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Barr 1 Will Barr Emre Koyuncu English 106 24 October 2011 Into the Wild with Timothy Treadwell and Christopher McCandless

Have you ever wanted to escape from the reality of our modern society? Have you ever considered running away from your problems? Timothy Treadwell and Christopher McCandless are two perfect examples of men who ventured far from the modern world and lived among the barren Alaskan Wilderness. Both Christopher McCandless and Timothy Treadwell see the open wilderness as a place of freedom and a way to escape past problems and society all together. Though they both seek nature for similar purposes; Timothy interacts with the local Alaskan wildlife as other human beings while Christopher sees the animals as a potential threat or a source of food. They each have their own qualities about themselves that set them apart from each other. Their childhood’s effect on their lives, what they each had to sacrifice, Timothy’s childlike behavior compared to Christopher’s manly personality, and how they both ended their journeys tragically, are just some of the few things they don’t have in common. Treadwell and McCandless both generally had a typical American childhood, yet Timothy’s struggles growing up and Christopher’s family troubles had ultimately overcome their lives at some point. They both approached their problems in similar manner, by escaping to Alaska, but Timothy had to find something immediately because his body could not have taken


Barr 2 anymore abuse from alcohol. Christopher found that graduating college was the time he needed to leave. Christopher’s story is more of a surprise then Timothy’s to many for being the type of people they were before they left. Timothy Treadwell, originally Timothy Dexter, grew up in Long Island, New York with several brothers and sisters. His love for animals came at an early age and his parents noticed the cohesive bond between Timothy and animals. After barely passing high school, Timothy attended Bradley University on a swimming scholarship. According to Kevin Sanders, after dropping out of college due to personal and drug related issues he began to pursue acting jobs in numerous sitcoms. This could possibly be the reason why some argue that he lived with the bears for fame rather than for his own personal benefit (Sanders). According to his book "Among Grizzlies", during this period he continued to indulge in alcohol and drugs and finally overdosed on heroin and cocaine in the late 1980s, and was rescued by a Vietnam vet named Terry, whom he had become close to. After he was discharged from the hospital, Tim decided to travel to Alaska and watch bears at the urging of Terry. (Sanders) Christopher was raised in Washington D.C. by his parents who had become quite wealthy over the years. He had developed a close relationship with his sister, due to the fact his parents were constantly fighting with each other. He was a very bright student, the typical smart and popular guy throughout high school. Some of his major issues arose from the fact his family valued material possessions more than their love for each other. A perfect example of this was when Timothy graduated from Emory University, his parents offered to buy him a new car as a


Barr 3 gift. Though it was a nice gesture of his parents, he declined their offer and at that point he saw that his parents wanted to spoil him with materialistic objects and monetary value rather than by showing compassion. Adam Read points out a valid claim on his website; Christopher escaped to the wild to avoid living a life style only concerned with money and personal possessions and that is why his purpose for living in the wild alone is more understood and less controversial. Christopher wanted to live a simple life; no government, no money, no luxury; he wanted to see the wild through his own eyes (Read). They each had their own sacrifices necessary to make the complete journey. Christopher found it necessary to live buy just the bare essentials while Timothy brought a bountiful amount of supplies for wherever he ventured too. Was it necessary for McCandless to bring basically nothing along with him? Would that make him a true man of the wild? Timothy made his journey to Alaska every summer for 13 years. During the winter he tended live in a more civilized manner either with friends or family in their respective homes. The sacrifices he made before his trips at the time seemed drastic but they did not mount up to those made by Christopher. Timothy was more prepared for his voyage to Alaska and he could always restock during the winter months. Christopher sacrificed nearly all he had along short 6 month adventure. Other than the few friends he befriended along the way, he only worked for what he needed to get by. Watching survival shows these days shows men thrown into the wild with just a bundle of supplies to help them get by, but honestly that isn’t truly living all alone in the wild; their obviously in it for the


Barr 4 money. Too a degree Christopher was on the right path by giving up some of his possessions, like the things he didn’t need to survive. He arrived to Alaska with very little food and not really a game plan to find and hunt for more. That was his biggest mistake and he unfortunately suffered from it. Timothy was considered quite immature and often displayed childlike behavior though the lifestyle he chose was basically suicidal. Christopher was seen as the manlier figure, one comparable to a stereotypical mountain man. The fact that Treadwell was juvenile is true, but was McCandless really the mountain man everyone saw him to be? Timothy’s childish manners are shown throughout Herzog’s documentary Grizzly Man. There are several instances where Treadwell is seen running with his so called friend “Timmy the Fox” and several scenes show him depicting each bear with their own proper name almost as other humans. As Brinks also notes, his diet consisted of solely peanut butter sandwiches and candy bars. Along with his basic and unhealthy diet, Timothy slept with his stuffed teddy bear every night, which also provides evidence of his juvenile persona (Brinks 304-23). Treadwell had a close relationship with the bears, one revealing a certain affection only demonstrated by humans with other humans which goes back to having named each and every single bear. He got closer than any other person with the wild grizzlies. His obsession with the bears eventually consumed him. His daily mood was a reflection of how the bears were reacting with him that day. By watching these scenes from Grizzly Man, Brinks classified Herzog’s documentary as a feral tale (Brinks 304-23).


Barr 5 Because Timothy fashions himself in his films and in his non-fiction autobiography, Among Grizzlies (1997), as someone who is essentially acting out a familiar fantasy ascribed to children-living in communion with wild animals, the bears and the foxes whom he knows "by name"-Treadwell's story is clearly a feral tale, a genre of children's literature in which a childhood lived in the wild figures prominently. (Brinks 304-23) Many would argue that Christopher’s ill preparedness caused him to often pursue things without thinking and behave in a careless manner. They thought he was too overconfident in his adventures, not fearing death or what evil nature could be in front of him. Though many saw him as overconfident, others would agree that approaching nature with confidence would lead to survival. McCandless was a very bright and intelligent individual yet minor mistakes he made along his journey could have potentially led to his death. If one were to make a journey similar to Christopher’s, they should learn from his experiences and come more prepared. For example, the bear that stumbled upon his camp site; luckily he didn’t get mauled by the bear because it was too occupied searching for something else. A man of his stature could have easily studied the local wildlife and plant life, instead he chose coming into a world with little knowledge and experience. Knowing that the plant he had digested was poisonous beforehand could have saved his life. These mistakes would not have been made if Christopher had simply prepared for this venture.


Barr 6 Many would say Treadwell and McCandless passed away the way they had wanted too, being happy and accomplishing their personal mission of finding freedom from society. Timothy and Christopher found the freedom they had been searching for but did they really find a full sense of happiness? Before they had passed away, they both displayed anger and sorrow. Towards the end of his journey, Timothy had been receiving complaints from the local park service saying he was invading the land and not following park rules. He was furious and pouted again, like a little kid. Timothy was also struggling with this relationship with his girlfriend of the time, Amie. Kevin Sanders provides evidence from Timothy’s journal to describe his troubling relationship. Timothy latest journal entry stated, "hell bent on destruction" and that Amie would be leaving him forever to return to her home in California (Sanders). So Timothy did not end his life in the happiest of times. Other than the fact he had gotten eat by the very animal he sought to protect, he had many more aspects about his life that were bringing him down. “Happiness is only real when shared,” that is what Christopher wrote in his journal shortly before he passed away. He realized this when he was near his death. He had a revelation as he was struggling to survive. His starvation led to the thankfulness of companionship, a family and a group of friends to share all his memories and appreciate what they had together. Many Americans find it idiotic to escape to the wild for happiness. “The wilderness is a poor place to put your worries, your concerns, your dreams, your hopes, thoughts, wishes and happiness’. The wild simply is just that, wild. Unchanging, unforgiving, it neither knows nor


Barr 7 cares for your own life. It exists on its own, unaffected by the dreams or cares of man. It kills the unprepared and unaware” (Read). This is a good example of what many people would have to say about the journeys Christopher McCandless and Timothy Treadwell made. It was unfortunate that both men had to die tragically, but it was death that made them realize complete happiness cannot be achieved from the wild. They both have had a huge impact on the American society. Timothy’s story has had a larger influence on people due to his previous popularity and he had been making this adventure for thirteen years compared to the short 6 month trip Christopher had made. Timothy Treadwell might have been involved with the bears for a sense of personal acceptance and it was a job for him, to protect the bears, but the fame he acquired during those thirteen years wasn’t accidental. He must have known every summer he lived with the bears, his popularity grew. He had spent a lot of time with campaigns and groups reaching out to children and others about how the protection of the Alaskan grizzly bear population is vital. In a sense he was also giving off the impression that the bears were not as violent and furious as people thought. That is obviously a false impression; animals in the wild need to be seen as wild and cautionary measures must be taken at all times. Grizzly bears are not a domesticated species; in fact they are some of the most dangerous animals on our planet. Many people have made their way to the historic “Magic Bus” including his close friends and his parents. His parents have recently published photos and the writings of Christopher McCandless, hopefully in a way to remember him not to make money. Adam Read leads tours


Barr 8 for those wanting to see the “Magic Bus” and the paths Christopher took. His website provides support and information regarding the Christopher Johnson McCandless Memorial Foundation.

Timothy Treadwell’s story lives on through Herzog’s, Grizzly Man and through the countless hours of personal footage Timothy had documented himself. A recording of his death still exists and it is controversial whether or not is should be shared to the public. His previous girlfriends, his family members, and people he spent years working with, have shared their stories and experiences with Timothy. Though some claim his work was just for the fame, no one can deny the fact that Timothy Treadwell did what he wanted to do with his life. If Timothy had not passed away that day, he probably would still be in Alaska every summer, protecting and living among the Grizzlies. The only real evidence of Christopher McCandless’ journey other than interviews from family and friends is the journal he had written in daily of what he did and thought. His daily writings can be applied to everyone’s lives; he was having troubles that many people experience throughout their lives. His transformation he went through can be compared to everyday life and his story is a perfect example of how one can find their own happiness. His greatest advice and possibly his life lesson can be defined within his own words, “Happiness is only real when shared.” Both Timothy Treadwell and Christopher McCandless passed away tragically but their legends live on through the documentaries and stories told by friends and family which have


Barr 9 impacted the thousands who looked up to them. Though these men died living a life society did not provide for, hundreds of others seek this lifestyle and still survive and experience the life the way they want too. Those who want to live a life without governmental and sociological structure should be allowed to just as Christopher McCandless and Timothy Treadwell did.

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Barr 10


Assignment 2 Research Essay