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 full year after McCandless failed to cross the Teklanika River, Krakauer observes the same torrent of water. Only a half mile away there is a basket on cables and pulleys to cross the river, which McCandless had no way of finding without the kind of map McCandless has. Initially annoyed at the company, Krakauer remarks on how lonely the area seems and how much he would have disliked having been alone.

When they reach the bus, they find a variety of animal bones and the remains of the moose McCandless was unable to cure. Much of Krakauer’s hate mail regarding his Outside Magazine article was directly related to the fact that the initial moose hunters said the remains belonged to a caribou. However, Krakauer’s party finds that this is not the case.

Inside the bus, Krakauer finds books, supplies, and remnants of unmade clothing. There are remnants of his stay everywhere, including clothing, pots and pans, and the knife sheath given to him by Franz. Krakauer heads outside, disturbed by his discovery, later discussing the matter of McCandless with his companions, not understanding why so many people are so upset by the young man’s decisions. There have been comparisons to Sir John Franklin, a cocky British Officer who led 140 men and himself to death in the 19th century. Krakauer differentiates between the different kinds of arrogance though, with Franklin believing he could conquer the wild and McCandless trying to livewith it.

Krakauer admits that the major mistake McCandless makes is that he didn’t first learn what most people learn before heading into the wild. He did however have the right survival skills to survive in the wild for the time he was there. He compares McCandless to the typical teenager who will take unnecessary risks to prove him or herself. He tries to confirm that McCandless found meaning in his adventures and that he wasn’t in fact a man lost in the wild like his critics have claimed.

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