Tragic Hero – Into The Wild

Emily Usinger

English 150 HD


Tragic Hero


Christopher McCandless, the main character of the film Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer, contains numerous flaws that eventually lead to his tragic downfall. A tragic hero is a literary character who makes an error of judgment or has a fatal flaw that, combined with fate and external forces, brings on tragedy.

Christopher first starts his journeys by completely erasing himself from the human race. He burns his social security card and changes his name. Christopher cuts off all connection from his family, including his sister. Throughout the story Christopher blames his family for himself wanting to run away to Alaska. He hates materialism and is disappointed in his parents’ behaviors. Every city he goes through he ends up meeting people which whom he stays with until he feels prepared enough to move on. Each person he encounters he leaves an indelible mark. They don’t want to see him continue traveling and often don’t fully support his goal of living alone with nature. Christopher brings his host families happiness and helps them solve their own personal problems. A major flaw in Christopher is that he never takes his own advice. Every person he stays with gave him love and acceptance, but yet he continues to believe society is evil and it would be best to live alone. Once alone Christopher notices that happiness means nothing unless you have someone to share it with. When this time comes, Christopher is too weak and accidentally poisons himself by eating wild berries and is unable to return home. He possesses an extreme fear of the river, which also creates his incapability to return. Christopher’s decisions eventually lead to his death.

The author, Jon Krakauer, and film director, Sean Penn, also placed their personal views into the development of the movie. Krakauer is known as a mountaineer himself. He has gone on numerous expeditions, including climbing Mount Everest. In his climb a number of his fellow climbers and well as the guides perished.  Krakauer draws parallels between his own experiences and motivations to those of McCandless’s. Krakauer wanted to connect to McCandless and help spread his story. Sean Penn is known for being a political and social activist. Penn took on this story because he viewed the heroism and courage in McCandless’s journey. Penn spent nearly a decade getting the rights to Krakauer’s book. Penn believed that McCandless had a will that was so uncommon. He wanted to spread McCandless’s belief that society is responsible for the destruction of the environment.

After watching this film in class, I experienced a few different emotions. I was first personally moved by the story. I felt his parents and friends’ pain when he suddenly disappeared. I thought it was extremely selfish of him to hurt the people who loved him the most. Although the movie grabbed my attention and was very interesting, it probably will be a movie that I won’t choose to watch again. I found it very depressing and did not enjoy the ending.


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