In Sherry Simpson’s article about Chris McCandless, she is noncommittal about her stance on whether his trek was something noble or pathetic.  When she goes to the bus, she is disgusted at times about what people have written in the notebook – Kris even more so.  Why is this?  I thought about how Kris is an avid outdoorsman.  He is well prepared for everything, so when someone like Chris tries to do it on his own with a rifle and rice and fails, Kris will most likely scoff.  If Kris can’t do it unprepared, how can someone else?  What if Chris had made it out alive?  If Chris told Alaskan natives he survived for 100 days out in the wilderness, they would either not believe him or thought he was lucky.  Chris on the other hand, would not think he was lucky; he would think it was because of his strength and determiddnation.  To some degree, I think Sherry and Kris act so judgmental on Chris (Kris says “oh gag” after reading a passage in the notebook) is because they are jealous.  They are in denial that in fact they would love to go out in the wilderness and survive – if it were possible.  Chris proves to them that it isn’t.  But what about those who do survive?  There was a recent find of an Australian man that had been mugged and left in the desert for three months.  He ate lizards and frogs, and when people found him he looked like a living skeleteon. (http://www.sky.com/skynews/article/0,,30200-13519019,00.html)

This proves that some humans can be put to the extreme limit.  But this man didn’t ask to wander around in the desert nor wanted to find himself.  Maybe if Chris had come back to the real world again, he would have found meaning when he wasn’t looking for it. 

A (very) Late Response

A
“In great frustration, he screams and beats canoe with oar. The oar breaks. Alex has one spare oar. He calms himself. If loses second oar is dead. Finally through extreme effort and much cursing he manages to beach canoe on jetty and collapses exhausted on sand at sundown.” –Chris McCandless (36)

Perfect Storm, by noddingdogbob (February 18, 2006)

This picture portrays a violent sea much like the one I imagine McCandless traversed in Mexico. I wonder if the scene was as violent as this picture and both McCandless and Krakauer sensationalize that brief but overwhelming struggle with the sea for spectacle. Upon close inspection, I doubt the picture has not been touched up with photoshop.

I imagine the panic, the chaos, the struggle to bring himself out of an all-consuming storm. In the picture, there is not a moment of mercy; the dark clouds and violent swells disguise any kind of relent. He struggles to get himself to shore and we feel relieved when he does. McCandless mentions in his journal that “he weeps” (35) when he is unable to find access to the sea and yet when he finds it, he is faced with this harsh brunt of nature.

B
“Then [McCandless] said,’You know, Eric, you can read about this stuff, but you can’t understand it until you live it.’” –Eric Hathaway (114)

Underlined Passage, by osiris (February 28, 2006)

The picture is of a highlighted passage in the book “On The Road” reading “for life is holy.” The picture makes a profound statement about youth; that too soon are we cast into a strange land to struggle unprepared, causing us to miss the simple truth: “life is holy.” I imagine this passage is something McCandless himself felt. His attitude called for him to throw himself into life, to witness it first hand.

What’s really ironic about this passage is that here we are trying to understand why McCandless disappeared into Alaska… from a book. The only thing the book really offers, other than McCandless’ own history, is speculation. And it will never be anything more. This passage certainly reflects our inability to read into McCandless. A book cannot tell us that life is holy, a book cannot tell us why McCandless left, and I’m sure this is a belief that Kerouac and Krakauer reveal with their writings, whether purposely or not.

C
“It is hardly unusual for a young man to be drawn to a pursuit considered reckless; engaging in risky behavior is a rite of passage in our culture no less than in most others.” (182)

Bruno’s jump, by luizaso (August 22, 2005)

The picture is of a man bungee jumping high over a city in Brazil. What we often define as extreme sports are life-risking stunts half motivated by the thrill and half motivated by our obsession with watching people put themselves in danger. I really like the cityscape in the background, a juxtaposition that easily differentiates this stunt with McCandless’. Although I feel there is something more philosophical about McCandless’ endeavor than this thrill-seeker’s jump.

This statement, in the context of this book, really caught my attention. We know he had problems with his family and that authors of such grandiose idealism influenced him heavily, but what about the thrill of proving himself? Walking into the woods with little to survive on is a grand feat if you are able to walk out, but we denounce him for his death. Do we do the same for the common thrill-seeker?

D
“The fact that I survived my Alaska adventure and McCandless did not survive his was largely a matter of chance; had I not returned from the Stikine Ice Cap in 1977, people would have been quick to say of me—as they now say of him—that I had a death wish.”
(155)

IMG_0470, by John Kazanas (April 21, 2006)

While reading Krakauer’s own story of the Devil’s Thumb, I couldn’t help remembering “Into Thin Air,” the true story of his ascent to the top of Mt. Everest and the tragedy that followed. Several members of his party had died, two of whom had been professionals and in charge of getting everyone up.

Although, these were certainly not the same circumstances, ironically Krakauer once again puts himself in harm’s way in the name of sport. This took place the same year that “Into The Wild” was released.

The act of reading is so infinitely interpretive, everyone has their take on the subject and they are, even to the slightest degree, different. I’m aware how obvious this statement sounds, but I feel I must affirm this idea in order to assure the reader this: unless your interpretation is completely different, you can never see clearly someone else’s whole interpretation.  We compromise. I feel that we fill in the blanks with our own ideas and upon finding that your interpretation is similar to another, this gives us a ‘right’ to do so. In the end, we see a conglomeration in our vision; whole, solid ideas supported and fulfilled with minute details that the reader acquires from another source. A good example; how many of us found a precise picture of what we were imagining or how many of us had to find a SIMILAR image, an image that belonged to someone else that we incorporated with our own ideas?

In a society where electronic media is so deeply ingrained, I feel that images are one of the best means of conveying an idea. We literally get to ‘show’ someone what we mean or what we interpret. In this exercise, we’ve taken our mental images and made them real. Even if insignificant to the story as a whole, we’ve offered our vision of these miniscule details to which our peers may not have given a second thought. McCandless’ struggle in Mexico was something I felt strongly directed towards. It was when I first knew that finding the wild was a mission that he could not be strayed. I also understood why he died. Yes, starvation, hubris, inadequate supplies; every speculating mind with their own opinions. (And we all know what they say about opinions…) I wonder how many other people witnessed his struggle with the sea as I did. I enjoyed how this exercise allowed me to express what stayed with me and allowed me to see others’ importance with the book.

Response #4

Response #4

a. To the desert go prophets and hermits; through deserts go pilgrims and exiles. Here the leaders of the great religions have sought the therapeutic and spiritual values of retreat, not to escape but to find reality. P. 25

http://www.flickr.com/photos/richardfrances/112651127/

This photograph is the desert landscape. With this image I wanted to show a desert that shows signs of life to emphasize that people have traversed it. Here we see tracks in the sand. I wanted an almost welcoming landscape, to show how the desert attracts a wide range of people to it.

The first quote brings its photograph a lot of meaning. With the quote we not only see life in the desert, by seeing the tracks, but we see the pilgrims and exiles in the desert as well. We can almost see people traversing the desert on foot. I wanted this photo to be a picture of the American desert, so my search was American desert. The photograph brings more meaning to the caption by putting a face on a name, we say desert, but what do we mean by desert, which desert? The photograph shows an almost majestic looking desert, and this brings more life to the caption, showing that these exiles, pilgrims, hermits, all went to the desert, attracted by its majesty. Into the Wild has no photographs, so with this photograph, we can bring meaning to what McCandless saw in the desert, majesty, mystery, perhaps, and like in the caption, the people that he read about in the works that he read, pilgrims, exiles, etc. The caption influences how we see the photograph in important ways. With the photograph alone we see a desert, traversed by a vehicle. We may find it majestic or grand, but with the caption we attribute the desert with noble qualities. We see prophets, hermits, pilgrims, exiles go through it. We see it not only as a place but as an escape, a holy place, a resting place, a refuge for the weary or lost. It almost takes on a motherly or nurturing quality as we see that many types of people go through it and to it seeking something missing in their lives. The caption contains the photograph so that we don’t see it as something perhaps evil or perilsome. The caption draws our attention to its benefits, not to its cold nights or hot days, the men who have died from its inability to sustain life. This caption, even though taken out of context, shows McCandless’ love of the wilderness and his obsession with it as we see throughout the book. We are introduced to the activities of those he idolizes, those who do venture into the wild.

d. …an unshared happiness is not happiness. P. 189

http://www.flickr.com/photos/superbohemian/131181977/

This photo shows a person in a field alone. I thought this quote was ironically appropriate because we see here someone who looks content in the wilderness alone, someone who is not sharing anything with anyone but their own self.

In the second set, the photograph is of a person standing on a rock in a field alone. He seems content with where he is. The caption is an ironic reading of the photo because we see that unshared happiness is not happiness at all, yet this guy alone in the wilderness seems happy, he seems to be standing majestically, with his hands on his hips, like he has discovered the place he is in or is triumphant about something. It is also an ironic caption because it seems contrary to what Chris McCandless would say. McCandless found the greatest happiness alone in the wilderness. By seeing this caption, we might read the person standing alone as unhappy with his state. The caption may make us ignore how the person is standing or how that person may feel and we may be swayed by the caption to presume to know how this person is feeling. Taking this quote out of context can be dangerous because it seems to be the opposite of the message Krakauer is trying to convey by telling McCandless’ story. Krakauer wants to show us an idealistic young man with high hopes and dreams of a content wilderness existence, a solitary existence, and this quote seems to show the opposite message.

“…I prefer the saddle to the streetcar and the star-sprinkled sky to a roof, the obscure and difficult trail, leading into the unknown, to any paved highway, and the deep peace of the wild to the discontent bred by cities…” P. 88

http://www.flickr.com/photos/thenaturalizer/15344064/

This photograph is a picture of a group of trees in a forest. Here I wanted to show “the unknown” the forest, the greatest unknown there seems to be. Here we see how deep we are, all we see are trees.

The third photo was meant to capture “the deep peace of the wild” posited by the caption, as well as the idea of the unknown, going into the forest to the wild unknown. This is a peaceful and joyous picture, which contrasts with the “discontent bred by cities”. I think this picture strengthens the message of the caption because of certain elements. We see light coming through the trees, which to me represents happiness or joy, natural light of the wild. We also see a thicket of trees, which represents the mystery or unknown of the wild. The picture is also peaceful, trees and sky standing tall. Like we saw in the recitation, we could see this picture as scary, the unknown aspect of the wild as being a scary aspect of it like we see in the Blair Witch Project.

‘We have in America “The Big Two-Hearted River” tradition: taking your wounds to the wilderness for a cure, a conversion, a rest, or whatever. And as in the Hemingway story, if your wounds aren’t too bad, it works. But this isn’t Michigan (or Faulkner’s big woods in Mississippi, for that matter). This is Alaska.’ P. 70

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ephd0gg/131210822/

I think this quote adds an ironic reading to this picture because here we see the Alaskan wilderness and a river. I find it ironic because we see that McCandless was looking for something in Alaska like he found in works of fiction that he read. Yet the works of fiction he read were for one fiction, and secondly, about places that served up a less harsh version of wilderness than Alaska. McCandless really didn’t come prepared for what he was facing, in the mind and body. So here we see what McCandless faced, the Alaskan wilderness, something he was not prepared for.

The fourth photograph is a picture of an Alaskan landscape. Water, mountains, trees. We see Alaska in all its wilderness. The caption I chose is an ironic reading of the photo that is grounded in the text and McCandless’ intentions with his journey to Alaska. We see in this caption that McCandless’ idols were people who were talking about Michigan or Mississippi wilderness, not Alaska. He read their works maybe expecting to find the same sort of experience they found, but chooses the wrong place, he chooses the harshest wilderness he can find that in the end doesn’t offer him a solace or rest or conversion, but lonely, painful death. He sees the Alaskan wilderness through the eyes of an idealist, through the eyes of someone who doesn’t know what is really in store for him. Someone who possibly thinks that the wilderness in the books he read was the same as the Alaskan wilderness, and ends up getting more than he bargained for.

Response #4: Into the Wild

http://www.flickr.com/photos/74269517@N00/131514681/

Uploaded on April 19, 2006

by Lucidragon

…”He seemed mad at us more often, and he became more withdrawn–no, that’s not the right word. Chris wasn’t ever withdrawn. But he wouldn’t tell us what was on his mind and spent more time by himself.”

 I chose this picture of a family without their son and only a picture of him to signify his being a part of the family, because it made me think of how Chris McCandless’s phsycial presence in his family dwindled in the last few years of his life. All that Chris’s family really had left of him in the end were pictures and memories and a deep void that can never be filled. I chose this particular caption because it almost seems contradictory. As if his mother, Billie, is in denial about his being withdrawn. I wonder what othe word she would have used to describe his behavior. McCandless’s family were waiting for some word from their son, and the impact that his actions and subsequent death had on them was ofcourse devastating. The fact that all the people in the picture are looking towards the photograph of their son/brother drove that thought home for me.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/bobby8/23615401/

Uploaded on July 4, 2005

by Bobby8

“Although the tone of the journal–written in the third person in a stilted, self-consciouness voice–often veers toward melodrama, the available evidence indicates that McCandless did not misrepresent the facts;telling the truth was a credo he took seriously.”

 The picture is actually of a flower closely related to the A. californica that is mentioned by Kraukauer in the chapter when Chris abandons his Datsun. When I first read the beginning of Chapter 4 when the flower is mentioned, and how it is extremely rare and only grows in a secluded part of the Mojave Desert, my first thought was that the flower in it’s rarety, was being compared to McCandless. In reference to the caption from the book, these qualities of always telling the truth and wanting to help the less fortunate, are rare traits to find in people, and to such an intensity.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/siberian_kiss/95996819/

Uploaded on February 5, 2006

by brojangles4

“I feel uncomfortable, as if I were intruding, a voyeur who has slipped into McCandless’s bedroom while he is momentarily away.”

This picture of the inside of an abandoned bus, and from the view of the person looking in, seemed to fit the caption from the book.  I can understand the unnerving feeling of being in the bus and seeing the relics from McCandless’s stay there. I imagine the feeling of when I was in elementary school and we’d go on field trips to historical sites, and I’d get this odd sensation when I would ponder that fact that such and such person was standing where I am standing. I know it is not the quite the same thing for Krakauer.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/kaymusings/52792567/

Uploaded on October 15, 2005

by Janenancy36

“But I believe we were similarly affected by the skewed relationships we had withour fathers.”

The picture of a father and son walking on a trail into the forest, hand in hand, was ironic because as the caption states, Krakauer draws a parallel between he and Chris’s strain relationship with their fathers. The father in the picture is holding the son’s hand, and slightly leading him off the trail. In relation to Into the Wild, I interpeted this as McCandless’s and/or Krakauer’s father trying to lead them off the path of what they want to do, and steer them towards what they deem is best for their sons. However, their sons are intent on sticking to their own wants and ambitions.

 

Synthesis:

 The impact that captions have on an image and vice versa is that they give an added piece of information that provokes the imagination and allows more questions or insights to be gained into whatever the picture and caption are about. There are so many ways to pair an image and caption and thereby manipulate or deepen the meaning of the caption. For example, the first image I chose with the family and the caption about Chris becoming more isolated from his family, the image itself is not of a family who lost a son, but actually it was a submission for a competition for the show the Amazing Race! But, when I pair the image with the caption, it takes on a different tone, although the back story is one that is comical. I guess an example of my quoting the story out-of-context, is the image with the flower and the caption about Chris’s journal. It shows how you can gain insight or make connections between two things that are separate within the story, but when put together, make sense.

Response #4

“Alex hadn’t been around machinery much,” Westerberg says with a shake of his head, “and it was pretty comical to watch him try to get the hang of the clutch and all those levers. He definitely wasn’t what you’d call mechanically minded.” (Krakauer, 62)This is a picture of some old, broken machinery. The reason I chose this image is because it is a piece of machinery, and machinery in this case is a metaphor for the modern world, which is steeped in machinery and technology. McCandless, as described in the caption, was completely lost when it came to things like machinery. This is a metaphor for the way Alex rejected the modern world, burning his money and leaving behind his possessions, in order to be closer to nature. He just wasn’t very good with things like machinery, and given a choice would rather be out canoeing or trekking around Alaska than dealing with things like machinery in the “civilized” world.

Everything had changed suddenly——the tone, the moral climate; you didn’t know what to think, whom to listen to. As if all your life you had been led by the hand like a small child and suddenly you were on your own, you had to learn to walk by yourself. There was no one around, neither family nor people whose judgment you respected. At such a time you felt the need of committing yourself to something absolute—life or truth or beauty—of being ruled by it in place of the man-made rules that had been discarded. You needed to surrender to some such ultimate purpose more fully, more unreservedly, than you had ever done in the old familiar, peaceful days, in the old life that was now abolished and gone for good.

Boris Pasternake,
Doctor Zhivago
Passage highlighted in one of the books found with Chris McCandless’s remains. (Krakauer, 103)

This is a picture of a family going home together. The reason I selected this image is because it shows the togetherness of a family—parents holding their children’s hands, everyone being together—and “family” is one of the things that Chris McCandless rejected and wanted to escape from. As for the caption, I had some difficulty selecting this one, as there was a quote from McCandless that seemed to have just as much ironic dissonance with this picture (his quote on page 64), but in the end I feel that this caption better conveys the loneliness of being by oneself. The picture represents the “old familiar, peaceful days” which are now “abolished and gone for good” in the caption; this passage seeks to find some sort of “ultimate purpose,” an “absolute,” that one must find on one’s own. And yet, for some looking at a picture like this, the “ultimate purpose” might in fact be the very thing that one would reject, namely family.

There had been a big thaw in early April, and breakup had come early in 1992, but the weather had turned cold again, so the river’s volume was quite low when McCandless crossed-probably thigh-deep at most—allowing him to splash to the other side without difficulty. He never suspected that in so doing, he was crossing his Rubicon. To McCandless’s inesperienced eye, there was nothing to suggest that two months hence, as the glaciers and snowfields at the Teklanika’s headwater thawed in the summer heat, its discharge would multiply nine or ten times in volume, transforming the river into a deep, violent torrent that bore no resemblance to the gentle brook he’d blithely waded across in April. (Krakauer, 63)This is a picture of a river in Alaska. I selected this photo because it seems like it might be deceptive, similar to the river that McCandless crossed. It appears to be shallow enough to cross easily, but it could just as easily be that in a few months once everything thaws it could rise just like the river McCandless crossed. This does indeed appear to be a “gentle brook,” that one could not even imagine becoming a “violent torrent,” but just as with the river McCandless crossed, appearances can be deceiving.

Ironically, the wilderness surrounding the bus—the patch of overgrown country where McCandless was determined “to become lost in the wild”—scarcely qualifies as wilderness by Alaska standards. … Just sixteen miles to the south, beyond an escarpment of the Outer Range, hundreds of tourists rumble daily into Denali Park over a road patrolled by the National Park Service. (Krakauer, 165)This is a picture of the Denali Park road. I selected this photo because it is a picture of a place that was so close to where McCandless was, only sixteen miles away according to the caption. Ironically, although McCandless believed himself to be far away from civilization, it was much closer than he realized. And if he had realized it, he might have been able to make it out of the Alaskan wilderness alive.

SynthesisBoth the photos and captions have a great influence on one another. The photo can have great influence on the meaning of the caption, and also on Into the Wild itself, by showing a visual related to that. In the fourth image here of the Denali Park road, actually seeing the road mentioned in the caption makes it seem even more real, and gives a feeling of just how close civilization was, even as we can clearly see the juxtaposition of civilization and wilderness in the photo itself. Captions also have great influence on the photos—just seeing a picture of a river, as in the third image above, doesn’t seem that important. But when given the weight of the caption—that such a gentle-looking stream could turn into a violent torrent of water—makes us look at the picture in a different way and wonder if such a transformation is really possible, and if so what would that look like in comparison to the current picture?

All in all, the photos and captions work together to enhance each other, and also to enhance the meaning of Into the Wild. I think that Into the Wild might have benefited from including more of the pictures that McCandless took of himself and the places he visited. Although Krakauer’s descriptions are very specific and spot-on, being able to actually see something with your own eyes has a different effect than just reading about it, just the same way as seeing a picture of the mountains in Alaska with your own eyes, or actually visiting the place, is a far different experience from reading a description of it on the page. It is the same with these photos and captions; the photos bring the captions to life, and the captions give meaning to the photos. Together, they provide much more food for thought than either could alone.

Response 4: Into the Wild

http://www.flickr.com/photos/lesec/124673194/in/set-1509355/

 “Absolute Truth and Honesty. Reality.  Independence. 

Finality—Stability—Consistency.”  -Alex

I was drawn to the simplicity of this photograph, a boat still, at sunset.  It is a very calm yet strong image.  I saw in it a sense of sincerity, of honesty.  It is very balanced although the boat is over water.  The paddles are aligned supporting each other creating this sense of stability.  The water that the boat sits on is very still and consistent while the water that lies ahead looks more dynamic.  The picture just seemed complete to me, satisfying.  When I thought of a quote in Into the Wild of an equal sense of strength I thought of the quote above.  Because the photograph looks so satisfying and complete to I thought it perfectly described “finality—stability—consistency”.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mjb/129603364/in/photostream/

“The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure”   -Alex

This is a photograph of a memorial of three statues of men standing in a row; the photographer might have cropped the other part of the memorial.  This image of three sullen, sad, conforming men drew my attention because it was the opposite of the ideal state that a person should be in according to Alex.  They capture this strong emotion in them.  They seem dissatisfied with their lives, yet they are still conforming to them.  None of them has his eyes open.  As if they were blinded into conforming to their conventional lives.  Because it is a close up picture, the person on the right seems as if he is about to pass the medium of time.  The next man is awaiting his turn to live the same mundane life without even allowing his instinct to lure him away from his predicated path.   I choose this caption because I wanted to create a sense of irony stemming from these men’s ignorance of their true spirit.  I guess they do not have a living spirit because they have suppressed their passion for adventure indicated by the unwillingness to even look around.  They are portrayed walking with their eyes are fixated on the ground crushing any spirit of curiosity, let alone adventure. 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/pierrefrancoise/129380815/

“When I lay down to sleep, I was overcome by a wrenching loneliness.  I’d never felt so alone, ever.” –Krakauer 

This is a picture of a park in Italy.  The photograph is taken when the park is empty and elicits a feeling of loneliness.  I chose it because it captures a still, lonely moment in time.  No movement is seen in the photograph, it is a subtle yet deep loneliness.  When I see it I feel, as if the bench closest to the camera is the lonely one because it is not aligned vertically like the rest of the benches.  My attention is drawn to this bench because it is different in a way from the other benches.  Even the tree which lies next to it does not form a shadow with the other trees.  The bench is lonely and it knows it’s lonely.  The whole park is lonely because no one is there.  No movement is captured in this photo, which instills a feeling of loneliness.  Furthermore, the choice of making it black and white distances the viewer from the photograph.  These feelings of loneliness that are elicited by the photograph are why I chose this photo instead of other ones.  The other photographs I have encountered in this website do not have this sense of stillness in the photo which I desired.  I chose this particular quote because it is a personal quote which spoke about Krakauer’s loneliness at that particular moment in time.  I don’t think that Krakauer is always lonely, only at that moment.  Likewise, the park and the bench in the park are not always lonely—only at that particular moment. 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mosredna/129362717/

“Actually, I just climbed the Devils Thumb.  I’ve been over here twenty days.”  -Krakauer

This is a photograph of a young man on a small hill.  He seems to feel in control and confident.  The place looks spooky somewhat devilish.  I choose this caption because I wanted it to seem easy to climb the Thumb.  The steps that this man took to climb this small hill seem effortless, nothing to be proud of.  I wanted to show that Krakauer’s achievement here is not really great in the spiritual sense, but I wanted to show that literally.  It’s ironic because this small climbable hill is no Devils Thumb yet the guy on top of it feels that it is just as glory worthy.  In this same sense Krakauer’s climb to the Devil’s Thumb did not provide any spiritual satisfaction although he thought it would. 

Synthesis: When I added a quote to a picture it added more meaning to it, at the same time it narrowed the meaning of it to the one I specified within the quote.  The photograph slightly narrowed the meaning of the caption.  Fore example, since the photograph of the boat is simple, it made it seem that the absolute truth is simple, that finality stability and consistency is found in simplicity and in nature, by not disturbing nature.  In a larger scale this photograph influenced into the wild by giving the adventure a peaceful sense.  The adventurer (represented by the boat) did not seek to disturb the wild–only be in it.  In return, the quote shifted the attention to the deeper meaning of the photograph.  It downplayed the consideration of it as a representation of a beautiful scene, or the appreciation of the aesthetic beauties of it.  The caption in this photograph draws our attention to the sense of balance in the photograph, the stillness of it as a representation of the quote. 

When I quoted Into the Wild out of context it still in a way highlighted the main point that of the paired quote.  Actually, it might have highlighted what I thought that the quote meant.  It did so through showing it in the opposite light.  For example, the photograph of the statues paired with the quote about the man’s true spirit highlights their suppressed spirit.  It emphasizes their spiritual and emotional state.  It does not focus the attention on the social status (which is clearly low) nor does it emphasize their aging, or the time period they live in.  Thus, the apparent irony of the photographs only focuses the attention of the viewer to the specific aspect of the picture that I thought was important.

A Picture’s Worth: Response #4

Picture 1: an old man lost in thought.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/littleboyfound/121066646/in/set-715335/

Uploaded on March 31, 2006

by Littleboyfound

“When Alex left for Alaska, I prayed.  I asked God to keep his finger on the shoulder of that one; I told him that boy was special.  But he let Alex die.  So on December 26, when I learned what happened, I renounced the Lord.  I withdrew my church membership and became an atheist.  I decided I couldn’t believe in a God who would let something that terrible happen to a boy like Alex.”  (p60)

This photograph shows an older gentlemen deep in contemplation.  The quote that the picture matches was so vivid and tragic to me that I had to find a picture to go along with it.  Franz, the old man, wound up being such a sad figure of hope in the novel to me: he had nothing for so long, then found Alex, whom he considered like a son.  When Alex sent him his last letter imploring him to abandon his life and go out on the road, Franz, so enamored with Alex’s personality, chose to actually do so.  The picture depicts the thoughts that Franz may have had when deciding to leave the church: if you look closely, you can actually see prayer beads in the old man’s hands. Ultimately, Alex and Franz are alike in several ways.  They both can be impulsive and rash, and make irrational decisions, and make huge changes in their lives without thinking about the consequences.
Picture 2: Beat up.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/stoneth/117109413/

Uploaded on March 24, 2006

by Stoneth

“Can this be the same Alex that set out in July, 1990?  Malnutrition and the road have taken their toll on his body.  Over 25 pounds lost.  But his spirit is soaring.” (p37)

This quote simply jumps off the page when I read it.  It seems to capture Alex’s state of mind perfectly and lets the reader know that despite his ailments, at least at this point, he is still finding all his troubles worthwhile.  The reality, of course, is that he was found dead in his sleeping bag, starved to death.  I feel that this picture embodies the ironic truth of Alex’s condition: despite his philosophical ruminations and the transcendental state he felt he was in, he couldn’t transcend the fact of hunger and the ravages of the wild. The man’s face (who happens to be homeless) is simply trashed by his existence, and the grimace on his face might denote happiness or madness.
Picture 3: A post in the sea, surrounded by fog.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ichor/129760324/

Uploaded April 16, 2006

by Ichor

“When his camera was ruined and McCandless stopped taking photographs, he also stopped keeping a journal, a practice he didn’t resume until he went to Alaska the next year.  Not a great deal is known, therefore, about where he traveled after departing Las Vegas in May 1991.”  (p38)

Despite all that we know about McCandless through his letters, the people he met, and the speculation of professional mountain climbers / writers, there is so much that we do not.  He is still a mystery to me at least, and when the assistance that he provides us from beyond the grave is gone (namely, his journal and pictures), we are left at a loss.  He seemed so free and unencumbered by life that he literally could have done anything in that period and not have been out of character.  I chose this photo because it both embodies the mystery of this missing time from our McCandless timeline and it metaphorically represents the hazy, aimless goals that Alex may or may not have had for himself.

Picture 4: One fat happy baby and his family.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/lilli/100700873/ 

Uploaded February 16, 2006

by Spinderella1000

“It’s somewhat surprising that Chris ceded to pressure from Walt and Billie about attending college when he refused to listen to them about so many other things.  But there was never a shortage of apparent contradictions in the relationship between Chris and his parents.”  (p115)

Chris McCandless had a terrible relationship with his parents, and he did the unthinkable: he completely deserted them without warning or consideration.  He may have hated his parents, but he also abandoned his beloved sister.  The photo, by contrast, shows a happy homely couple with their laughing baby.  This is ironic in part because of the testy relationship that developed between McCandless and his parents, but it may in part be appropriate because it recalls a time when the family was happy together.  I can only assume Chris didn’t hate his folks from the womb and that he learned his distaste later on in his life.  Lastly, the fat baby in the photo stands in direct contrast to Chris’ characterization of “hungry” throughout the entirety of the book.

Synthesis: I really enjoyed exploring the two different worlds of photography and creative writing.  The most interesting thing was being able to explore and find new interpretations of text which I would have never attempted or thought of without this assignment.  Oftentimes when reading, I develop a mental image in my mind of the subject at hand: oftentimes I am severely disappointed by an adaptation of a book to another form (say, a movie or a play), because I had such a strong idea of what it should be like.  By finding photos that aren’t attempting to replicate exactly the original idea, however, the similarities are more readily noticed and the differences (from where their photos diverge from the text or from my ideas of the text) are not as important.

In terms of quotes, I didn’t really knock myself out thinking of captions, but the quotes themselves do a wonderful job of describing the photos (not only mine, but all of these).  By taking the quote out of context, we run the risk of deceiving the reader which will in turn alienate them, but this may be worth it to the novelist to make the story more exciting or attract more readers to his story.

Response #4

A) http://www.flickr.com/photos/borghetti/123076979/

“It is easy, when you are young, to believe that what you desire is no less than what you deserve, to assume if you want something badly enough, it is your god given right to have it.” (John Krakauer, Into the Wild, 155)

The photo I have chosen is of a man in a prison who seems lost at the bottom of an endless cell. I chose this because I felt it describes exactly what Krakauer was trying to say to the reader. He says that he climbed the mountain in hopes of it changing his life and in the end he truly gained nothing from the experience. In the same sense Chris McCandless is also gaining nothing on all the random adventures he sends himself on, instead he just continually gets more and more lost. For the sake of my argument lets assume that the man in the photo robbed a bank because he felt he deserved the money, but in the end he got nothing except an undefined amount of time spent in prison. In other words the actions one may take in order to pursue one’s desires or as Krakauer says “god given rights,” may end up harming oneself or as in the case of Chris Mccandless’ might possibly end up being fatal.

B) http://www.flickr.com/photos/rivello/130503459/

“You are wrong if you think joy emanates only or principally from human relationships. God has placed it all around us. It is in everything and anything we might experience.” (Chris Mccandless, Into the Wild, 57)

this quote is from a line in a letter that Chris wrote to Ron in which he tells him to give up all his worldly possessions and basically go into a life of asceticism. I chose this photo because I feel that it exemplifies what Chris means by his statement that joy can be found in any thing. the man in the photo has his hands raised as he looks out onto the sunny beach. The area where the photo is shot seems to me to look mostly desolate and from what I gather the man is completely enjoying his surroundings. I feel that is the same sort of enjoyment that Chris got from his experiences out in the wilderness. He loved to be somewhere that he felt nobody else was or would be. As he says he found joy in every thing natural that God put around him.

C) http://www.flickr.com/photos/18759075@N00/131072010/

“DEATH LOOMS AS SERIOUS THREAT. TOO WEAK TO WALK OUT, HAVE LITERALLY BECOME TRAPPED IN THE WILD.” (Chris Mccandless, Into the Wild, 195)

The photo depicts a fire hydrant in the middle of the forest. I chose this to go along with that passage because this is what I think of his depiction of being trapped in the wild. If by wild he means in a bus 6 miles north of a park ranger outpost then this fire hydrant is just as wild as a bear. I see it as Chris must have had some sort of death wish to give up so easily as to just accept that he can’t move anymore and just lay down and accept death. If he truly wanted to live nobody would have found him in a bus inside of a sleeping bag.

D) http://www.flickr.com/photos/riel/100277853/

“My father’s faith in this blueprint was unshakable. It was, after all, the path he had followed to prosperity.”
(John Krakauer, Into the Wild, 148)

this is a photo of a syringe laying next to some cigarettes in a trash can. I chose this because he refers to his father as successful in this passage when later on in this section we read that he ends up completely addicted to drugs and eventually in a mental institute. it seems to me that the impression he had of his father throughout his childhood lead him to make some poor decisions early in life and he ended up going down his father’s path fairly quickly. this shows some of the mistakes they both made. He obviously smoked though I do not know if he still does, and his father fell into hard drugs which eventually lead to his down fall.

(synthesis)
Though the photo may influence how we look at the caption placed below it and in turn how we look at Into the Wild as a whole, I feel it is the image that is effected by the caption more so than the text. But this I feel exemplifies how Krakauer’s choices of what to include in the book effects how we look at the story as a whole. Just as how the image I chose with the boy outside of the cave and the caption about how God places joy all around us may force us to look deeper into that image, Krakauer’s inclusion of misquoted material from James Joyce forces us to look at Alex/Chris in a different way. There are probably hundreds of captions from the book that we could use to describe a number of pictures on here, just as there are many quotes he could have chosen to explain what Chris was going through. But he chose them for a specific reason and also to push our opinion in a certain direction. Just as I took a fire hydrant that is out in the middle of nowhere and used it to make Chris seem week or foolish, I also took the image of the cave and made him look philosophical. This assignment made me truly question Krakauer as the one conveying this story. It made understand that even though he feels Chris was in some way a great person, honestly nobody really knows what his intentions were. It could have easily been that Chris was just foolish and didn’t know what to expect. It just goes to show you, you can’t always believe what you read.

Into the wild of Flickr

A) Uploaded March 24, 2006 by Stuart_aka_stu_macgoo

Inside the Microwave 2

A) Uploaded March 24, 2006 by Stuart_aka_stu_macgoo

“I opened the microwave, and the bottom of it was filled with rancid grease. Alex had been using it to cook chicken, and it never occurred to him that the grease had to drain somewhere. It wasn’t that he was too lazy to clean it up – Alex always kept things real neat and orderly – it was just that he hadn’t noticed the grease.” – Wayne Westerberg (63)

This is a photograph of a man with a surprised expression on his face as he looks into a microwave. I had found other images that actually displayed grease in the bottom of a microwave, but I thought it would be more interesting to focus on what Westerberg’s face might have looked like when he found the mess. I feel that this is an important scene to portray because it exhibit’s Alex’s lack of common sense. Westerberg’s astonishment that Alex – whom he thought of as hard working, clean, and intelligent – could be clumsy enough to not notice grease, solidifies the notion that Alex definitely had shortcomings.

canoe.jpg

Pam Climbs

B) Uploaded April 2, 2006 by Engineered Photography

“I though he’d be fine in the end. He was smart. He’d figured out how to paddle a canoe down to Mexico, how to hop freight trains, how to score a bed at inner-city missions. He figured all of that out on his own, and I felt sure he’d figure out Alaska too.” – Jan Burres (46)

This picture shows a woman being helped over a wall that is covered in advertisements in front of an empty canoe. I selected this image because the canoe and the wall with the names of corporations on it intrigued me. The caption lists many of the things that Alex did on his own as part of his adventure and rejection of societal superficialities. There is a rich amount of irony in the juxtaposition of this image and Jan Burres’ quote. The picture can be used to represent a rejection of commercial/capital life as it depicts a person climbing over a wall or obstacle adorned with commercial advertisements, which parallels Alex’s adventure and resentment. There is a definite dissonance between the image and text: Alex was insistent that he accomplish his adventure alone, the woman in the picture is receiving help from several people. Furthermore, Alex was set on using his canoe to find an opening to the ocean as part of his “mission,” the woman in the photograph has, ostensibly, abandoned her canoe and gotten help from people who are diverse enough that they could be a cross sectional representation of society. The message of this photo in alignment with this caption might be that Alex may have had more luck working with society than against it.

plain guitar.jpg

A-hole

C) Uploaded on March 31, 2006 by scienceduck

“Walt bought Billie a Gianni guitar, on which she strummed lullabies to soothe the fuzzy newborn. Twenty-two years later, rangers from the National Park Service would find that same guitar on the backseat of a yellow Datsun abandoned near the shore of Lake Mead” (106).

This is an image of the front of an acoustic guitar on a black background. I chose this picture because the guitar is a tangible and personal item that McCandless has had since birth and takes with him on his adventure. It connects his “normal” life, before he resented society and his family, to his outlandish journey. Obviously, Flickr has an astronomical amount of guitar pictures; I chose this one because it has a nebulous background, much like the life of McCandless’ guitar seemed to follow an uncertain path, as described in the caption. Additionally, the guitar is important because – more so than the guitar – it represents McCandless’ rejection of his former self: it is something he has had throughout his life, as Chris, but leaves in the Datsun as he becomes Alex.

emory.jpg

Emory Univ

D) Uploaded January 6, 2006 by xinmincat

“…But he had been smitten by the vastness of the land, by the ghostly hue of glaciers, by the pellucid subarctic sky. There was never any question that he would return. During his senior year at Emory, Chris lived off campus in his bare, spartan room furnished with milk crates and a mattress on the floor” (124).

This is a photo of an opulent marble building at Emory University whose windows reflect the beginning of a forest under a vast blue sky. This is by far my favorite of the images that I found for this assignment. The caption discusses McCandless’ return to Emory after road tripping to Alaska the previous summer. It seems that even while at Emory, Chris was anxious to go into the wild and even began living a solitary and somewhat dismal life while still at college. The image is inherently ironic: it depicts a decadent building at Emory, which Chris felt resentment toward, but the windows reflect trees and wilderness, which he longed for. There is also the obvious irony that Chris was living in a room “furnished with milk crates” while attending classes at this prestigious university.

Synthesis)

An applicable (or even seemingly inapplicable) photograph can have a profound meaning on captions from, and the totality of, Into the Wild. While searching for images, many times I had in mind exactly what I wanted the pictures to look like, but during the search found photos that opened the text in ways I had not seen before. An example of this is the photo of Emory University that I used. I had intended to simply find a picture of Emory and discuss the contrast between the lavish college McCandless attended and the rugged journey he chose to take. However, when I found the picture of the building reflecting trees, I began to analyze and try to empathize with Alex’s experience at Emory his senior year and how he dealt with the desire to head north.
A photograph and caption definitely have a mutually causal relationship. When I was browsing photos, I tried to ignore given captions, knowing that they would probably hinder my ability to apply them to parts of Into the Wild. Likewise, after assigning my chosen photos captions, it is hard to see them in any other light besides corresponding to parts of McCandless’ life. This is particularly true of the photo I used to describe when Alex left grease in the microwave. The man’s face in the pictures could be in response to anything, however, I have designated it as definitely being Westerberg upon seeing Alex’s mess. Conversely, this influences the way I see Westerberg’s appearance and immediate reaction, which was not vividly described by Krakauer.
Because of the breadth of Into the Wild, it is very easy to quote it out of context. At the same time, however, many elements of story seem to be asserted, as they are, out of context. This presents an interesting paradox that leads me to believe that, within reason, it is healthy to explore a variety of meanings for much of the story’s content.