“Wild” – Encountering Identity on the Pacific Crest Trail

photograph by heather (https://www.flickr.com/photos/woolgenie/15967594001) - CC2 license

BY KELSEY DUBE, LINDSEY KNEBEL,EMMA MATES, and POET WATSON

In her memoir, Wild, Cheryl Strayed illustrates the life-changing expedition that rescued her from the turmoil that had engulfed her life.

Post-divorce and following the death of her mother, she becomes entangled in an inner struggle between her adventurous and practical side. Eventually, her adventurous side wins the battle, causing her to begin preparation for her quest to solo-hike the Pacific Crest Trail

Overriding her internal doubts, she begins her journey, facing many challenges along the way that she meets with determination. Despite starvation, extreme climate changes, and encounters with wild animals, Strayed remains focused on her quest. Ultimately, her  experiences along the Pacific Crest Trail bring her the personal redemption she was seeking, and lead her to understanding her true identity. By the time  she crosses the Bridge of Gods, she feels enlightened, and ready to return to civilization.

One of the strengths of this novel is the inspiring storyline. Even if readers haven’t experienced the specific challenges that Strayed has, the story of triumph is desirable for all. Another strength is the novel’s use of symbolism, such as her enormous backpack she names the “Monster,” which could certainly represent Strayed’s personal baggage created from past experiences. Strayed starts her hike with Monster fully loaded and almost too heavy to carry, shedding weight as she moves along the trail and learns from her encounters.

This memoir is for readers who are looking for inspiration, honesty, and triumph. It can teach, or at the very least reassure, everyone that we are capable of great things.  Because Strayed so readily admits her faults, her character is authentic and relatable. Readers feel as if they are on the Pacific Crest Trail with Strayed, which unites those who have experienced life challenges, helping them realize they are not alone.