"Into the Wild"Analysis. Jon Krakauer is an American writer and mountaineer. He has written many books about the outdoors and mountain climbing
Title: Into the Wild Publication Date: 1996
Author: Jon Krakauer Nationality: American
Author’s Birth/Death Dates: April 12th 1954 - Present
Distinguishing Traits of Author:
Jon Krakauer is an writer and . He has written many books about the and . He is the author of best-selling non-fiction books Into the Wild, , , and . After graduating from college, he spent three weeks by himself in the wilderness of the region of and climbed the . These experiences mirror what Chris McCandless has done in his book Into the Wild. Furthermore, Krakauer climber Mount Everest in 1996 and was a part of the which involved four of his teammates (including the up leader ) dying in a storm as they descended from the mountain.
Jim Gallien was driving through Alaska, when he sees a 24-year-old hitchhiker named Alex who came from South Dakota. As Alex elaborates on his plan to explore the wilderness, Gallien tries changing his mind, as he is certain that Alex is unprepared for life in the Alaskan wilderness. Therefore, Gallien offers to buy Alex some gears to help improve his chances of surviving. Despite Gallien’s good intentions, Alex declines. As Alex departs for adventure, Gallien gives Alex his phone number, telling him to call if he makes it out alive. Almost 5 months later on September 6, 1992, Ken Thompson, Gordon Samel, and Ferdie Swanson arrive at a broken down bus. At the site of the abandoned bus, a decomposed corpse is found.
This unfortunate even begins the investigation and story of a man named Chris McCandless, a young man who perished when he is twenty-four. McCandless grew up in a wealthy Virginia, and was a very gifted athlete as well as a smart individual. After graduating from high school, McCandless spent his summer by taking a road trip across the country. Upon his return, he changes his mood because he discovered that his father secretly had a second family during his childhood. McCandless soon returns home and starts school at Emory, but his bitterness over the fact that he was not told of such an important secret gradually grew worse and worse. As a senior, he drove away most of his friends and barely kept in touch with his parents. As soon as he has graduated, he donates his $25,000 savings anonymously to OXFAM, gets in his car, and drives away with the intention of disappearing from his parents’ radar. As a last symbol of his resolve to leave his past life behind, he abandons his real name and changes his name to Alexander Supertramp.
As he travels further and further down the path of adventure he carved for himself, McCandless meets and drastically affects many people. Although developing close bonds with many, nobody could deter him from continuing his harrowing journey. As McCandless travels around and into the wild, he keeps a personal diary and takes pictures to document the places he has been. Isolated from society, McCandless survives in the wilderness with minimum food and equipment. As soon as he is finished with one adventure, he decides briefly returned society in order to make some income and purchase enough supplies for his next wild quest. Before he passed away, he had visited many areas such as Las Vegas and San Diego
At the beginning of his adventure, Chris makes acquaintances with Wayne Westerberg, the owner of a grain elevator in Carthage, South Dakota. After initial departing, Chris comes back a few weeks later to work for Wayne in order to generate some income. After leaving Westerberg’s place, Chris heads south and eventually ends up in Arizona where he buys a canoe. He soon decides to row down the Colorado River to the Gulf of California and sneaks into Mexico. On January 11, 1991, he is nearly overpowered in a bad storm, and after managing to survive, he decides to return back north. As he is returning, he is caught by the immigration authorities, but he manages to convince them to let him go. He soon arrives in Bullhead City, Arizona in early October where he works at McDonalds. While he stays in Bullhead City, Chris camps outside of town a man named , who he met in a restroom. When he finally leaves Bullhead City, he goes to visit and Bob at the Niland Slabs.
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Soon after leaving Jan, Chris sets up camp in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. One day, while hiking back from a provisions trip he gets a ride from an eighty-year old man named who thinks that Chris seems like a good person. Over the next few weeks, they spend a lot of time together. They drive to Colorado together, and Franz finds is very sad once Chris leaves him.
The last journey he ever took was one to the harsh areas of Alaska. As he progressed through the dangerous terrain, he was making good progress. But as he finds a deep and fast river as his obstacle, he is forced to return to a abandoned bus he had found. As the climate grew harsher, it became harder to hunt and find a sustainable source of nourishment. With the lack of food and nutrients, McCandless quickly lost weight and energy. In his last few days, McCandless is overcome by starvation and the cold. When he finally died alone and hungry, he had spent a little more than 100 days in the wild and realizes that the nature is, only a refuge for a short while, and true happiness can only be shared with others. 19 days after his initial death, moose hunters found his body partially decomposed in the bus. Upon further examination of the bus, the diaries and the supplies were still nearby. Initially, many thought he died from eating a poisonous type of pea that he mistook for potato seeds.
After his tragic tale was published, many criticized him for being as foolish as to think he could survive on his wits alone. There were many who criticized him for not heading into the wild with proper equipment. As a result, many believe it was his own fault for his death as he was overconfident and misjudged the severity of the Alaskan wilderness.
Soon after disappearing from his parents’ radar, he sheds his name and adopts the new name of “Alexander Supertramp”. Coming from a well off family, Chris had a normal life and many friends as well as excelling in athletics. The only issue that haunted him growing up was his relationship with his parents. Diligent and thorough, he was “the hardest worker [Westburg] has ever seen” (18). Mentally, he was extremely intelligent and strikes people “as much older than twenty four” (67). He is shown to be particularly willful as “he was the sort of person who insisted on living out his beliefs” (67). When he was climbing a mountain with his grandfather at the age of twelve, he was stopped from reaching the peak, yet “he wanted to go to the top… [and] if he’d been fourteen or fifteen, he would have simply gone on without [his grandpa]” (109). Furthermore, he was incredibly skilled at numerous things, he was “a high achiever in almost everything that caught his fancy” (109). Due to his outstanding talents and skills, he was overconfident and “didn’t think odds applied to him” (109). Lastly, Chris was a very compassionate individual, often sacrificing his weekends to talk “with prostitutes and homeless people, buying them meals, earnestly suggesting ways they might improve their lives” (113). Ultimately, Chris was a complex individual who excelled in many things, yet it was his superior skills that led to his eventual demise.
Symbols, Motifs, Archetypes, Allusions
Money was something Chris grew up treasuring. He was “always an entrepreneur” (115). However, as he began his journey, the value of money was greatly diminished. He did not care about material wealth as shown when he burned up what little money he had and donated his savings to a charity. In this story, money symbolizes the capitalistic and materialistic lifestyle people lead. It is a representation of the past when he was “an entrepreneur” (67). Chris shows he wants to forgo all of that and find a new start when he burns his money.
The last name “Supertramp”
Tramp could mean many different things. One of its possible meanings is a long and tiring journey on foot. Super is a word that often makes another word more significant. The symbolism being Chris McCandless’ choice to change his name into Alexander Supertramp could be to show that he will keep on walking a tiring journey but he will not stop. Despite the long and tedious journey, he will keep going in order to achieve his dreams.
Wherever Alex traveled, he always had a form of weaponry with him. He had a .22 caliber rifle with him as Gallien picked him up. He had a few Swiss army knives and belt knives from Burres. Knives are a reoccurring element in this story. It gives the wielder power and an advantage over nature. It makes killing prey and hunting far easier. Furthermore, knives help with skinning the animal and removing its inner organs. Weaponry has helped Chris survive in the wild despite it being a product of the society he longed to escape from.
There are allusions to many different literary works that have been published. The most prominent work of literature is Call of the Wild by Jack London. Other book include White Fang, War and Peace “To Build a Fire”, “An Odyssey of the North”, and “The Wit of Porportuk”. Most if not all of these novels tell of a harsh and difficult journey of which Chris McCandless is enthralled by and tries to mirror with his own life.
One archetype in this story is that of a wanderer. The original wanderer was the Greek warrior Odysseus who traveled a difficult journey to go home. Like Odysseus, Chris McCandless receives help from others and faces many hardships during his travels. However, unlike Odysseus, Chris’ goal was to get as far away as possible from his family whereas Odysseus strives to return to his wife Penelope.
The siren’s mysterious and compelling voice leads many lives to be lost. In this story, the siren is not a tangible thing, but rather the nature itself. While nature can seem so pristine and pure, it has caused many deaths whether it would be avalanches or floods. The beauty of nature compels many to try to explore the wilderness only to find the harsher realities and dying cruel deaths.
The Search for Freedom
Throughout the entire novel, the main goal of everybody who set out on an adventure was to find freedom. McCandless was tired of abiding the rules of his parents and frequently had disputes with his dad and decided to leave his past and pursue a future with more freedom. Rosellini, another character who lived in the wilderness, searched for a liberty from the inferior statuses he believes that humans have digressed to. In addition, Waterman, an accomplished adventurer, went on difficult and challenging journeys to find an escape from the hurt he had endured to his psyche. Even the author himself sought freedom in his life, resorting to exploring the wild after quitting a job that was tying him down. All in all, many characters were enamored by the idea of personal freedom.
McCandless, who eventually perished for his dream, described his journey as one for the “ultimate freedom.” Unable to settle down and listening to the orders of others, “he [looked] for more adventure and freedom than today’s society gives people” (174). His freedom included transcending his own personal limitations and “he had a need to test himself in ways” (182). It was because his parents were “so irrational, so oppressive, disrespectful and insulting” (64) that he decided to leave them behind and live his life as free as possible. Because “he was the sort of person who insisted on living out his beliefs” (67), he was not able to tolerate the rules and regulations his parents had set upon him. In conclusion, Chris left on his trip in order to find himself a place where he would not be subjected to the limitation of others and thus, find true happiness.
Another free-spirited character was John Waterman who died trying to free himself from the horrors he had witnessed in his past. As a child, John was scarred when his father “arrived in the state [but] never took the trouble to see [him]” (77). With his parents abandoning him in the early stages of life, John turned to climbing as a sort of escape from reality. However, climbing eventually “dealt a serious blow to Waterman’s young psyche” (77), as “eight of his intimates and climbing partners were killed in accidents or committed suicide” (77). The breaking point in his life was when a cabin “he was staying in caught fire and… [incinerated] both his equipment and the voluminous accumulation of notes, poetry, and personal journals [which] he regarded as his life’s work” (79). With the final blow struck, he left for his final adventure with the message of “[you] won’t be seeing [me] again” (79). In the end, Waterman died trying to achieve mental freedom from the tragic experiences he has had in the past.
Lastly, the author, Jon Krakauer himself is a pursuer of freedom. The freedom he pursues is one where is lives life to the fullest instead of wasting it. Like McCandless, the male figures in his life “aroused…a confusing medley of corked fury and hunger to please” (134). Unable to break free of his chains, Jon often “fantasized about…undertaking, ascents of remote mountains in Alaska and Canada” (134). When seeing a picture of untamed wilderness representing freedom, “the picture held an almost pornographic fascination for [him]” (135). When he finally decided to quit his job, he was “surprised…by how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt” (136). As he took in the sensation of newfound freedom, he realizes that “the world was suddenly rich with possibility” (136). Overall, Jon Krakauer was one of the many who sought a peace of mind and freedom from the others who were controlling his life.
The concept of freedom is one that is vital to the life of certain individuals. Many are willing to give up their lives to have a taste of freedom. Chris McCandless is one such individual, risking his life to leave behind the autocratic rule of his parents. John Waterman is haunted by the tragedy of those around him and seeks a refuge from all the hurt and pain he has been through. Lastly, Jon Krakauer seeks a freedom that he could not achieve if he stayed where he was and working at the job he once had. Ultimately, freedom is the object that many pay for with their lives.
The Importance of Help and Advice from Strangers
Repeatedly, Chris McCandless has been able to continue his journey for freedom due to the kindness of strangers he has met and befriended. Without Gaylord Stuckey, and Jim Gallien, Chris may have never been able to get where he needed to be for the next series of events to happen. Furthermore, he also relied on the assistance and generosity of Wayne Westerberg who gave him a job and money multiple times. Lastly, he had help from the rubber tramps Jan Burres and her husband, who gave him food and shelter. All in all, the kindness of strangers has been beneficial to Chris along his adventure.
Jim Gallien is the last person to see Chris alive, and thus, is perhaps the most important character behind him. He is shown to be very generous when him socks, boots, food, and his phone number before Chris disappeared into the wilderness. Trying to dissuade Chris, Gallien warned him “the hunting wasn’t easy... [and] he could go for days without killing any game” (5-6)”. If Chris had taken Jim’s advice, it would have saved him from dying a lonely and isolated death.
A minor character who had a big part in McCandless’ life was Wayne Westerberg. Wayne’s kindness was apparent when “he gave McCandless employment at the grain elevator and rented him a cheap room” (17). Similarly to Jim Gallien, Wayne tried to deter McCandless from taking such a danger trip and that “it was a mistake to get into that kind of stuff” (18). Westerberg’s role is also critical; he had provided him with money prior to his parting. Westerberg’s eventual arrest caused McCandless to leave “sooner than he might have under different circumstances” (19). By meeting Wayne Westerberg, Chris McCandless’ life changed its course.
Finally, Jan Burres and her husband Bob helped Chris. The moment Jan saw Chris, she thought they “could give him a meal” (30). In a last attempt to help McCandless survive in the wilderness, Burres gave him “some Swiss Army knives and a few belt knives” (46). Not only that, but she tried to give him “some long underwear and other warm clothing… [only to find] he’d pulled it out of his pack when [she] wasn’t looking” (46). With the assistance of Jan Burres, Chris was able to fend off starvation for a brief period of time and make acquaintances with many others.
In the end, Chris McCandless’ success in his journey was only attained through the help of strangers he had met. Without Wayne Westerberg’s generosity, he might have never been able to afford some of the weaponry he eventually bough. Furthermore, he could have died earlier had Jan Burres not given him a meal to replenish his stomach. Lastly, He might have never gotten to the Alaskan wilderness if Jim Gallien was not there to give him a ride. If he had heeded the warnings all of them had given him, he could have avoided his death. All in all, the assistance and advice from strangers he met proved to be extremely crucial in his expedition.
- “…but Chris wanted to keep going to the top. I told him no way. He was only twelve then, so all he could do was complain. If he’d been fourteen or fifteen, he would have simply gone on without me” (109)
- “he was reliable though, a body that showed up every day, so they didn’t dare fire him” (40)
- “…in his naïveté, relied on the advice of hunters he’d consulted in South Dakota” (166)
- “he was looking for more adventure and freedom than today’s society gives people” (174)
- “He had a need to test himself in ways…” (182)
- “HAPPINESS IS ONLY REAL WHEN SHARED” (189)
- “…so irrational, so oppressive, disrespectful and insulting that I finally passed my breaking point” (64)
- “And then, once the time is right with one abrupt, swift action I’m going to completely knock them out of my life. I’m going to divorce them as my parents once and for all and never speak to either of those idiots again as long as I live, I’ll be through with them once and for all, forever” (64)
- “Fuck their stupid rules” (6)
- “I won’t run into anything I can’t deal with on my own” (6)
- “…serene as a monk gone to God” (199)
- “Alex struck me as much older than twenty four” (67)
Distinctive Characteristics of Work:
Jon Krakauer uses many primary examples to shape his story Into the Wild. The author creates a setting starting with the body being found and then going further back into the past to reveal the details of the journey and how it came to be what it is today. Along the way, the author draws connections between McCandless and other prominent figures that have perished due to a mistake while exploring the wilderness. Nearing the end of the story, the author uses the experiences he himself has gained to relate to the deceased.