We’ve finally entered into the essence of Strayed’s journey. She appears more vulnerable now than ever, not only as a woman but as a narrator. Strayed has to hitch a ride to the Pacific Crest Trail. As readers, our obvious assumption turns to her safety. She is a young woman alone in the woods—it’s a conventional picture for victimization. Prior to her actually embarking upon this journey, even her ex-husband questioned her physical and mental ability to compete the hike. Within her first few chapters, Strayed recounts her sorrow upon losing her mother. Though we understand her sorrow, she does in fact appear weak. Strayed’s sex shouldn’t come into play when defining her character. Yet her being a woman unfortunately places her within the fragile and delicate category.
On the subject of women and travel, Thompson writes, “In many societies, in many periods, restlessness, freedom of movement and a taste for adventure have been attributes and activities conventionally associated with men rather than women” (169). Strayed defies the stereotypical notion of women. Rather than hiding behind her negative traits, she delivers everything to her readers up front. Any features we may have held against her, she uses to her advantage. In this manner, her journey becomes necessary. She’s not a woman running from her affairs. She’s a young girl trying to redefine herself after losing her best friend, her mother.
I enjoy Strayed’s constant mention of Adrienne Rich. The poet likewise endured several struggles throughout her life, even prior to going public with her attraction to women. She didn’t forgo her past, rather she used her troubles as a starting point for which to reinvent her life. Women such as Strayed and Rich pave the way for women’s equality. Strayed’s dissociation from her sex (or as others relate, her gender) is evident as she discusses her unplanned pregnancy: “I got an abortion and learned how to make dehydrated tuna flakes and turkey jerky and took a refresher course on basic first aid and practiced using my water purifier in my kitchen sink” (57). Strayed doesn’t feel as if she needs to explain her choices, which is especially interesting as this given choice is one in which she could receive extreme judgment from readers. Her decision was important but one in which she made individually, without a man. She afterwards went on to plan her hike—the greater action of her time. Her role within this particular moment again greatly contrasts the stereotypical notion placed upon women and travel writing mentioned by Thompson: “These stereotypical associations between, on the one hand, men’s travel and intellectual seriousness and, on the other, women’s travel and intellectual shallowness or frivolity, have historically operated in a highly normative fashion, influencing both the differing modes of travel writing adopted by men and women and also the reception that male- and female- authored travelogues received from reviewers and readers” (175).
When comparing Wild to Deep South, we should find “the similarities between male- and female- authored travel accounts greatly outweigh any dissimilarities” (Thompson 173). Yet I trust Strayed far more then I trusted Theroux. Strayed succumbs to her surroundings. Any bias she may hold falls away, piece by piece, as she is overcome by the woods around the PCT. I find the far too typical sense of authentic authorship on the side of male travel writer to be incredibly disillusioned.