“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth…” Henry David Thoreau
This book evoked among the book club members opinions as diverse as the Alaskan landscape itself. The northern wilderness which the subject of the novel, Chris McCandless entered was a land of extremes; extremes that were mirrored in the personality of a young man who in the early 1990’s left his family and former life behind to go on a journey of self discovery. Motivated by a need to escape the life planned out for him by his parents, Chris’ journey led him into the isolation of the sub-arctic tundra in an attempt to find within himself a place from where he could begin to build the foundation of his life on his own terms.
The novel and the novel’s hero were seen as both brave and naive; tragic and pitiful; heroic and self-centered. The life and accidental death of Chris McCandless trace out in human form the transformation of American culture itself. From our past as revolutionary frontiersmen to our future as global powers, America itself has constantly searched for identity amongst change. For a young man driven by his ideals of morality, self-sufficiency, and truth; Alaska presented him with a land, which in physical form represented the shadow side of his personality, with which he choose to dwell and understand before choosing to return to society with its charms, comforts, and pleasures.
Tragically he did not return from his journey, yet his struggle presents us with an account of the deep-seated human needs which young people will always struggle with as they make their way out from the wilds of youth and into society.