“Happiness is only real when shared.”
-Jon Krakauer, Into The Wild.
Seems like a relatively simple sentence, right? Not to Jon Krakauer. Here is some background on the novel, in order to better understand the context of the sentence. Jon Krakauer was an author that wrote a book about his knowledge of Chris McCandless, a man who left his life to live on his own in Alaska. Chris goes on a road trip and find out that his father has been having an affair with a woman aside from Chris’ mother. This is what motivated McCandless to leave his old life behind completely without leaving a trace and leaving his family wondering where he is. He realized that he wasn’t happy in his own home, so he thought leaving and starting over would be beneficial. Throughout his journey all the way from his hometown in Pennsylvania to Alaska, he kept a journal. The last sentence ever written in his journal, which was discovered just days after he died, was the quote above.
“Happiness is only real when shared” could mean many different things to many different people. To McCandless, it meant that he was coming to the realization that he wasn’t happy after all, all alone in the wild. He realized that in order to be happy, he had to be around other people, like his family (no matter how upset and mad he was at them). By the time he realized this, it was too late. Some critics of the novel argue that the only reason he realized this is because he was coming to terms with his death.
The root of the sentence is the word ‘happiness’. All of the other words are just accompanying factors that help bring the sentence to life. If I were to rearrange this sentence to “Only shared happiness is real”, it wouldn’t really change the format of the sentence. On the other hand, if I were to remove the word ‘only’ and make it “Happiness is real when shared”, that would mean that there were other kinds of happiness as well. This would mean that being happy comes in many different forms (which is what I believe. I don’t think it is reasonable to believe that I can’t be happy when I’m alone).
Overall, this sentence has a much deeper meaning to me personally since I read Chris McCandless’ anecdote, but to someone who hasn’t, this quote can seem fairly simple.