying to defy society to make the point that “Joy [does not emanate] only or principally from human relationships” (45).
Though McCandless journeys out for adulthood, he strives to be everything his parents were not. He remains in the boyish mindset where he thinks that he is always right. McCandless essentially may have thought he was following Emerson’s words: “I shun father and mother and wife and brother when my genius calls me” (Emerson 4). His misinterpretation led him to never be able to communicate with his family, the only people that loved him, again. He was foolish in the same way that Emerson says, “it is as easy for the strong man to be strong, as it is for the weak to be weak” (11) and McCandless presented that it is easy for a boy to be a boy, because “all things find their common origin” (10).
Emerson’s words, are one’s that McCandless followed because he believed that he needed his right of passage into adulthood – the exact way Emerson had described it. McCandless failed to recognize that “power is in nature” (13) and when you persecute the nature of a boy, that same nature can lead to death.