Into the Wild Ending, Explained

June 24, 2020
5 min read

Into the Wild‘ is a movie unlike any other that you might have seen. Classifying it under the genre of road-trip films would do it a gross injustice. On the other hand, labeling it a film about self-discovery would equally stunt its potential. It is one of those few movies that compel viewers to radically change the way they look at life. It is a cinematic celebration.

Written, produced, and directed by Sean Penn, ‘Into the Wild’ is based on a non-fiction book of the same name by Jon Krakauer. The movie received widespread critical acclaim and was nominated for a couple of Academy Awards: Best Editing and Best Supporting Actor. The lead character is essayed by Emile Hirsch. Some of the other cast members include Kristen Stewart, Hal Holbrook, Marcia Gay Harden, and Vince Vaughn.

Into The Wild Plot Summary:

‘Into The Wild’ revolves around Christopher McCandless, a young man who has chosen to live a solitary life in the wild. In Alaska, he lives in an abandoned bus which he calls “the magic bus” and hunts wild animals for food, passing his time by reading books and writing about his experiences. Then, the movie takes viewers two years back in time. McCandless has graduated from Emory University. However, he does not tell his parents about his plans. McCandless comes from a troubled home. He donates all his savings to Oxfam and sets out on his journey to live a nomadic life.

McCandless has to abandon his car after it gets destroyed in a flood and is forced to hitchhike. He takes up a new name: Alexander Supertramp. He meets Jan Burres and Rainey: a hippie couple in Northern California and helps them rekindle their love. Then, in Dakota, he works for a harvesting company.

He kayaks in the Colorado river despite not having permission to do so. Then, McCandless paddles all the way to Mexico but his paddleboat gets lost in a dust storm. He is forced to return to the United States however and goes to Los Angeles. But he starts to feel corrupted by civilization and society and leaves. He gets beaten by the railroad police when he takes a freight train and is forced to continue hitchhiking.

He meets Jan and Rainey again who stay in a trailer park. After spending some time, he leaves again to go to Alaska. He meets an aged man named Ron Franz who tells him about losing his family in an accident. After spending some time together, Franz grows close to him. He offers to adopt McCandless as his grandchild, but he refuses.

In Alaska, he starts to find it difficult to sustain. The water body he crossed has become harsher due to the summer. He starts to collect plants to eat as a measure of desperation but mistakes one kind of plant for another. It turns out that the plant he eats is poisonous and McCandless slowly dies. He writes a farewell message: “I have had a happy life and thank the lord. Goodbye and may God bless all!” He uses the name “Christopher Johnson McCandless” in the message. The movie ends with a picture of the real McCandless and an epilogue message informing audiences that his body was found by moose hunters a couple of weeks later.

Into The Wild Ending, Explained:

Several viewers might have wondered what the ending of ‘Into the Wild’ signifies. Well, before diving into the significance of the ending, it ought to be noted that the movie is based on true events, and hence, stays close to actual facts and how Christopher Johnson McCandless’s life actually ended. Hence, there is not much attempt at purposeful meaning-making. But there’s still a lot to unpack.

Towards the end of the film, flashes of people who have played a crucial role in McCandless’s journey are shown just before he dies. This depicts how McCandless finally realizes that “happiness can only be shared” and that it is all about people. McCandless remembers how the best parts of his journey have been ones wherein he has interacted with other people. Yet, the more meaningful bit of the ending is McCandless’s message towards the ending. He writes “Christopher Johnson McCandless,” his birth name and not “Alexander Supertramp.” This signifies how he has finally moved over his troubled childhood and is ready to return to his family. McCandless adopting the name “Supertramp” was him attempting to distance himself from his family.

Hence, towards the end, McCandless finally realizes that he cannot be happy with a solitary life. He realizes that he must forgive his parents in order to move on and live a happy life. He realizes that, at the end of the day, his parents are also flawed human beings who require love, affection, and attention.

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