I Vant to Be Alone


This weekend the Wall Street Journal wrote a review of the book The Stranger in the Woods, the tale of one Christopher Knight who went off into the Maine woods in 1986, avoiding human contact for thirty years.

From Amazon:

In 1986, a shy and intelligent twenty-year-old named Christopher Knight left his home in Massachusetts, drove to Maine, and disappeared into the forest. He would not have a conversation with another human being until nearly three decades later, when he was arrested for stealing food. Living in a tent even through brutal winters, he had survived by his wits and courage, developing ingenious ways to store edibles and water, and to avoid freezing to death. He broke into nearby cottages for food, clothing, reading material, and other provisions, taking only what he needed but terrifying a community never able to solve the mysterious burglaries. Based on extensive interviews with Knight himself, this is a vividly detailed account of his secluded life—why did he leave? what did he learn?—as well as the challenges he has faced since returning to the world. It is a gripping story of survival that asks fundamental questions about solitude, community, and what makes a good life, and a deeply moving portrait of a man who was determined to live his own way, and succeeded.

My post this morning isn’t about the book per se, but peripherally, asking if you could live alone, without human contact for decades?

I know I couldn’t, not at all. I’m an incredibly social being, and not social in the negative must-party sense, but social, like elephants, that I thrive on interaction and both need and want it.

Sure, there are days when it’s great to have the house alone, or even a few hours of alone time (I think I felt that way more when the kids were little and I was being pulled in so many directions at once) but my personality is enhanced with human interaction and I think I’d die without any. I mean, they say that prisoners in solitary confinement go stark-raving mad, so I wonder what about Christopher Knight made it optimal for him to avoid humans?

I ordered the book this morning but before I read it I’ll pose these questions to you all on this miserably rainy day:

  1. Could YOU avoid all human contact?
  2. Would you even want to?
  3. How long?
  4. Thirty years?
  5. Would it depend on where you were holed up? A tropical island versus the backwoods of Maine?

Happy Monday. And PS, the Audi service guy has not called me yet this morning, despite my message asking him to call me first thing today. That Acura is looking bettter and better!

8 thoughts on “I Vant to Be Alone

    1. Heh. Because I don’t know who you are to know if you are pulling my leg or being serious, it’s hard to comment back. I suspect you aren’t alone in wanting to leave. Lots of people have pressures – from work, family, money – that leaving it all behind sounds romantic. Look at all the Dateline episodes where people fake their own death to be alone or to get away. That, and avoiding all future human contact is vastly different.

  1. Since my husband died, I find myself alone a lot more than I want to or like to. Many of my old Greenwich friends have moved to Florida or beyond to where their grandchildren are and my son keeps asking me to move to California to be nearer to him but I’m not sure I want that either. It’s hard as a single older woman to go to the movies alone and heaven forbid I go out to dinner alone in Greenwich, so I keep to myself and do feel isolated. I love being social but I think that comes with the female chromosome. I bet Anon above is a male.

    I could not live without human contact no matter if it was on a tropical island or the woods of Maine. Good food for thought. It’s miserable out.

    1. I know you’ve said how hard it’s been since your husband died. When a couple loses one half, the adjustment is tough, especially hard for the woman I think just for the reasons you said, hard to go out alone. A widower has 1000 women hovering over him.

      A few of my mother’s friends have moved to be near their children/grandchildren and as many hate it as love it. Being in a new place very late in life, all alone, can be daunting, or it can be renewing. Only you will know what’s right and when.

      You can always call me to go to the movies with you. Seriously. Like today, on this dreary day.

  2. I’m leaving with Anon. I’m inherently anti-social, only drawn in because society demands I do. I’d be on cloud nine escaping to the back woods alone.

    1. Herman, as in Herman’s Hermits? Funny if that’s where you were going with your moniker.

      Should I introduce you to Anon? We can have our own version of Tinder for anti-socials.

  3. Where does technology fit into the concept of ALONE?
    Is reading a hard cover book different from reading your blog? I can do it alone.

    I’m curious how Mr Knight occupied his mind. It’s like waking at 3am with a busy brain that you can’t control.

    1. I’ll tell you the answer when I read the book. Agree, you’d think his mind would have gone to mush. The book is due here tomorrow.

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