While establishing an appeal to logos, Krakauer continues to inundate his work with more rhetorical appeals, including an appeal to pathos, or emotion. One specific strategy Krakauer uses to make this appeal is using excerpts from other literature at the beginning of each chapter. In introducing the third chapter, Krakauer uses an excerpt from Tolstoy’s “Family Happiness,” which goes as follows: “’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’” (15). By using moving, emotional passages, Krakauer creates an emotional attachment between the values of McCandless and the values of the audience. The audience is able to identify with the longing that the author of the quotes feels for an escape from the ordinary life; more than likely, the audience has had similar desires, desires that were brought out by hearing them told in an eloquent manner.. Krakauer demonstrates that McCandless is not that much different than everyone else in the audience; McCandless had the same passion, longing, and dreams that the rest of the society feels too. A second example of this strategy occurs in the introduction to the fourteenth chapter, when Krakauer uses a passage from “Letter From a Man” by Menlove, which goes ““’I grew up exuberant in body but with a nervy, craving mind. It was wanting something more, something tangible. It sought for reality intensely, always as if it were not there…But you see at once what I do. I climb’” (133). Prior to reading Krakauer’s account of McCandless’s life, the audience has already made the judgment that McCandless is a part of the ambiguous “other,” a group of people that aren’t a part of “normal” society and therefore cannot be identified with. The only possible explanation they could find for McCandless’s actions was that he was not right in the head, not an able member of society. However, through the use of this quote, Krakauer connects emotionally with the audience with their need to find a different, more intense existence in life. Menlove’s outlet to his “craving mind” was to climb, just the same as Krakauer’s solution was to climb the Stikine Ice Cap and McCandless’ was to escape into the wilderness. All the quotes in the beginning of each chapter are dramatic in the sense that they each consist of a universal theme; this quote in particular ties to the theme of a search for truth.
A second strategy in creating an appeal to pathos is Krakauer’s use of individual stories in order to “paint a picture” for the audience. Krakauer, devotes an entire chapter in telling the story of another individual, Everett Ruess, in which he proclaims ““Everett Ruess’s correspondence reveals uncanny parallels between Ruess and Chris McCandless…[An excerpt from Ruess’s letter]’I have always been unsatisfied with life as most people live it. Always I wanted to live more intensely and richly’” (91). Both young and both “called to the wild,” Ruess and McCandless share a similar story in which they essentially abandon their family’s expectations and make their way solo into the wild, with little more than the clothes on their back and essential supplies. Krakauer, never having known McCandless personally, must rely on stories with people similar to McCandless in order to “paint a picture” to the audience on McCandless’s character. As Ruess himself stated, a reliable account being firsthand, he went into the wild not seeking death or being completely deranged but in order to live “more intensely and richly,” to find meaning in the midst of a turbulent world. Listening to the story of another person from another perspective, the audience is able to connect to the story of a boy seeking meaning in his life on an emotional level and then attach this story to the story of McCandless. Krakauer also uses examples that directly relate to the audience, such as in his comparison of danger in McCandless’ life and danger in the average life, where he contemplates “It is hardly unusual for a young man to be drawn to a pursuit considered reckless by his elders… Danger has always held a certain allure. That, in large part, is why so many teenagers drive too fast and drink too much and take too many drugs, why it has always been so easy for nations to recruit young men to go to war” (182). Krakauer understands as an author that many members of his audience cannot understand why McCandless went willingly into a situation where he knew he would face insurmountable danger and even certain death. To the reader, McCandless’s instinct to face situations directly in the face of danger is not typical for most people. However, Krakauer argues the opposite. He states here in this passage that McCandless’s attraction to danger is the same as any young person’s desire for reckless pursuits; the only difference between McCandless and any ordinary young person is that McCandless chose to face danger in an environment unfamiliar to most people- the wild. To the younger population, things such as speeding, drinking, and fighting in war do not appear to dangerous but, in hindsight, are just continuations of the young generation’s desire to live dangerously.
The final rhetorical appeal that Krakauer utilized in Into the Wild was the appeal to ethos, or author credibility. Krakauer’s first strategy to achieve this appeal was to acknowledge the opposing view, the view that McCandless was an ignorant suburban boy who was out of his mind to even consider going into the Alaskan wild unprepared. In beginning his refute on the belief, Krakauer acknowledges “The prevailing Alaska wisdom held that McCandless was simply one more dreamy half-cocked greenhorn who went into the country expecting to find answers to all his problems and instead found only mosquitoes and a lonely death” (72). The author acknowledges these opposing viewpoints in order to establish to the audience that, while he is biased in some senses, he has formed his opinion based on factual evidence and understanding the other side’s opinion. He allows the audience to see the viewpoints of the opposing side and then uses factual evidence and reasoning in order to convince the audience that his opinion of McCandless is the correct one. This all contributes to Krakauer’s credibility as an author and narrator and assists him in his main purpose by building trust between the author and the audience so that the audience can trust his account and opinions. Krakauer also acknowledges the suspicions that his article in Outsiders Magazine arose, suspicions that McCandless was hellbent on suicide. The author recognizes “When the adventure did indeed prove fatal, this melodramatic declaration fueled considerable speculation that the boy had been bent on suicide from the beginning, that when he walked into the bush, he had no intention of ever walking out again” (134). Krakauer is confident that, while he states the opposing views, his arguments for his opinion on the McCandless matter is convincing and credible enough that the audience will undoubtedly come to see his opinion as being the valid one. While the first quote was more focused on McCandless’s character, this quote is more directed towards the opinion that McCandless went into the wild in order to kill himself, an opinion that Krakauer finds void and without evidence. Krakauer argues against this opinion immediately following the quote by providing insight from his own personal experiences, another example of Krakauer’s appeal to ethos. He simultaneously discredits the opposing viewpoints with evidence based from a firsthand experience and boosts his credibility as an author by using such a personal account.
Krakaeur used the technique of using his own personal experiences in order to create an appeal to ethos, and chapters fourteen and fifteen are both dedicated to telling Krakauer’s own personal story. Krakauer highlights his pure desire and determination to climb the Stikine Ice Cap as a cause for his adventure and dangers, relaying “Because I wanted to climb the mountain so badly, because had thought about the Thumb so intensely for so long, it seemed beyond the realm of possibility that some minor obstacle like the weather or crevasses or rime-covered rock might ultimately thwart my will”(151). Here, Krakauer demonstrates that his motivation and pure want to climb the ice cap blinded him to the impossibility of the feat, leading him to forget the own essential truth of his own mortality. Krakauer sees much of himself in Chris McCandless, and uses his own personal experiences in order to show the audience a firsthand view into the mind of an adventurer. The audience here is able to see where Krakauer’s bias comes from and from where Krakauer comes from in writing this novel; they are able to trust him more after seeing his credibility as an author. Likewise, Krakauer’s concluding statement in his side of the story offers a conclusion drawn upon personal experiences, where he testifies “The hint of what was concealed in those shadows terrified me, but I caught something in the glimpse, some forbidden and elemental riddle… In my case- and, I believe, in the case of Chris McCandless- that was a very different thing from wanting to die” (156). Both Krakauer and McCandless were in search for something in the wild, something to bring them closer to the ultimate truth in their own lives. Krakauer draws his argument that McCandless was not “crazy” from the fact that Krakauer himself was not; Krakauer sees McCandless as a continuation of Krakauer’s own desires and one of the desires was not to die.
Krakauer’s manipulation of the three rhetorical appeals serves to convince the audience that the young Chris McCandless had many attributes and qualities that much of the audience overlooks in their evaluation of him and his Alaskan ordeals. Krakauer intertwines appeals to logos, pathos, and ethos throughout Into the Wild with such delicacy that the audience is unable to put down the novel without being fully convinced of the depth and elusive nature of McCandless’ character. He recognizes in writing the story of Chris McCandless that a majority of society already has a negative perception of McCandless, one built from misinformation and perhaps even fear. As best summarized by Romain Dial at the end of the account, “’And I’m sure there are plenty of Alaskans who had a lot in common with McCandless... Which is why they’re so hard on him. Maybe McCandless reminded them too much of their former selves’” (186).
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5 stars ***** This is a beautifully written, logically argued essay which focuses on the author's intentions and analyses the probable reaction of the reader. All statements/arguments are intelligent and insightful and are supported by appropriately selected quotations. This is an excellent essay - thoughtful and detailed which shows a real understanding of the subtleties of the author's craft.