Why did he really go?
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Chris took his lead from Henry David Thoreau. He rejected the day-to-day world of materialistic society for a life of simplicity in the woods. Like Thoreau Chris wanted to "live deliberately" and suck the "marrow" out of life. Simply by going to Alaska Chris was emulating Thoreau, "I have my soul set entirely on my Alaskan Odyssey..." Chapter 12 begins with the following quote,
"Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth. I sat at a table where were rich food and wine in abundance, an obsequious attendance, but sincerity and truth were not; and I went away hungry from the inhospitable board. The hospitality was as cold as the ices."
This is the Thoreau that Chris emulated, the Thoreau the he romanticized. I don't think that Chris was as disciplined as Thoreau. While Thoreau tended to be practical, Chris was a romantic.