Sometimes a character may be pushed over the edge by our materialistic society to discover his
Sometimes a character may be pushed over the edge by our materialistic society to discover his/her true roots, which can only be found by going back to nature where monetary status was not important. Chris McCandless leaves all his possessions and begins a trek across the Western United States, which eventually brings him to the place of his demise-Alaska. Jon Krakauer makes you feel like you are with Chris on his journey and uses exerts from various authors such as Thoreau, London, and Tolstoy, as well as flashbacks and narrative pace and even is able to parallel the adventures of Chris to his own life as a young man in his novel Into the Wild. Krakauer educates himself of McCandless’ story by talking to the people that knew Chris the best. These people were not only his family but the people he met on the roads of his travels- they are the ones who became his road family.
McCandless, an intelligent child to say the least, was frustrated with orders by anyone. He wanted to do things his way or no way and he does this throughout his life. Whether it was getting an F in physics because he refused to write lab reports a certain way (an F was something that was never on McCandless report card) or not listening to advice from his parents to the extreme of leaving society to go into the wilderness, McCandless definitely was not a follower. His parents were told by one of his teachers at an early age that Chris “marched to the beat of his own drummer”. Chris never lost his ability to do things the way he wanted and when he wanted to do them. After receiving his diploma from Emory in 1990 he set off on a two-year escapade that would eventually end his life but in my opinion, if Chris could start over he would probably not do things much differently. I think he would still donate his $25,000 to an organization, leave his car in the woods, burn the remainder of his money, and hitch-hiked across the United States. The only thing he might do differently is finding a way not to starve to death at the end of the novel.
In the beginning of each chapter, Krakauer includes one or two exerts from various authors of nature such as Thoreau, Tolstoy, or London. Once in a while he even includes postcards that Chris had sent to some of the people he met along his journey, which show what he was feeling throughout the trip. Some of the exerts were taken from what was highlighted in the books found with Chris in the bus he was discovered dead in. Other exerts were just chosen by Krakauer to help give the reader a sense of what other naturalists were thinking when they left civilization (Thoreau for example). The last postcard ever received by Chris was addressed to one of his friends that he met along his trip. Wayne Westerberg was the one who was delivered the postcard that included the line “if this adventure proves fatal and you don’t ever hear from me again I want you to know you’re a great man. I now walk into the wild.” Chris almost knew that he would not make it out of the wild alive. Chris was seeking adventure. His trip to Alaska was the “drug” that made him high. “I wanted movement and not a calm course of existence. I wanted excitement and danger and the chance to sacrifice myself for my love. I felt in myself a superabundance of energy which found no outlet in our quiet life.”-Leo Tolstoy-highlighted in one of the books found with McCandless’s remains. Krakauer wastes no time getting into the story and tells the reader from the beginning that McCandless eventually reaches the end of his journey of life in Alaska but he still leaves out enough to make the story interesting and he introduces the information that fills the gaps of the story through flashback.
The reader knows that there is not going to be a happy ending in Into the Wild. It is no secret that McCandless does not survive but the reader still wants to continue reading to get into the mind of McCandless. What would cause a bright and compassionate child to leave a safe environment and venture into the wild to have brushes with death on an everyday basis? The yearning that some people have to live on the dangerous side and get away from it all is the only answer. Krakauer only introduces Chris as the kid who dies in Alaska in the beginning of the novel but he uses flashback to create a picture of Chris to the reader as the novel progresses. He shows Chris as the child who grew more and more outraged with society every year of his life and eventually sought nature and solitude to get away from it all. Chris was not someone who you would expect to do something like this by reading descriptions of him. Who would think that a person who cares so much about others, who would go as far as give out food to the homeless in Washington on his Friday nights or let a vagabond sleep in his parent’s camper would isolate himself from people? Chris is depicted as an outgoing child who can succeed at anything he puts his mind to and who does not need to work hard to learn things but refuses to waste time on perfection because he feels he can use his time more wisely. He could have excelled in every sport but he never wanted to fine-tune any parts of his athleticism. The only sport he worked hard at was running. Something that Chris was good at. He was not only good at running races but also from running away from people. He ran away from the anger he had for his father for leading a double life by living with his first family and Chris’s family at the same time without anyone knowing. Chris found this information out on one of his first trips and internalized the pain. He never could bring himself to address his father with this and instead only built up anger that eventually led him further and further away from home. I believe that this pain contributed to Chris’s lack of caring to call his parents while he was in other parts of the country. Instead Chris formed almost a new family of people he touched along his quest.
Chris met many people who helped him along the way. He made an impact on everyone he met. People know him as both Chris McCandless and Alex Supertramp. He began calling himself Alex along his travels. Many other adventures that traveled into the wild changed their name also so it is possible that Chris was just following along. This is doubtful though because Chris was not a follower. For some reason or another he probably just wanted to change his name, maybe to completely separate himself from his old identity. This identity was the one his parents and siblings knew him as. Chris loved his sister but just could not get along with his mother and father even though he would always have a love for them and they would also love, be attached, and worried about him. This rift between parents and child caused much of the motivation for Chris to leave. His final name was inscribed in various areas around where he was found dead at the bus site. Whether it was a travelling couple or a man who owned a grain business, Chris had a spot in all of their hearts. Wayne Westerberg was one of the main helpers of Chris along the way. Chris was not only Wayne’s employee at the grain factory but he was also his friend and Wayne played a fatherly role to Chris. Chris would write Wayne more often than he would his own father and would visit him when he needed to make money for supplies for his next trip. Chris sent his final postcard to Wayne and even hinted that the postcard might be the last contact they ever had. People who just gave him a ride and some free supplies also remember Chris. Anyone who he met remembers him because he was a truly unique individual. One of the main people that Chris effected was the author of this novel.
Jon Krakauer is much like the main character of the biography. Both Jon and Chris yearned for adventure. Both were mountain climbers and both enjoyed the outdoors. Neither one got along with their fathers with tremendous ease and both found ways to escape the restrictions that were put on them by society. Krakauer found his outlet by writing in outdoor magazines and by writing novels. He was able to survive his trips but he was close to death a couple times also. Once he decided to climb a mountain that had never been climbed before called Devils Thumb. Just like Chris he refused to give up and after much adversity he finally conquered his goal and reached the top of the mountain. Chris never gave up any of his dreams. He traveled when people told him not to, he went into the wild when people told him it was too dangerous, he lived life to the fullest no matter what anyone said. I think the author is envious of this and that is why he decided to write a novel on Chris after writing an article on him in a magazine first.
Chris McCandless or Alexander Supertramp either name cannot describe the incredible person that he was. He left on a trip that would change his life forever but it also would change the lives of his family, the people he met, and the author. Chris wanted to separate himself from society but instead he brought people closer to him by just acting natural and living out his dream.
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