Into the Wild Study Guide

Into the Wild

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Into the Wild is a non-fictional account of the wilderness survival and eventual death of Christopher McCandless, a teenager who left home to experience nature's grandeur. The survival of McCandless's journals and the accounts of those he met with on his travels paint a vivid picture of a determined young man wrestling with personal demons through travel. McCandless dies alone in the Alaskan wilderness at the conclusion of the novel.

A quotation from Tolstoy about loving danger opens the chapter, having been highlighted by McCandless in one of his many books, Family Happiness, which bridges to Krakauer discussing McCandless’s family.

Back in Carthage, South Dakota again, the author sits down with Wayne Westerberg to discuss how he met Alex, also known as McCandless. He originally offered him a ride as McCandless was hitchhiking and immediately took to him, offering him a meal and a job when he couldn’t drive him as far as he was going. He originally stayed for only three days, but did return a few weeks later to work some more. Westerberg comments on how hard Alex worked and how intelligent he was, how it might have caused him more pain than good. Eventually Westerberg learns that Alex’s real name is Chris and that he has problems with his family. Westerberg never questions him further, but offers Alex a place to stay and a surrogate family in Carthage. Alex likes the small town and enjoys the sense of community but eventually Westerberg is sent to jail for four months for illegal satellite boxes and Alex leaves town. He continues to consider Carthage his home town through having his mail sent there.

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