Into the Wild
Maria Sylvester
Into the Wild directed and written by Sean Penn and adapted from
the book by John Krakauer. This story documents the life of a young
American adventurer named Chris McCandless, who had left home af-
ter graduation to travel alone across the Western United States. After
two years, his journey ended when he traveled into the Alaskan wilder-
ness and died of starvation. Sean Penn’s interpretation of this story was
not so much tragic as sympathetic to the American idealism of adven-
ture and freedom. As a young, middle-class graduate in the early
nineties, Chris McCandless felt constricted in his personal and profes-
sional life. He didn’t feel a need to prove his worth through a high-
paying career or by owning many possessions; he also suffered from
having a highly-dysfunctional home life. He increasingly felt trapped
by systematic pretense and a false sense of security and wanted to test
and find himself without interference from his family.

Chris’s escape from that kind of life made him incredibly happy,
as his letters and journals confirm. The accounts of his anger towards
his family and friends, were reactions against domestic abuse and the
pressures put on a late twentieth century American. He felt angry at a
system that found material success to be more important than personal
happiness, which was something his parents firmly believed in, at the
cost of their relationship and their children’s wellbeing. Since these
facts about his background were not clearly outlined in the book, Sean
Penn made a point to reference them. While the book documented his
travels and was based on a factual narrative, Sean Penn's movie clearly
showed Chris McCandless's point of view during his adventure.

The book was a reporting of the bare facts of Chris’s life and read
like a mystery novel since he was a private person, whose full motiva-
tions for leaving home were not entirely known. Sean Penn made a
point of interviewing family members and friends in order to fully un-
derstand his character and make a truthful and sympathetic film
adaption. The end result was an insightful glimpse into the character of
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