The romantic elements of self improvement and freedom are present multiple times in the contemporary novel, Into The Wild, by Jon Krakauer. By foreshadowing and using irony, Krakauer is able to create these thematic ideas. Krakauer’s protagonist, Chris McCandless, wants to be one with nature and to get away from the rest of the world. He wants to leave his parents and live a stress-free life filled with freedom to do whatever and to discover himself. By leaving his parents for freedom and discovering who he really is, McCandless challenges himself to see his full potential. He chooses not to keep in contact with the world and to live solely by his own rules and morals. He discovers his true self by going into the wild.
When McCandless tells his friend of his plans, Krakauer is foreshadowing McCandless’ eventual death, “If this adventure proves fatal and you don’t ever hear from me again, I want you to know you’re a great man. I now walk into the wild.” (Krakauer, 69). The foreshadowing of his death shows that he is willing to die in his search for individualism. He feels the journey is worth it for the experience of living completely independently and freely.
It is a romantic ideal to give up material comforts and find freedom. Krakauer displays irony by describing the picture of what McCandless’ looks like during his last hours. “His face is horribly emaciated, almost skeletal. But if he pitied himself .
. . it’s not apparent from the photograph. He is smiling in the picture, and there is no mistaking the look in his eyes: Chris McCandless was at peace.” (Krakauer, 199). McCandless’ struggle against the wilderness and the rage within him are summarized in Krakauer’s description of the photograph itself, primary the results of McCandless’ physical suffering. In its ironic but intense cheerfulness, the photograph shows McCandless both at his most pathetic and his most heroic.
This irony portrays McCandless’s bravery and celebrates his otherworldliness, rather than condemning him for his selfishness or his recklessness. Even during present day times, the romantic elements of selfhood, in the form of self improvement, and freedom are present in the novels like Into the Wild.