Lesson Plans Based on Movies & Film Clips!                                                  



    Point of View Analysis
    Using "Into the Wild"

    Subject:     Literature-Literary Devices: Point of View

    Ages:          15+

    Length:       Snippet: 39 minutes in two segments; Lesson: two 45 - 55 minute class periods.

    Learner Outcomes/Objectives:     Students will be able to identify points of view in both literature and film and will carefully analyze a creative use of different points of view in a work of historical fiction. Students will acquire an understanding of the possibilities of point of view for their own writing and film making.

    Rationale:     (1) Movies have both visual and audio elements. The visuals have both a foreground and a background. As a result, the use of shifting point of view in film can be much more complex than in literature. Understanding the creative use of point of view in a film will give students the background they need to analyze and use point of view in writing, skills required by most English language arts standards. (2) Screen presentations are the medium preferred by today's students. Teaching literary devices through movies will make it easier for students to understand the application of those devices to literature. Using film keeps students interested in the lesson. (3) Teaching about the use of literary devices in film will help students understand and appreciate that medium.

    Description of the Snippet:     The snippet consists of the first 39 minutes of "Into the Wild". The movie tells the true story of Christopher McCandless (1968 - 1992), a young man with a dysfunctional family, a love for books, an appreciation of the beauty of nature, and a yen for adventure. After graduating from Emory University in 1990, Chris severed all ties with his family and sought to find himself by disappearing into Western North America. Over the next two years, Chris undertook a number of high-risk adventures. He kayaked the rapids of the Colorado River, without experience and without a helmet, floating downstream to the Gulf of California. He hitchhiked long distances and then rode the rails as a hobo. On his journeys, Chris supported himself with a series of temporary jobs and made several friends, although he always returned to the path of the solitary traveller. Chris' final adventure was an attempt to live off the land in the wilds of Alaska. Alone, without a map, and without much knowledge of the area, Chris spent several months killing game and picking berries for food. He read his books, continued the search to find meaning in existence, and tried to sort through what had happened with his family. When Chris came to the realization that relationships with people were the most important thing in life, he tried to return to civilization. Unfortunately, this effort was unsuccessful and McCandless was found dead in Alaska, almost two years after his journey began. The movie is based on a book of the same name by Jon Krakauer.

Learner Outcomes/Objectives
Description of the Snippet
Using the Snippet in Class:
      Step by Step
      Concluding Activity/Assessment

Location: Segment #1: start at the beginning of movie and play for 22 minutes until the caption "Chapter One: My Birth" appears on the screen. Segment #2: Chapter One. Start from the beginning of the Chapter and play for 17 minutes until the caption "Chapter Two: Adolescence" appears on the screen.

Possible Problems with this Snippet: Minor. There are a few instances of garden variety swearing. The movie is rated R for language and some nudity but the scenes justifying the R rating are not included in this snippet.

    Using the Snippet in Class:    


    Teachers who have already seen the movie should watch the first 39 minutes again, tracking the changes in point of view using TWM's article "Into the Wild": Shifts in Point of View. Make enough copies of TWM's Point of View Analysis Graphic Organizer so that each student can have one.

    Step by Step

    1.   Why Study Point of View? Tell students that point of view is an important element of any writing. Readers will expect point of view to be consistent except for changes that help tell the story. Teachers who grade papers will insist on the same. Knowing what changes in point of view mean and how to keep point of view consistent, is an important part of making a story understandable and interesting. This class will examine an extremely creative use of shifts in point of view to a the story in a popular movie. The movie demonstrates the possibilities of point of view in writing and in film.

    2.  Review Point of View:   Depending on the sophistication of the class and whether point of view has been previously covered, take the class through the different points of view and their use in telling a story. Several helpful summaries are listed in the Bibliograp.

    Write on the board the different points of view and the abbreviations that will be used throughout the lesson.
    1st P = first person

    2nd P = second person

    3rd P-Obj = third-person objective

    3rd P-Omn = third person omniscient

    3rd P-Lim = third person limited
    3.  Compare Point of View in Literature to Point of View in Movies:   Point of view in literature derives from one source, the voice that comes from reading words on a page. In movies, which have both visual and audio elements, there are several sources of point of view. For example, a voice-over can be accompanied by sounds in the background. Each will have its own point of view that might be the same but are often different. Usually, the visuals in a movie have the same point of view as the sound, but not always. Moreover, the visuals in a movie have a foreground and a background. These, too, can be different from one another and from the soundtrack.

    Music is almost always part of a film, but is not a factor in literature. The music for a film also provides the audience with information about the story. Music is usually 3rd person omniscient, but not always.

    4.   Introduce the Snippet:   Provide a limited explanation of the story line in the movie. TWM suggests giving the following description:
    This movie is about a young man, Chris McCandless, with a dysfunctional family who, instead of confronting his parents and trying to work out their problems, disappeared into the Western part of the U.S. and Canada. He even went to Mexico for a short time. Chris wanted to go adventuring and he loved nature, but he was reckless. Often Chris didn't know what he was getting into and on several occasions he put his life at risk. Chris was traveling for about two years and, at the beginning, he was lucky and survived. His final adventure, the one in which his luck ran out, was living alone off the land in the wilds of Alaska. All during his travels, Chris was trying to sort out who he was, how to deal with his family, and what his relationships with people should be. While he was in the wilds of Alaska, Chris finally figured it out, but by then it was too late and he was too sick and weak to make it back to civilization.
    Familiarity with the following concepts will help students understand the first segment of the snippet:
    This is a work of historical fiction. The major events are true, including: the story of the McCandless family and its problems; Chris' reaction to his parents' failings; the descriptions of the people Chris met on his journey; many of the events that occurred on the journey; the postcards Chris wrote and the notes that he left; the bus he found in the wilderness, Chris' fear of water; and the manner in which Chris died. Where information was lacking, the screenwriters filled in with details that were consistent with the situation and the characters involved. If students want to determine exactly what was true and what was filled in, refer them to Krakauer's book.

    Fairbanks, Alaska -- Fairbanks is a town in Alaska. Point out the location of Fairbanks on a map.

    Denali is the native American name for Mount McKinley, which is located in Alaska and which has the highest peak in North America. It is also the name of a large national park which contains the mountain. Point out the location of Mount McKinley on a map.

    Yukon Territory -- The Yukon Territory is a vast part of Canada adjacent to Alaska. Point out the Yukon Territory on a map.

    Emory University -- A well respected university in Atlanta, Georgia, Emory University is ranked among the top twenty universities in the United States.

    Oxfam America - This is a charity which focuses on feeding starving people in Africa and Asia.

    Chris McCandless uses the term "fancy boat". When he does this, he means a big luxury car. The word "boat" is sometimes used to refer to a large automobile.
    5.  Discuss the Use of Point of View in the Movie:   Tell the class that in this film point of view often shifts and that sometimes the point of view of the soundtrack and the visuals are different. This film also has situations in which there are different points of view within the visuals. Note that voice-overs are usually first person because a character is speaking directly to the audience.

    6.  The First Segment of the Snippet -- Model Point of View Analysis and then Conduct Directed Practice:   As you play the snippet, for the first four or five changes in point of view, model the analysis for the class. TWM has carefully charted the changes in point of view in the film through Chapter Two. See "Into the Wild": Shifts in Point of View. Once the identification of point of view has been modeled for the class, continue watching the segment and ask students to raise their hand at any change in point of view. Stop the film a little into the new point of view to discuss the change and what the new point of view allows the filmmakers to do. Continue this until the film shows a caption stating "Chapter One: My Birth"

    7.  The Second Segment of the Snippet -- Independent Practice and Assessment:   Hand out TWM's Point of View Analysis Graphic Organizer and ask students to make brief notes as they watch Chapter One of the movie. Tell the class that they will be given enough time to finish the organizers when the movie is completed. Play Chapter One of the movie and then allow students time to complete their organizers. The completed graphic organizers can be turned in and, if appropriate, graded. If there is time, and the class needs more work, the completed organizers can be exchanged and the class can discuss the answers.

    Bibliography: The following websites contain helpful summaries on point of view:

What about showing the whole movie? Students may ask teachers to show the rest of the film. Note that TWM has fashioned a fascinating two week lesson based on the entire film providing many occasions for writing assignments and teaching literary allusion, point of view, theme, and symbol. See Learning Guide to "Into the Wild" which contains a detailed explanation of why TWM recommends the movie despite its R rating. Just be careful to get administrative and parental permission for showing the movie. See TWM's Movie Permission Slip.

The best learning experience from this story is to use Jon Krakauer's book Into the Wild as the basis for a multi-week unit on non-fiction literature, allusion, narrative, theme and symbol.

"Into The Wild" shows McCandless' journey in a series of flashbacks and is chaptered in a way that serves to reveal both background and forward motion. There are 22 minutes of introductory material before the first chapter. The chapters are:
    Chapter One: My Birth -- 17 minutes

    Chapter Two: Adolescence -- 36 minutes

    Chapter Three: Manhood -- 16 minutes

    Chapter Four: Family -- 21 minutes

    The final chapter, Getting of Wisdom -- 32 minutes

This film is available from Amazon.com.

Teachers who want parental permission to show this snippet can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.

TWM grants free limited licenses to copy TWM curriculum materials only to educators in public or non-profit schools and to parents trying to help educate their children. See TWM's Terms of Use for a full description of the free licenses and limits on the rights of others to copy TWM.



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