FC: Into the Wild and the Monomyth | By Greg Leeman
2: Call to Adventure | The call to adventure is when the hero, or main character, gets the urge to leave his current life and embark on the adventure. It will involve leaving his/her comfort zone and doing things they have never considered doing before.
3: For Chris McCandless, the call to adventure comes from within himself. He has always had an adventurous spirit, and has always taken it upon himself to do things his own way: "The only way he cared to tackle a challenge was head-on, right now, applying the full brunt of his extraordinary energy" (Krakauer 111). From a young age, Chris was pulled to adventure and "didn't think the odds applied to him" (Krakauer 109). This would later cause him to take daring risks that any levelheaded person would not even consider.
4: Refusal of the Call | The refusal of the call is when the hero or main character tries to avoid the adventure and continue on with his/her own life. The hero can either flat out refuse the call or simply ignore it. This may be just continuing their life as if they had never received the call in the first place.
5: This stage lasts multiple years for Chris. This is when, deep down, he wants to just release himself from society and go on his adventures, but suppresses this urge in order to please his parents and meet the expectations of the world. This probably started very early in his life when his family went on various trips. His father even claimed that there "was always a little wanderlust in the family, and it was clear early on that Chris had inherited it" (Krakauer 108). He was definitely thinking along these lines by college, as he claimed that careers were "more of a liability than an asset, and that he would do fine without one" (Krakauer 114).
6: Supernatural Aid | Supernatural aid is when a knowledgeable being provides the hero or main character with help that will get their quest initially started. This can be a type or charm, advice, or a special piece of knowledge. This being can be protective, or sometimes evasive to get the hero going on their quest.
7: Chris McCandless did not have any supernatural aid from a god or goddess, although he may argue against this due to the level of admiration he had for these people. His supernatural aid was from authors and role models from throughout history, most prominent being Jack London. Chris was "mesmerized" by Jack London's books and "seemed to forget they were works of fiction". Chris took London's ideas and fantasies to heart, attempting to put them to real life even though London was a "fatuous drunk" who was consumed by his "sedentary existence that bore scant resemblance to the ideals he espoused in print" (Krakauer 44). Chris was likely inspired to embark on his final journey into the Alaskan wilderness by Jack London's books.
8: Crossing the Threshold | Crossing the threshold is the point at which the hero goes into the new world of which they know very little of. They leap off their iceberg and into the vast ocean without knowing what is beneath the surface. This makes it easier from this point onward for the character to do things they would not normally do. This is a critical time in their journey.
9: Chris McCandless' crossing the threshold was a very unique one. He had driven his Datsun car out west and was illegally camped by a lake at the border of Arizona and Nevada. He tried to hike around Lake Mead, in this area, in mid July but determined in his journal that this was a "'tremendous mistake.... In extreme July temperatures becomes delirious'" (Krakauer 29). Chris took all of this a step further by his own will, to distance himself from his past life. To hide himself from authorities sent looking for him by worried patents, or to just feel like a totally new person, Chris began to refer to himself as Alexander Supertramp. He kept this identity until his final days of life in the Alaskan wilderness, when he finally reverted back to his original name.
10: Belly of the Whale | The belly of the whale stage, named after the story of the Prophet Jonah being swallowed by a whale for trying to avoid speaking God's message to the city of Nineveh, is when the hero has reached the point of no return. At this point, the hero is into the journey whether they like it or not and have no escape from the dangers and hardships.
11: In the story of Chris McCandless, the belly of the whale is the point at which even he begins to doubt his ability to get out of the situation. He has gotten past the border into Mexico and bought a canoe to try to get through swamplands and into the ocean in order to bring himself back across the border. At one point in the swamps, he exclaims in his journal that "'hopes collapse! The canal does not reach the ocean but merely peters out into the vast swamp'" (Krakauer 35). Soon after reaching the ocean, however, Chris realizes what a mistake this was and "decide[s] to abandon canoe and return north" (Krakauer 36). This decision possibly saved his life, as he could easily have been killed on the waters by a storm of any size.
12: Road of Trials | The road of trials is a series of events that hinders the hero's path to the final destination. In reality, these trials may be necessary for the hero to finally realize what he/she needs to in order for the quest to be a success, but they are not always needed. They can be anything that makes the journey more difficult.
13: The road of trials are, for Chris, mainly self inflicted. He was constantly combating overwhelming odds such as the Mexico canoe trip, the exodus into the desert, and the Alaskan odyssey. Many times he almost starved to death, living only off rice, but he seemed to enjoy this type of lifestyle. According to a friend he met in his journey, Gail Borah, Chris bragged that he "could live for a month on nothing but twenty-five pounds of rice" (Krakauer 63). He also had many times where people worried about him and his unreliable lifestyle. Ronald Franz, who became a great friend of Chris', tried to "'convince him to get an education and a job and make something of his life'" (Krakauer 51). Later on, however, Chris actually convinced Ronald Franz, who was in his early eighties, to take up a more rustic lifestyle than what he was ever used to.
14: Meeting the Goddess | At some point in the journey, the hero will meet a person who teaches them something that impacts their journey greatly. This thing may even be necessary for the hero to finish the journey and get anything out of it. This goddess must be a female, or have feminine characteristics.
15: Throughout his life, Chris was always a serious person. He would spend Friday nights hanging out with the homeless and trying to improve their lives. Then, once he begins his journey, he criticizes modern society and the selfish way in which the vast majority of Americans live. In South Dakota, however, Chris met Gail Borah, who helped him realize that there can be a mix between his current life and the lives of those all around him. Gail Borah became a good friend to Chris and tried to mix him into civilization. At one point, she took him to a single's bar, and after Chris died, his sister Carine told Borah that she was "'one of the only girls he ever went dancing with'" (Krakauer 65).
16: Temptation from the True Path | The temptation from the true path distracts the hero and threatens to ruin the purpose of the journey. This would mean the end of the journey, making everything prior to this stage useless, as there was no final destination that changed the life of the hero. The temptation can be within the hero or something else that influences them.
17: For Chris, the temptation comes in the form of a simple, friendly lifestyle. When he (still going by the name Alex) was about to leave on his Alaskan adventure, he had a great time saying good-bye to his friends in South Dakota and came very close to settling down. According to a good friend and employer, it seemed like Chris "'wanted to settle down some'" and that "'this Alaska escapade was going to be his last big adventure'" (Krakauer 66). He had always spoken of someday having a family, but hadn't seen this end to his wandering days come to the horizon. It had always been a distant dream. On this last night that Chris was in South Dakota, he even sat down at a piano and "started pounding out honky-tonk country tunes, then ragtime, then Tony Bennett numbers" (Krakauer 68). Chris rarely let loose in such ways when around people.
18: Atonement with the Father | The atonement with the father is when the hero meets a fatherly figure, one who guides the hero or helps them along. This father figure could be one who appears threatened by the hero or someone who the hero must come to understand before gaining anything from.
19: For the main character of Into the Wild, the father figure is more of a friend than a father, although to begin with this man, Ron Franz, tries to advise Chris on how to improve his life. It could be argued, in the end, that Chris was actually a father figure to Ron, because of the way that he impacted Ron's life. Unfortunately, Chris' death also caused Ron to "renounce[ed] the Lord" and "become an atheist" (Krakauer 60). However, despite the negative impact that Chris had on this man, he also inspired Ron to pack away his furniture and "set up camp on the bajada" (Krakauer 58). The reason why Ron is the father, however, is because of his close relationship to Chris after they finally understood each other. Ron, as mentioned before, had a totally different outlook on life after these two men understood each other, as did Chris.
20: Apotheosis | The apotheosis stage is the amazing moment when the hero knows what the journey was about and comes to the mighty realization that will change his life forever. He will utilize this knowledge to benefit those that he can, and probably make a major change in his lifestyle. This is when the wicked turn Saintlike and the violent turn peaceful.
21: Although this stage for Chris McCandless is not as life altering as it is in some texts, it can be inferred that he did come to a realization of the errors of his crazy lifestyle. He wrote on some paper, deep in the Alaskan wilderness at a bus placed on a trail by the Alaskan government, "'I HAVE HAD A HAPPY LIFE AND THANK THE LORK. GOODBYE AND MAY GOD BLESS ALL'" (Krakauer 199). He also, a few days earlier, reverted back to his real name, Chris McCandless, when signing his journal and notes he left should a hunter come by the bus while he was gone. This signifies an internal change within Chris' mind.
22: Refusal of the Return | The refusal of the return is when the hero has realized what the purpose of the journey was and should now apply it to his life. The hero should go back to their old life before the journey as a new person with new ideas. However, many times the hero either cannot go back physically, or has come to love the journey process and wishes for it to continue.
23: For Chris, the refusal of the return is when he is in the bus past his apotheosis, but yet not getting out of this situation. He could have, according to many people, tried to signal help from a passing plane. However, according to Krakauer, the bus was not "beneath any established flight path, and very few planes fly over it" (Krakauer 198). Carine McCandless also scoffed at the idea of Chris starting a forest fire to save himself, even though many native Alaskans thought him foolish for not doing just that with the three gallons of stove fluid in the bus Chris died in.
24: Master of Two Worlds | The hero is the master of two worlds at the point at which they can successfully apply what they have learned to their old way of living. They can take their experiences and use them to the benefit of others as well as themselves.
25: This stage is a bit different than normal for Chris. He is stuck in the wilderness with no escape route, no vessel to carry him to any safety other than that of Heaven. However, even though he was not able to get out, he was still a different person within his situation, taking a picture of himself where he had "one hand holding his final note toward the camera lens, the other raised in a brave, beatific farewell" (Krakauer 199). He knows he can't get out but yet still acts differently than before his journey when he was an impulsive college graduate who always thought he knew best.
26: Works Cited | Atonement with Father. n.d. Graymoor. Franciscan Friars of the Atonement. Web. 7 Apr. 2011.
27: Pierz, Mariola M. Forest Edge. n.d. Photography. Mariola M. Pierz Website. Web. 7 Apr. 2011.