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An Analysis and Comparison of The Characters of Chris Mccandless and Tim O'brien in into The Wild and The Things They Carried

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Into the wild is about a young man name Chris McCandless otherwise known as Alex, who is a transcendental. In the beginning of the book, Alex grew up in a very puritanical family but Alex becomes rebellious and transcendentalism as he runs away from his family and his life as Christopher McCandless. Alex growing up in the 1980s created a different outlook on life because at this time, there weren’t too many people who were rebellious. No one (overall) was really transcendental. Alex was the first modern day Transcendental hero. Around this time people were still living by puritan beliefs so it was very unlikely and unheard of for a person to go and do all of the things Alex had done. When Alex was floating down the river he was romantic. He knew he wasn’t suppose to do it, he could’ve turned around and went home, but when he did this, he enjoyed it and didn’t care too much of the consequences. Chris wasn’t completely out of it, he went to college, maintain almost perfect grades, never partied and made the mistakes teenagers usually make, and he was very focused on the things he wanted to obtain in life. He lived by, “If you want something in this life, reach out and grab it.” Alex made many mistakes as everyone does in life, but unlike many people who give up on the things they want or are afraid to go after what they want because they’re afraid of what society will say, Alex wasn’t. He went after everything he wanted and would not let anyone tell him otherwise.

In chapter 11, his family mentions, “always trying to pull him away from the edge.” In chapters 4 and 5 Alex gets arrested, visits Arizona, goes to Mexico, spends a night in jail, and quits his job at McDonalds because they made him wear socks, and not once did Alex show any regret in running away. Chapters 7 and 8 show how Alex is a romantic as he builds many close relationships with the people he comes in contact with. Although it is easy for him to let go and move on from these people’s lives, he is attached because he tells them he will come back when he comes back from Alaska. I believe Alex meets realism when he comes to reality that everything can’t go as he plans and he begins dying. When Westberg tells Alex that he can buy him a plane ticket to Fairbanks to work a little longer and make it Alaska by the end of April, Alex tells him, “No, I want to hitch north. Flying would be cheating. It would wreck the whole trip.” Alex claiming that this is cheating and him wanting to do things on his own, proves Alex is transcendental. At the end is where Alex puritanical and realism side comes out when he signs his name one last time and as Chris McCandless. At this moment, he wants life. He wants his life back.

The Thing They Carried is about Tim O’Brien, a young man who is very puritanical and represents realism and rational beliefs. Tim O’Brien grew up in a puritanical family, graduating from high school and attending college. Tim receives a letter that he must take place fighting in a war. Tim O’Brien is not happy at all when he hears of this. He doesn’t want to fight in war because he feel he is too good for war. Tim O’Brien claimed to be too good for war because he is smart and because he hated camping out. Due to Tim’s puritanical beliefs and fear of having to be looked down upon, he fights in war. Tim is very fortunate to have survived the war, but in his mind he is dead. He suffers deeply because of the things he had to see and the things he had to do, which only makes him cry. Tim was rational because of the reasons he had for not deserving to be forced into fighting in war. To some, Tim’s reasons may seem ridiculous and make him sound foolish or even fearful, but Tim’s reasons were pretty reasonable and understanding. He felt certain blood was being shed for uncertain reasons. He saw no unity of purpose, no consensus on matters of philosophy or history or law. He felt war just wasn’t necessary and could really damage lives because once people are dead, you can’t make them undead. Tim is stating everything that every man who went to war can’t express themselves. No matter how strong men act when they return home from war, deep down inside they are damaged and weak. O’Brien was running away from his life that is too complicated to cope with. In many ways, these reasons were very good reasons to do so.

Alex and Tim were very alike in many ways but also very different. Alex was running away from the life he didn’t want while Tim was holding tight to the life he had to leave. Alex and Tim are both puritanical as they worked hard in high school and college, shaping them into intelligent young men. Alex had the life he didn’t want but Tim wanted, which was freedom, to finish college, and live a great life having great fortune. Alex wanted the truth, while Tim had experienced the truth which is reality at war. Alex and Tim both kept their feelings inside and never spoke up about how they felt about their situations to their families. They just decided to deal with the lives they were given and to cope with it which way they felt was best.

Tim had a choice to not fight in war and flee to a different country (which would have resulted in consequences eventually), but the puritanical beliefs in him made him do what he KNEW was “right” so he went to war. Alex was the exact opposite, he didn’t follow his puritanical beliefs, he went rebelled against everything and everyone and did what he FELT was right. Tim survived his battle and physically survived but mentally didn’t which is why he is emotionally damaged. Alex didn’t survive his battle and remains emotionally damaged because he never got to discuss it all with his parents and by then it is too late. Alex was who Tim wish he could have been. He wished he could have been as rebellious as Alex to say no to war and express his beliefs As you can see, the two are very alike but still remain somewhat different. Alex is the transcendental young man that Tim couldn’t find the strength to be. Tim was the puritanical, rational young man Alex refused to be. Both young men came to reality at the end of their wars and became realistic in which they thought.

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An Analysis and Comparison of the Characters of Chris McCandless and Tim O’Brien in Into the Wild and The Things They Carried. (2018, October 26). GradesFixer. Retrieved November 29, 2022, from
“An Analysis and Comparison of the Characters of Chris McCandless and Tim O’Brien in Into the Wild and The Things They Carried.” GradesFixer, 26 Oct. 2018,
An Analysis and Comparison of the Characters of Chris McCandless and Tim O’Brien in Into the Wild and The Things They Carried. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 Nov. 2022].
An Analysis and Comparison of the Characters of Chris McCandless and Tim O’Brien in Into the Wild and The Things They Carried [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2018 Oct 26 [cited 2022 Nov 29]. Available from:
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