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.

Krakauer stays in his tent at the base of the ice cap for three days, not quite willing to retreat in defeat yet. He smokes a bit of marijuana and decides to make oatmeal, somewhere in the process burning a hole in his father’s expensive tent again. He ponders how he will have disappointed his father once again. His father is a rash man who never admits when he is wrong. He taught Krakauer to climb, though he never knew he would become so adamant about the sport. Despite his love for his family and the rare gentle side, his father is a controlling man, expecting great things from his children – doctors and lawyers. His father started young, constantly expecting the best from his children and pushing him to reach medical school. It is this that Krakauer claims he rebelled against.

So it is that instead of going to college, Krakauer becomes a carpenter and climber and when his father’s weaknesses come to light, he becomes angry over such hypocrisy and high expectations. The rage from those days has faded away, claims Krakauer, replaced by familial love and affection. He realizes how stubborn and foolish he was being and that it took time for him to make these realizations. His father became ill at a certain point, dependent upon medication and even attempted suicide in front of Krakauer, completely shattering whatever illusion he might still have had of his father’s greatness.

After three days on the ice cap, Krakauer attempts once again to climb the north face of the mountain, quickly driven back down the mountain by weather and fear. He stays at the mid-mountain point and waits, unwilling to give in and return. However, when he returns, a storm buries him again and he decides to hide away in a snow drift.

After the storm, he finds the base camp and decides that he cannot defeat nature, considering the climb on the south wall instead of the north. So, he makes that climb and sleeps on the mountain again, watching the city and feeling lonely. He must race to beat a storm to the summit once again, taking an extremely dangerous route to the top so as to beat out an approaching storm.

After a series of near-deadly slips and close calls, he makes it to the summit, takes a few photographs, and quickly descends. Having beaten the weather to the summit, he quickly heads back down the mountain to ensure he survives. On his way down, he hitches a ride with a boater across the water and back to Petersberg. At first the boater doesn’t believe Krakauer’s story and is wary of the smelly, unkempt young man. He tells his story later than night to patrons at a bar who are hardly impressed by his climb, bursting his bubble of pride. He returns home a month later to his carpentry job, gets a better apartment and begins putting his life back together. He ends the chapter with reflections on how his climb of the Devils’ Thumb did nothing to change his life or who he was, comparing his revelations to what McCandless might have felt shortly before he died.

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