Society has a tendency to sometimes get in the way of life. It interferes with making decisions based on fear of what the culture around you will think and it gets in the way of creating your own thoughts. Ralph Waldo Emerson believed that the community you were immersed in directly correlated to the amount of actual free thinking you have, as an individual. Both Christopher McCandless and Huck Finn choose to leave society.
Chris didn’t agree with the cultural ideology that his parents tried to make him conform to; while Huck leaves society to get away from his father. It is important to take time away from society in order to discover one’s true values.Nature gives you a place where you don’t need to worry about society’s judgement and its expectations.
Emerson thinks that Nature is the model for accepting the here and now. Nature is important because it gives people a chance to stop and think about what they really want from the world. Nature gives people a place to let them be who they want to be. He considers nature to be wild, a setting different from both self and society. In any case, he sees it from the perspective of isolation. He writes, “To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society. I am not solitary whilst I read and write, though nobody is with me.
But if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars. The rays that come from those heavenly worlds will separate between him and what he touches” (12, reader). Emerson believes that people need to separate themselves from what’s around them because it interferes with a person’s ability to create their own ideas. In nature, one must be able to distinguish the difference between one’s own views and the views of the people around them. It isn’t as easy as it seems.
Nature seems to answer all questions but in reality, you still need to ask the questions. Society limits one’s mind so that people cannot fully question what is happening in the world around them. If people don’t question what is around them, they will form to society and never think for themselves. In another essay, Emerson talks about the importance of being self-reliant.
He says,”Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist” (17, reader). In order to build one’s own ideas, one must be able to question what is around them. They must be able to critically examine the opinions of the opinions of the community around them but must also be able to form their own morals.By separating himself from his surroundings, Huck gives himself the opportunity to create his own opinions without the judgement of society. Huck’s time in nature shows him what he should truly believe. In Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, Huck meets Jim, an escaped slave, and accepts him as a companion, as they are both running for their freedom. Jim is trying to escape being seen as property while Huck is running away from his father. However, Huck initially sees Jim as a slave rather than a human.
Huck was brought up in a society that did not acknowledge that slaves were humans; slaves were property to be owned. The various tricks that Huck pulled on Jim, such as putting the snake in his boot, mirror Huck’s state of mind towards Jim. After the incident where Jim and Huck get isolated from each other in the fog, Huck feels that Jim is dumb enough to trust that nothing had happened, and that Jim had imagined everything. Jim calls him on this, berating Huck for his lying.
Huck says, “It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble myself to a nigger” (95). It takes Huck a long time to apologize to Jim. It’s not just about how long it takes either. Huck believes he had to lower himself to Jim.
He has to decrease his value in order to apologize. He thinks Jim has no knowledge and can be taken advantage of by a little child’s trick. Afterward however, Huck’s state of mind changes. As Jim and Huck encounter a considerable number of trials together, Huck figures out how to regard and watch over Jim as an individual, and as his equal. When Huck frees Jim and they are attempting to escape, Tom is hit in the calf and bleeding badly.
Jim says the only way Tom will live is if they get a doctor. This is when Huck “know’d he was white inside” because Jim was willing to give up his freedom to make sure Huck’s friend lives (279). Huck feels that Jim is, to a degree, his equal.
His attitude towards Jim partially changed from him feeling Jim to be underneath him and to a lesser being, to being his equal. Because of the years Huck lived in this culture, he was taught how to fit in with what was around him rather than being himself. When he runs away with Jim, Huck is taught his true meaning of life. However, the majority of people will agree that the meaning of life is to find a sense of purpose and what is extremely important to them. In Jon Krakauer’s Into The Wild, Chris McCandless detaches himself from society in his Alaskan journey as his way to defy society’s expectations. Chris believed that his parents didn’t really care about him but rather his abilities.
He told them he wanted to make a difference in the world and his mom’s response was, “… if you really want to help people who are less fortunate, get yourself some leverage first. Go to college, get a law degree, and then you’ll be able to have a real impact” (114).
His mom tries to convince him that his plans to help won’t really work; and explains how education is the best way to bring change to the world. His mother believes one needs money to make a difference. Unlike his family, McCandless puts almost no significance into material things or potential riches, despite his middle-upper class upbringing. Chris’ choice to give the greater part of his cash away, desert his family, and give away his belongings is something few people could understand.
However, growing up, McCandless saw his economic status was “shameful, corrupting, inherently evil” (115) which drove him to end up feeling ashamed about what he had. Because he is ashamed of what he has, he wants to live a life without any of the luxuries he has grown up with. The best way he could do that is to leave and separate himself from a society that is focused on material items. He wants to live in the simplest manner possible. He looked and found answers in nature for himself.
Taking risks is sometimes what people need to do in order to truly understand life and find themselves, even if the end result is not what was expected. If we were to analyze Christopher’s life when he lived in Alaska, we would discover that “it is the experiences, the memories, the great triumphant joy of living to the fullest extent in which real meaning is found” (37). It’s not important to document the adventure but rather to experience it for oneself. By risking his life in Alaska, Chris was able to find a new life of adventure and discover a new sense of identity along with purpose and meaning in his life.
Huck’s and Chris’ societies are similar because each society attempts to make the characters into people they are not. Although Huck almost gives into the peer-pressure multiple times, his resolve makes him realize that what he believes goes against what everyone else believes yet he still follows his instinct. Similarly, Chris defies the social norm by living how he wants, regardless of what others think. Instead of individuals having to conform to social norm, society should support their ideas even if they differ from the majority of society’s ideas. When society starts teaching people how to live, individuality is lost.
When the people around someone force that individual to change to fit everyone else, all the happiness and drive to be successful is lost. One’s community should encourage people to pursue what they really want in life. They should help others figure out what’s important to them and help them get to that. But if society won’t help, then it is best to sometimes distance yourself from it and make your own choices which will lead to a more meaningful life.