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Home in the Wild

haabibi's picture


Home in the Wild

             She was “the woman with the hole in her heart.” (Strayed 38) Talking with an astrologer, Cheryl Strayed realizes how her life has been affected by her indifferent, careless and violent father, and further how his own wound had severely wounded his children. For her, home has never been a place where all of the family members gather around to have meals together; rather it was a place where her wounds exacerbate. When her sole foundation of solace, her Mother, died, she wanders to find a place where she could settle in and define as ‘home.’ Not satisfied with a single thing in her life, she breaks the relationship with her husband, Paul, but has adulterous affairs with men she hardly knows and relies on superficial transient pleasures of heroin and sex. But the book about the Pacific Crest Train that she accidentally encounters provides a path that totally changes and challenges her original sense and the norm of the word “home.” According to Oxford Dictionary, “home” is “the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household” ( Web). During her journey, Strayed, however, continues to redefine her “home” as a place where wilderness exists so as to no one can live permanently and be alone.

             Bitterness abounded in her life before she went off to PCT. She even made herself a last name as “Strayed”: to become wild, to be without a mother or father, to be without a home. She identified herself as being homeless, not knowing where to go but only to digress. Maybe she was in a very strong urge for very extreme wilderness that she could forget about all the bitterness in her life. The more she felt bitter about the inextricable reality, the more she dared to find her home out there in the wild. When she saw the two mountain ranges that extended from California to Canadian border, she describes how she felt “those mountain ranges would be [her] world for the next three months; their crest, [her] home” (Strayed 49). Furthermore, she even feels power coming from wilderness and finds her new foundation of solace there. On page 97, she describes that she saw the power of darkness, digression and wilderness. She explains how she was able to see things that she could not after having strayed and actually being a stray in the wild places that her straying had brought her. Her constant trial to find home, the foundation of solace and power, is quite abnormal. Like the definition in the dictionary, people usually regard their homes as a place where its existence provides a sense of warmth, coziness and comfort –the very first place they would find and go after having been disturbed. The case for Strayed, however, is different. Maybe she had only so many poignant memories to remember when she tries to go back to her home, where her family is; maybe only the sense of extremity could cease her seemingly interminable cycle of screwed reality of boyfriends, sex and heroin; maybe it was her impetuousness that led her to go out find herself home. Whatever the reasons it might have been, she successfully finds her home on the trail, the severest and the least civilized path one could ever imagine. She delineated her sense of home toward wild by saying “Even in my anxious state, I couldn’t help but feel rapturous at the beauty… a place I’d come to love, in spite and because of its hardships –and I’d gotten myself into this place on my own two feet” (Strayed 195).

             She also challenges the norm of the word ‘home’ by finding herself most comfortable when she is alone. Before she went off to PCT, she was in desperate need of someone who she could rely on and cling to. As her only source of reliance, her mother, passed away, she could have never gone more awry to find a man, who can fill up the absence of her mother. She rejected to be alone. She clang to the past and strived to find a person who could replace her mother and share each other’s lives. She, however, finds a new definition of home while she is on the track. On page 119, she suggests that alone feels like “a room where [she] could retreat to be who [she] really [is].” Then with the power that she had found within wilderness, she extends her definition of alone and her own space of room by describing “Alone wasn’t a room anymore, but the whole wide world,” by dominating the world in an unprecedented way (Strayed 119). Her gradually changed behavior can be observed, especially in the part in which she felt melancholy at the first place when Doug and Tom left but found relief as they disappeared. Also she refuses Doug when he offered her to go into the snow together; and she addresses to him that her main purpose of the trip is to do it alone. Being alone gave a break in her life, in which she could reflect on herself and critically view the complicatedly intermingled society that she was situated in. It also provided a hiatus where she could grow spiritually and find out about who she really was as a person. She mentions in page 122 that she would not have been able to put down the fear if there was someone else beside her. She finds her ultimate consolation in aloneness. Furthermore, she feels powered as she does not just confine herself in the room but puts herself into the whole wide world.  

            Even though the title of the book and her name –Strayed- tell us that she defined herself and her life as wild, digressive and homeless, “wild” has become a foundation for her identity and her comfort zone. The names also do not merely contain the connotation of physical wilderness, but her sense of home. As she continuously uses Strayed as her name, even after she has formed a family having a daughter and a son, wilderness continuously perseveres in the deepest of her heart and constantly reminds of her own distinct identity. Also it was her being alone, which filled up the empty spaces that her mother left. She found not only power but herself when she was alone in the wilderness. Now she is not the woman with the hole in her heart anymore. She is one brave woman who has challenged the norm of “home” by actually going into the wild alone.



Works Cited

Cheryl Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.  New York: Alfred K. Knopf, 2012. 1-176.


Richmond's picture

This is an excellent review of Wild. The writer has a connection with Ms Strayed, and an understanding of her motivations. I enjoyed the book and really enjoyed this intelligent, sensitive review.