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Family and Friends
Family and Friends
We will take a look at whether or not Chris came to terms and was at peace with his friends and family by the time of his death in the
In the documentary, Ron attempts to interview and contact Chris's friends and family but is not very successful. His family does not want to speak with him and after he starts filming he comes to find out that many of Chris's friends were bound under a contract by Sean Penn's movie. This was very harmful to the documentary because it would have been so helpful to hear from people who actually knew Chris as he embarked on his journey. The fact that they would only speak to the Hollywood movie makers really put a damper on Ron's documentary. However, Ron did speak with people that knew Chris before he disappeared and gave some insight on what he was like as a person. Ron spoke with his old coach, college roommate, as well as people around the town in South Dakota. What he gathered from the people that knew him was that he was a little different, but had a great spirit. People that met him along his journey were touched by his uplifting spirit and outlook on life. Chris did not quite have closure with these people, however they did know he was going on a dangerous adventure that could ultimately kill him.
On the other hand, his family had no idea what was going on and the circumstances Chris was in. He gave no indication to his family he would embark on such a journey. You may be able to say that Chris was selfish in not thinking about how this would affect his family. However, Ron respects Chris's spirit and the nature of what he was doing so he would admit that he may have needed to do this for his independence. The only thing that the family received after Chris was found dead was his belongings such as his identification and map. Chris ultimately did not come to peace with his family. He never resolved the issues he had growing up and never told them about his experience. His family did not get closure either and ended up grieving even before they found out he was officially dead.
Krakauer's interpretation of Chris' relationship with his family and friends throughout the novel is one that changes drastically from beginning to end and therefore is most dramatic of the the three battles (man vs. nature, man vs. self, man vs. society). In the beginning of the novel, Chris has an undying hatred for his hometown and for his family life. He feels as if his family and society represent materialism and entitlement- qualities which Chris despises. This is clearly demonstrated through a line that Chris quotes from Thoreau in one of his journals, "Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth."(117) Chris desires truth and nothing less, which he quickly discovers he is not going to find on his own in the norms of society.
Chris' journey into nature can be as his excape from society, family and friends, otherwise thought of as this concept of "truth" in his mind. As Chris ventures out to find "truth" of his own in nature, he burns all evidence that he was ever part of the "falsifications" of society (including his social security information and all of his cash). These actions allow Chris to escape and be free from materialism and societial norms for a short period of time. However, at the end of the book Chris makes peace with society in the final hours of his life. This very moment of peace between man and society occurs when Chris climbs into a sleeping bag to die in which his mother had previously sewn for him. Not only does this event symbolize Chris coming to terms with material possessions, but it also shows that he has come to terms with his family and more specifically, his mother as well. Chris' battle with society begins with him quoting lines from Thoreau, "The hospitality was as cold as ices."(117) and ends ironically with Chris needing and using a material possession from his own home in the last hours of his life.
The movie contrasts the relationship he has with his parents compared to the documentary. Throughout the work, Sean Penn shows us Chris's frustration with their lifestyle and their obsession with material things. He gets unusually angry when they offer to purchase him a nice, new car because his car works just fine and he sees no need for a replacement. The viewer gets a peak into Chris and his sisters relationship through her narration during parts of the film. She better understands his thoughts and motives than any other character and says that finally after graduation Chris "was emancipated from that world of abstraction, false security, parents, and material excess; the things that cut Chris off from the truth of his existence". Penn shows scenes of his parents grief over their sons disappearance but even when he is asked by friends about his parents, he seems to not care. On the beach Rainey and Jan ask him where they are and if he has contacted them recently, he simply responds that they are "living their lives somewhere" and paraphrases Monroe: "rather than love, than money, than faith, than fame, than fairness.. give me truth". We can see the pain on his face and know how much the lies he was told as a child has affected his relationship with his parents.
At the end of the movie, Penn shows Chris looking up at the bring white light coming from the sky and he wonders if he would be seeing that light the same if he had returned to civilization. It contrasts his point of view, laying there, and how he thinks he would have felt looking at the same sky but being reunited with his parents and the viewer assumes that it would not have the same value. He assumes his family is grieving over him but he knows that he needed to do what was best for himself first and, in that moment, he can only hope that his parents will understand the decisions leading up his death as well as his sister does. She knew there was something "more than anger and rebellion driving" his actions and knew that he was happy. The moments before his death Chris comes to terms with the relationship he had with his parents and sister and the decisions he made to make sure they would not be able to find him.
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