My trip ‘Into the Wild’ started the other way around – by watching the movie. I saw it some months ago, probably as one of few people not knowing that it’s based on facts. The movie was painful to watch – I think I’m way too cynical by now to buy into movies like this. The fact that Alex died saved some shred of sense from the movie. The message about hubris and lack of respect for nature, lack of fear and stupid trust that we’re children of nature and therefore like a mother it’ll care for us. Well guess what… it won’t.
Several weeks later I started on the book.
The book is sympathetic and understanding for Alex. Krakauer tries to defend him and explain that what he did wasn’t just stupid and irresponsible; he also sets it all in wider context.
While I was reading the book I was comparing it to the movie, but the results was not good for the movie – it was flat like a pancake compared to the book, it was too focused on the account of Alex travel.
The book is a well-researched slightly biased reportage. It shows not only what Alex did, the road he took, his potential motivations, it puts his adventure in wider context, shows that there were plenty of other who were and still are drawn to Alaska against better judgement. Krakauer also tries to show the variety of motivations for such endeavour starting with being fed up with civilization and society all the way to proving that we can surpass our boundaries. He’s trying to find a match for Alex and his motivation to help the reader understand what happened and allow for, according to him, a more balanced judgement of his actions.
After seeing the movie I reacted like the Alaskans mentioned in Krakauer’s book – I thought it was just plain stupid thing to do, to venture into Alaskan wild without proper preparation. But then the book reminded me how I felt about society and civilization when I was 19-22, and it was not that different, I was disappointed in similar way as Alex, that’s part of growing up I guess. I just always liked my home too much to venture into the wild.
What I also find interesting is that Alex not only escapes from civilization and searches for some sort of communion with nature. He desperately escapes from any responsibility, he sees freedom as any teenager does as freedom from other people and from responsibility in any way shape of form, as we grow up we realize that freedom is to make a choice and be able to bear the consequences, Alex never learned it because that was the lesson that killed him.
The book has really made me think about Alex’ story, but also about how people react to disappointments, how freedom can be understood in different ways, do we own anything to our family and society, even if we are disillusioned with them?
What do you think?