Family: Blood is More Complicated than Water
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Family is not only what brings one into the world but is much, much more. Family has an immense power in the life of an individual, they shape, mold, and influence the way in which an individual grows into an adult. There is the saying that ‘blood is thicker than water’ meaning that blood relatives: parents, brothers or sisters, aunt or uncles will be there when friends or acquaintances will not. This idea that family is the only real and reliable source in one’s life also ties into the fact these people should be held close and respected. Even so, in the book, Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, the main character, Chris McCandless and his father Walt have a seriously strained relationship. Neither is their relationship one of simple issues, it is a relationship based off of complications, misunderstandings and secrecy to some degree. Another example of this strained relationship with parents comes with the punk rockers, such as Jim Lindberg, who were featured in the film, The Other “F” Word.
In this film men of the punk sub-culture discuss their relationships with their fathers, or lack of for that matter, and in turn connect their complicated father-son relationships to their need to find movement like that of the punks to fit into. Walt and Chris did not have the best relationship; in fact, the two regularly held clashing views on subjects such as the idea of success. The strained and complicated relationship between Chris and his father led him to live a life of non-conformity in an attempt to fill a void in his understanding of himself that was left by the lack of mutual growth with his father and the silent rejection of his father’s influence and molding. Similarly, Lindberg was drawn towards his respective non-conformist subculture, the Punks, in order to fill in the missing experiences of acceptance and family in his life.
Fathers and sons usually share similar views however, in the case of Walt McCandless and his son, Chris, their life values and personal priorities differed and this became a large factor in the cause of their strained relationship. Towards the middle of the story, Krakauer begins to delve into Chris’ reasoning for resenting his father in which he says, “After Chris unearthed the particulars of Walt’s divorce, two years passed before his anger began to leak to the surface, but leak it eventually did. The boy could not pardon the mistakes his father had made as a young man, and he was even less willing to pardon the attempt at concealment. He later declared to Carine and others Walt and Billie’s deception made his ‘entire childhood seem like a fiction’ “ (Krakauer 122-123). This is a demonstration of the largest complication of the relationship between Walt and his son. In this instance, Walt bore Chris with a second woman, Billie, whilst still being married to his first wife.
This caused a boiling anger in Chris and really shines light on how there is a possibility that Walt was a bit careless with his children. Even so, it is also a possibility that Walt could have just been protecting his child from the truth and this shows the two sides of Walt that are eventually revealed in the book. On one hand, Walt is contrasting and difficult with others and on the other hand he is understanding and a bit sympathetic towards his family at time. Another example of Walt’s apparent conflicting personalities comes as the author is describing Walt and his son’s leaving’s affect on him in which he says “Walt is accustomed to calling the shots. Taking control is something he does unconsciously, reflexively… When Walt talks, people listen… After Chris gave everybody the slip in 1990, something changed in Walt. His son’s disappearance scared and chastened him. A softer, more tolerant side of his personality came to the fore” (Krakauer 105). Walt is portrayed as a stern, stubborn, a possibly even difficult person to acquaint with.
By showing his overbearing nature and then showing the change to the “softer, more tolerant side” of his persona it adds even more drama to the effect Chris’ leaving actually had on his father. This large and virtually life-changing event for Walt gives the reader an insight on just how much Chris might have meant to his father. Based upon his father’s dramatic personality change, it is evident and can easily be deduced that to Walt, his son actually did mean the world to him even if he was not always able to express it to Chris. This is a prime example of a father-son relationship because of the fact that it demonstrates how Walt actually did love his son, very much but his lack of expression drove his son away and eventually personally crippled him for doing so. This further portrays a complicated relationship because of the fact that Walt at first seems very cold and stern yet ends up being very vulnerable and sensitive. Even so, Chris never saw the softer side of his father, which came out, after his slipping off and it is because of the lack of his father’s sensitivity that pushed Chris into a need for the wilderness.
Throughout history, there has been numerous counter-cultures and non-conformists, Chris McCandless included; this particular nonconformist believed in the idea that to truly live, one must leave society, leave the norms, and live off the wilderness. Chris’ idea of living off the wild and living in the wild comes with an idea he gained through his readings of Henry Davis Thoureau. This idea constituted the fact that one needs to live off the bare essentials and this is what Chris tried to do as shown as he first enters the wilderness and “His gear seemed exceedingly minimal for the harsh conditions of the interior… His rifle was only .22 caliber, a bore too small to rely on if he expected to kill large animals… he had no ax, no bug dope, no snowshoes, no compass” (Krakauer 5). To many others, this apparent unpreparedness was just an act of stupidity, but to Chris it was just what he was looking for. To Chris, having as little as possible and truly having the need to rely on the wild is what helps him find himself. Going into the wild he is looking for himself, looking to fill the missing inspiration and influence of his father with that of the wild.
One of the inspiring factors of Thoreau’s for Chris was the idea that society wasn’t the best aspects of life that is describes in an highlighted excerpt from his book Walden that Chris had with him at his time of death which reads “Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth. I sat at a table where were rich food and wine in abundance, but sincerity and truth were not. The hospitality was as cold as ices” (Krakauer 117). In this, Thoreau was basically saying that even with all the material wealth, personal and family values are still more important. The same applies to Chris, he grew up into decent money, he was a great capitalist himself, he had a college education and even so, none of it was truly enough for his spirit. Chris wanted more. He wanted a family that was there for him to support him, one that was not hostile towards his ideas and one that loved him indefinitely. Although his father did love him very much, he did not show it and it is this lack of love that Chris diverted away from. Chris yearned for a sense of fitting in and a sense of comfort, which he found eventually found, as he walked into the wild.
Just as Chris’ complications with his father drove him into the wild in search of a place of comfort, true followers of the Punk movement similarly used their dissatisfaction with their fathers as support and reasoning for beginning a search for a place to fit in. In the movie, one of the prominent voices of the Punk movement said the movement was a place where misfits fit together and were accepted no matter what and a place where being different from societies idea of normal was the norm (Andrea Nevins). Coming from a strong advocate of the Punk movement, it is clear to see that this subculture was a place a safe haven to those who did not see the world as the masses did. Not everyone fit in and those who did not were ridiculed in the conformist society of the time and just like Walt who various times was disappointed with Chris and his life choices, society itself was disappointed with the life choices of the Punks. It is this disappointment that eventually led to their breaking away into their own safe havens and own worlds.
In addition, Jim Lindberg, another prominent voice of the Punk movement stated that people are “promised the American Dream, but given a nightmare” (Andrea Nevins). At this time, the American Dream consisted of a perfect and orderly family and by stating that people are given a nightmare, Lindberg relates back onto his family and takes his own experiences and shows how he himself and many others like him did not come home to orderly households or families. Like Chris, Lindberg’s parents were not the best or most supportive which becomes evident as he states that he was given a nightmare instead of the ideal family associated with the American Dream. Also, similar to Chris who was not born into hardship, Lindberg was born into a decent family in a beautiful beachside neighborhood and even so, because of his difficulties with his parents and his father specifically felt the need to break away and find a new sense of belonging somewhere else. In his case, Lindberg found that belonging in the form of the Punk Rock Movement.
Jim Lindberg was not the only Punk who diverted away from their families because of family issues, another similarity to Chris is shown through Duane Peters, a band member of the US Bombs. As Peters is describing his parenthood and the parents he had he states that “Our dads weren’t there” (Andrea Nevins). Although this case is a bit more extreme than that of McCandless’ it still demonstrates how fathers are an immensely important part in an individual’s life and that without them and their influence, acceptance, or support, a child may find the need to search for those aspects in life through other outlets such as music or nature. Because Peters still opted to join a movement to find a better fit because of the absence of his father, it is obvious that parents, fathers especially play a part in their children’s future and their life choices.
Chris McCandless was not only a man who diverted away from his father and foolishly went into the wild; he was much, much more. To many he was just an ill-prepared and overly idealistic young man who got what was coming to him when he went into the Alaskan wilderness but there is a moral behind his life story and choices. To put it briefly, the fact that his father’s actions directly affected his future life choices shows a lot about the relationships between fathers and their sons and the importance of fathers in an individual’s life. In this essay it has not been said that having a strained relationship with one’s father will indefinitely lead to non-conformity like that of McCandless or Lindberg. Rather, what truly has been stated is the fact that a father plays an important role in the lives of his children and that the choices a father makes in raising his children greatly influences their future life choices. Basically, it is important to be unlike Walt McCandless and the fathers of Jim Lindberg and Duane Peters who did not show their children much affection or were not present at all; instead one should be supportive, loving and express the true care just as any other father should.
Krakauer, Jon. Into the Wild. New York: Anchor, 1997. Print.
The Other “F” Word. Dir. Andrea B. Nevins. Perf. Jim Lindberg and Art Alexakis. Rare Bird Films, 2011. DVD.