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  1. #1

    Default What do you make of Alexander Supertramp?

    I was quite struck by Christopher McCandless (aka Alxander Supertramp) as depicted in the book Into the Wild. I recently read an essay published online regarding Chris which purports him to be arrogant to the point of a fatal flaw. Iím not sure I ever had that impression in reading about him. I saw him as a radically idealistic young man with the guts to act upon his ideals rather than to shuffle them aside as some many of us do.

    Anyway the essay has me thinking:

    1. Was McCandless ďarrogant," the premise of the paper.

    2. Was Chris unwilling to accept help from others?

    3. Did Chris think that he was the only one intellectually capable to converse on his level thus indicating arrogance?

    4. Did Chris hope the Alaska trip would ďchange him to exist in society,Ē a supposition of said essay?

    5. Did he view the Alaska trip as terminal (my thought) in one way or the other, maybe not ending with death or maybe so, but nonetheless evidenced by his written statements to friends along the lines of ďThis is the last time you shall hear from meÖĒ and another comment along the lines of an if-I-survive statement.

    Anyway, at the outset here Iíll say I felt an immediate affinity to this young man and his beliefs which he had the guts to act upon and in the end for which he paid the ultimate price. He was a seeker and rather than push it aside as many of us do, accepting to stay comfortably plugged into social convention he made a stand for an alternate way.

    If you have read the book, you know there is one photograph in it. Within the first few pages of the book is a self-portrait McCandless shot in which he is seated in a chair leaning back against the abandoned bus which served as his final camp and the place of his death. I am not sure exactly at what point that photo was taken, not sure the book says, but in searching ďAlexander SupertrampĒ on the net I came across an Alaskan guide company that has mimicked this photo apparently with their proprietor sitting in the chair, against the bus just like McCandless. This rubs me wrong and while unintentional Iím sure it seems a bit disrespectful. Iím not going to announce the link to the world, Iím sure you can find it and if you want the link Iíll send it to you.

  2. #2
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    He was a dumb*** pure and simple. Good thing he didn't breed.

  3. #3

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    Wolf, with a response like that the thebackpacker.com's Trail Talk recruiting department will be contacting you any minute. You'll fit right in. LOL!
    aka Endorphin, AT GA->ME '04

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    Default don't use him as a role model....

    This was a idealistic person with some serious mental problems as the book pointed out. If you read the book you realize if he had taken a map with him he could have crossed the stream (that prevented his escape) on a bridge that just a short distance from where he died in that bus. He was also unaware that the plants he was eating were actually hastening his demise.

    There is a big difference between a well prepared person who goes into the wild with a plan and a unprepared person who is just courting disaster. Click here to see the story of Dick Proenneke who went to the wilds of Alaska and live there for 35 years alone. He documented his life in "Alone in the Wilderness," a video that has been shown on PBS and I bought. I would highly recommend this video (or the book) and his logical approach to McCandless' haphazard and disastrous trip.

  5. #5

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    Kind of expected that answer and I see that side of it too. But at least is can be said that this guy neither bought in nor sold out, which is admirable despite where you align with his philosophical views. But I wonít argue that point because I am more interested in validating the above viewpoint as well. So adding that to the scope, what in particular dumb*** qualities did McCandless have that lead to his so deservedly out of the gene pool?

    In all seriousness:

    1. The rift with his parents, the likes of whom he did not contact over the two year period. His inablity/unwillingness to reach out to those closest to him.

    2. His rejection of social norms. Particularly his penchant for living meal-to-meal at times. I think there is a contradiction in his disdain for money and his acceptance of it at the same time. He both works for it and burns it. At any rate his stance on property and money was quite extreme, much further than Iím willing to take itÖ much further.

    3. His lack of preparedness and the risk inherent in his endeavors. Again far beyond what I would accept. Iím surprised he didnít end up in a ditch somewhere long before Alaska. Or done in by one of his pre-Alaskan adventures.

    I donít at all disagree with L. Wolf. I think there is validity to that view as well. I may relate to McCandless at a visceral level, in that I relate to some of the feelings he had toward societal ills and conventions which most of us simply accept and become callused to or at least make the attempt to become callused to.

    One thing that struck me was that it didnít seem that his family had affinity to who he was or what he represented, maybe he represented nothing but stupidity or a fractured grasp of reality. I wonder if there is any understanding or commanality there. Hmmm.

    Kind of expected that answer and I see that side of it too. But at least is can be said that this guy neither bought in nor sold out, which is admirable despite where you align with his philosophical views. But I wonít argue that point so because I am more interested in establishing the above viewpoint as well. So adding that to the scope, if anyone cares to elucidate a thought, what in particular dumb*** qualities did McCandless have that led to his so deservedly out of the gene pool?

    In all seriousness:

    1. The rift with his parents, the likes of whom he did not contact over the two year period.
    2. His rejection of social norms. Particularly his penchant for living meal-to-meal at times. I think there is a contradiction in his disdain for money and his acceptance of it at the same time. He both works for it and burns it. At any rate his stance on property and money was quite extreme, much further than Iím willing to take itÖ much further.
    3. His lack of preparedness and the risk inherent in his endeavors. Again far beyond what I would accept. Iím surprised he didnít end up in a ditch somewhere long before Alaska. Or done in by one of his pre-Alaskan adventures.

    I donít at all disagree with L. Wolf in so much as I think there is validity to that view as well. I may relate to McCandless at a visceral level, in that I relate to some of the feelings he had toward societal ills which most of us simply accept and become callused to.

    One thing that struck me was that it didnít seem that his family had affinity to who he was or what he represented, maybe he represented nothing but stupidity or a fractured grasp of reality. Hmmm... To me it all was an intriguing story....

    A final note, along the lines of Wolf's dumb*** sentiment is that is exactly what I thought at the conclusion of Jenkins' (I think) Walk Across America. It's been quite a few years so I may have the name and title wrong. Anyway I am sure there are many that would take issue with that, but is is I've never been so let down in the outcome of a journey than that. It worked for him I guess. If I turn into a Southern Baptist at the end of a long hike please somebody drop me off in Alaska in an abandoned bus.

    Okay I'm done with this longwinded whatever... just trying to promote a little discussion.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Old Fhart
    This was a idealistic person with some serious mental problems as the book pointed out. If you read the book you realize if he had taken a map with him he could have crossed the stream (that prevented his escape) on a bridge that just a short distance from where he died in that bus. He was also unaware that the plants he was eating were actually hastening his demise.

    There is a big difference between a well prepared person who goes into the wild with a plan and a unprepared person who is just courting disaster. Click here to see the story of Dick Proenneke who went to the wilds of Alaska and live there for 35 years alone. He documented his life in "Alone in the Wilderness," a video that has been shown on PBS and I bought. I would highly recommend this video (or the book) and his logical approach to McCandless' haphazard and disastrous trip.
    Thanks for the information and link. I'm not sure I agree with "serious mental probelms" and I think the suposition of the book is counter to that, though you may be correct.

    It strikes me that like you mention his inexperience may have cost him in not bringing a map.... but then I also wonder what his intentions where for that trip? There was certainly a finality in his written tone and I wonder if he meant that finality to be shorter than longer or longer than shorter. I don't think he was coming back form that.

    Anyway digressing from the point of inexperince and being ill prepared, it often strikes me how experinced people are also prone to these type oversights... such as the man in the Smoky Mtns this winter whom was snowed in on the trail for days, suffering frostbite and in a grave situation.... he had been hiking and rescuing people for years, yet he went up solo in the winter with no shelter in his pack because he was headed to Tricorner or somewhere thereabouts. Hmmm.... how would a tent have impacted that situation? Point being I'm surprsed at all levels the risk people take and the things they overlook, experienced or not.

    Thanks for the reply. I'll check out the link.

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    This guy heeded nature's exit call, and fortunately mankind didn't interfere. Unlike with David Dimwitte, who was also on his way out before intermeddlers got in the way. We have too much dead wood in our gene pool and society. More should follow the example of this one.

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    Stuart-ď I'm not sure I agree with "serious mental probelms" and I think the suposition of the book is counter to that, though you may be correct.Ē
    I have to admit that my saying he had "serious mental problems" doesnít really express what I meant to say. You have admitted the possibility that his trip to Alaska trip was terminal and talk of ďa fractured grasp of realityĒ so you are also saying he had problems. My point was that, although he wasnít a raving lunatic, I really think that his thought processes crossed the line between what most people would call sane and what could be defined as mental problems. My using the word "serious" is possibly leading to the confusion. I do feel that his problems were serious enough to cause him to act is such an irrational manner that these problems eventually lead to his death. I think the article in Backpacker and the book make this pretty clear.

    I also think that Chris McCandless was a highly intelligent person that had that certain fire that make us admire a lot of what he did. Many of us dream of just chucking it all and going to live in the wild. Dick Proenneke did this in a very sane and logical manner but Chris McCandless tragically died following a dream that was flawed from the start. I believe a lot of people would admit that many of the things McCandless did were totally illogical given his knowledge. I consider him neither an idiot or a fool.

  9. #9

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    The story of Alexander Supertramp has always been facinating to me. I've read it numerous times (though not in a year or so), and find that people either love it or hate it. They either think of Chris as a hero or an idiot. Myself, I think of him as a hero, and a victorious hero at that. He escaped society, survived against wretched odds in the bush, but bad luck and poor planning (not that I would have expected him to plan the alaska outing) took its toll.

    I have a mountaineer friend who is very much a part of society, but almost died in the bush when his appendix ruptured. He was 30 miles from Fairbanks, and alone, but dragged himself back. They didn't know if he'd live or not. Stuff happens. Luck governs much. If I could choose a place to die, the woods would be it.

    -howie

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    I thought he had some cool ideas and some great adventures, but it doesnt change the fact that he basically died of stupidity.

    I find no fault in his wish and desire to get away from some of societies crap, and some people arent lucky enough to have people close to them who have a single idea of what they are about. He was alone, so it was easy for him to be alone, that part I understand...even with friends and family, not everyone can have a clue as to what is going on inside of a person, even the most healty and well adjusted can breakdown...thats life in the big woods, but again...he died of stupidity.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Old Fhart
    You have admitted the possibility that his trip to Alaska trip was terminal and talk of ďa fractured grasp of realityĒ so you are also saying he had problems.
    Not arguing at all... thanks for the reply.... but just to clarify my intended meaning, if I have implied that I thought McCandless had mental problems I have done so unintentionally.

    I'm wondering if the tone of finality in his final communcations did relate to a terminal intent or maybe reflected a perception of risk? Hmmm... I don't know. It is pretty clear that he was not a peace with his end. He clearly hoped to escape death, which likely indicates he was not a suicidal person and maybe bolsters the idea that if he did have a terminal design it was for longevity alone in Alaska.

    It would have been interesting had he kept a long and detailed journal.

    Anyway, I appreciate everyone's response to this topic. Keep em coming if you'd like. Thanks.

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    Thumbs down when Superidiot clones attack

    You openly insult Southern Baptist, but fail to realize that one of the founders of this site is Baptist as well as many others on WB. I take great offense to this. Perhaps you would share with us in detail why you hate Southern Baptists so much. Rather than ask what it is you have against us I'll simply point out a few other obvious points.

    You have an unhealthy "affinity" for a kid who often walked into the *woods unequiped, ill prepared, and without basic outdoors knowledge of survival. You claim that he had the guts to act upon his beliefs which in the end cost him his life. BS.

    He was just arrogant, ill prepared, and "common sense" stupid enough to get himself into a situation he couldn't get out of. It is often the case that the mentally ill can't and don't see themselves as sick. Somebody that has an affinity for this kind of person is one to keep an eye on.

    LW said it perfectly ! I'm glad that idiot didn't add to the gene pool. To bad we can't say that for a few others.
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  13. #13

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    One minor point. That book was written by an author who is not known for sticking to facts. His books are often clearly fictionalized. Making judgements on someone who cannot defend himself or where no other witness is available, is not always logical. Yes the guy screwed up, who can say they've never done so to a lesser extent? At least he died out there instead of in front of the TV or under an SUV.

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    I just read the book, and this guy definitely had a death wish. He wasnít as directly sewer-sidal as Hunter S. Thompson or others who put a gun to their head, but he knowingly put himself in a situation where there was a good chance he wouldnít come out alive.

    Just before he went into the Alaska bush, he sent a postcard to a friend that said "This is the last you shall hear from me Wayne. Ö If this adventure proves fatal and you donít ever hear from me again I want you to know youíre a great man. I now walk into the wild." He made several other references in his journal to the possibility of his death, as well.

    So he walked into the Alaska backcountry in April with nothing but a 10-pound bag of rice, a rifle but no shooting or hunting skills, and a book on edible plants. He was a bright kid who admitted knowing the odds were against him, and he accepted the real possibility that his trip would "prove fatal."

    In July he tried to walk out and back to civilization, but the trail was impassable then due to a raging glacial river that had been narrow in April when he hiked in. So he turned around and went back to his camp. (He could have crossed a few hundred yards downsteam, but due to his decision not to take a map, he didn't know about it.)

    Then a few weeks later, he unwittingly ate wild potato seeds that had turned poisonous with the advancing season, grew weak, and died. Just like he contemplated.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mountain Dew
    You openly insult Southern Baptist, but fail to realize that one of the founders of this site is Baptist as well as many others on WB. I take great offense to this. Perhaps you would share with us in detail why you hate Southern Baptists so much.
    Mountain Dew,

    I do not hate Southern Baptists, however my views are very much opposite of those Southern Baptists whom I know, many of my family being Southern Baptist. I understand how my statement is offensive to you and I should have been more considerate in wording of my feel for the Jenkins book. I think that you are right and I was wrong in making that statement here in the manner that I did. My apologies.

    Stuart

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blue Jay
    One minor point. That book was written by an author who is not known for sticking to facts. His books are often clearly fictionalized. Making judgements on someone who cannot defend himself or where no other witness is available, is not always logical. Yes the guy screwed up, who can say they've never done so to a lesser extent? At least he died out there instead of in front of the TV or under an SUV.
    This is a good point and I recall that in the foreward the author does state that he does take some license in this regard.

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    Krakauer does not state that he fictionalized anything. The book is composed almost entirely of tracking down what happened to McCandless (Alex Supertramp's real name was Chris McCandless) based on hard facts. For example, the postcards he sent to his friends, an interview with the truck driver who drove him from Fairbanks to the Stampede Trail that he followed into the wilderness, quoting from McCandless's journal, and tracking McCandless's wanderings during the time before he went to Alaska including correspondence and interviews with those who came in contact with him.

    By and large, the book appears to be an objective reconstruction of what happened to this guy, and what was going through his mind based on his own written and spoken words.

    Krakauer does state in the introductory note, however, that he is not a detached writer. "I won't claim to be an impartial biographer. McCandless's strange tale struck a personal note that made a dispassionate rendering of the tragedy impossible." There is a difference between an inability to be dispassionate about a subject, and fictionalizing it. I just read this book, and Krakauer was able to stick with the facts when speaking of fact, while interjecting some of his own speculation about what was driving this kid to his own death. There is no confusion of the two in the book, however.

  18. #18

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    It was a fully countenanced suicide. He was looking for a way to transcend his own existence, a way to create a reality for himself separate from the physical imperatives of his birth. Failing this, he died. I tell you though, if anyone was going to figure out how to live on 10 pounds of rice for six months, or find a way to levitate or to jump 50 feet, or talk to squirrels, it would have been Chris C.

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    It wasnt suicide. This was an unfortunate event that shouldnt be idolized nor put down. It is half Thoreau and half ignorance. After I read the book a few years ago i was drawn to Chris. He had qualities and beliefs that represented this generations frustrations with the world that we were to inherit.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cjcobb
    It wasnt suicide. This was an unfortunate event that shouldnt be idolized nor put down. It is half Thoreau and half ignorance.
    Oh? Then how do you explain this:

    Quote Originally Posted by steve hiker
    Just before he went into the Alaska bush, he sent a postcard to a friend that said "This is the last you shall hear from me Wayne. Ö If this adventure proves fatal and you donít ever hear from me again I want you to know youíre a great man. I now walk into the wild."

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