Category: Unit 4 English

The Inner World – the undiscovered terrain

As I’ve been reading Into the Wild, I’ve had a strong sense that McCandless’ journeys through the physical landscapes of North America were a means of searching an inner landscape that he yearned to explore. In this blog piece, Looking for Another Country, Dwight Longenecker writes that:

C.S. Lewis names this longing with the German word sehnsucht. He calls it “the inconsolable longing in the heart for we know not what.” At the end of Pilgrim’s Regress he said it was, “That unnameable something, desire for which pierces us like a rapier at the smell of bonfire, the sound of wild ducks flying overhead, the title of The Well at the World’s End, the opening lines of Kubla Khan, the morning cobwebs in late summer, or the noise of falling waves.”

This longing remains dormant in daily life until it is sparked by a profound aesthetic experience. Suddenly the soul awakes, and the longing is fleetingly fulfilled. C.S. Lewis called this surge in the heart, this uplift “Joy”. This painfully exquisite joy comes unbidden and echoes in his heart like the sounding of the distant horn of a long lost hero. 

McCandless was obviously deeply unsatisfied with a life that was unfulfilling. He went in search of the experience that would awaken his soul. 

But how does one step into the inner landscape and discover what awaits there?

For the writer Pico Iyer, his first step was to spend time in a Catholic hermitage, where he was able to discover that stepping away from the tumult of the modern world inevitably helped him to be a better person. For more on this, read Krista Tippett’s “The Inner World is a great, undiscovered terrain.

McCandless’ pilgrimage into the wild was perhaps a way to find a place where his existence made sense, and to find a place where he could become a better person. His journal entries reveal that he was captivated by the notion of truth. He was awed by the landscape through which he travelled. Omir Safi, in a piece title “Cherishing Rough Edges over Smoothness“, writes:

We connect to nature because we are nature. It is us. It is around us. We are inside her. When we are most un-natural is when we see ourselves as cut off.

Those of us who have not heard the call of the wild that McCandless obviously did still struggle to understand his reasons and motivations for doing what he did. We fail to understand the terrain he felt compelled to discover. We fail to hear the call.

respond to the call

Into the Wild is a reminder that we all have a untouched wilderness inside ourselves. What will happen if we try to understand “the inconsolable longing in the heart for we know not what”?


Following the breadcrumbs…

Below are some links to articles/pieces/ideas that have something to say about ‘going wild’.

The more you read, the more connections you will make as you work through ‘Into the Wild’. The text that I’ve copied way down below is about the desert and what it can symbolise – as soon as I read it, I thought of Chris in the desert, finding the oh-so-hot-springs, and the friend he made, Ron Franz. As I kept following this thread, I found this quote: Robert Louis Stevenson wrote, ‘We are all travelers in what John Bunyan calls the wilderness of this world. And the best that we find in our travels is an honest friend – they keep us worthy of ourselves.’” Ron Franz was certainly an honest friend.

This then led me to Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan (which is mentioned by McCandless), and then to Mark Twains’ An Innocent Abroad, and then to CS Lewis, who wrote A Pilgrim’s Regress, in which he wrote: “You all know,” said the Guide, “that security is mortals’ greatest enemy.” In an instant, I thought of McCandless’ letter to Ron (p58) in which he wrote: “..but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future.”

This doesn’t necessarily make a context piece, but it starts the cogs turning. It’s allows me to visualise/imagine a landscape (a desert?) in which someone seeks to let go of the security that binds and blinds us. Where could this take me?

What about this for a big idea: People often seek new experiences in wild landscapes in order to escape the grip of the modern world.

THIS IS THE THINKING I WANT YOU TO START ATTEMPTING…follow the breadcrumbs of a thought. Let them mull in your mind. Nurture them into ideas. Shape them into a piece of writing.

As you read through these pieces below, start to make the active connections between the words of these texts and the words of John Krakauer.

“…this Valley is a solitary place. The Prophet Jeremiah thus describes it: A wilderness, a land of deserts and pits, a land of drought, and of the shadow of death, a land that no man (but a Christian) passeth through, and where no man dwelt.”” – John Bunyan – The Pilgram’s Progress

Wandering in the desert

From: Imagery and Sybolism in Counselling – William Stewart.

Be Happy: Leunig, Authenticity & Reality

Happy Clappy

Each time we discuss illusion and reality we return to the notion that money and success will not automatically lead to happiness. Which is all fine and well…but what, then, does lead to happiness?

Be Happy, an article on ‘Less Wrong’, which describes itself as a ‘blog community devoted to refining the art of human rationality’, brings together, in a nutshell, some thoughts on Materialism and being happy.

Cheerful to a Fault, by Alfie Kohn who writes widely on human behavior, education, and parenting, explores the negative implications of always being positive and cheerful. It echoes Leunig’s feelings in Lest We Forget: in “nicey-nicey land you must be happy-clappy and positive all the time – bad news is taboo.”

On the Waterfront and how it constructs meaning

As you are all aware by now, you must consider the constructed nature of the film when writing your essay.

Here are some links that might provide a last minute surge of inpiration. – This blog has pages on characters, themes, metalanguage and setting. – Roger Stitson explores the way Kazan uses the costumes and images of the characters to convey his ideas. – This is the introduction and first paragraph of an essay for sale. I think it provides some nice clues on how to write about the film. I’m not suggesting you buy it.

OTW+film+techs – A powerpoint presentation that explores some film techniques and examples. – Something more sophisticated for those looking for that little bit more that you know you know, but just can’t put your finger on it.

Essay writing tips for ‘On the Waterfront’

Whenever you approach an essay topic you need to work out how you can answer it and show that you’ve got an individual interpretation of the film. So, what does this actually mean? Can you answer this question: what is the film On the Waterfront about? Standing up for one’s rights? Making good in an environment that offers no hope? Little guy against big guy? Good versus evil? Loyalty? Looking after oneself in order to survive? Ultimately, you can only answer this question if you know the film, and if you are willing to think about the message(s) it’s trying to convey.

Next, have you done any extra reading to help establish what the film might be trying to do/achieve? On one of the page tabs above I have a list of extra reading (not that I ever expected you to read it all – but some might help). Here is the link:

Third, keep in mind that you’re writing about a film. You can’t just write about characters and themes and events and actions. You must write about how the film is constructed – you must show that you understand how the characters, themes, events, and actions are constructed by the director and why. In this way, analysing a film can be like analysing an opinion piece for the Language Analysis essay. It can be useful to remember the What, How, Why? of language analysis when writing about On the Waterfront. What does Kazan do? How does he do it? And why does he do it?

Fourth, practise taking apart essay topics – really consider the ins and outs of what you’re being asked to write about. And above all else, have something to say. Not what you think we want you say, but what you truly believe about the topic and the film. If you feel you can’t do this, then I would suggest you don’t know the film well enough.

Quotes. Go through the script (here it is: and highlight key quotes. What are key quotes? Those that are good enough to be used over a number of different essay topics. They are generally about themes, characters, ideologies, symbols, etc. This means that in order to be able to pick out key quotes you need to establish what the themes, ideologies and symbols of the film are. I would aim to get a list of about 25-30 quotes. Yes, really.

And practise. I’ve been told that one Old Haileyburian wrote an essay a day in the lead up to the exam. That would certainly make a difference!