Into the wild is a biography written by Jon Krakauer. The novel is about Chris McCandless, who is the son of wealthy parents, graduate from Emory University as a top student and an athlete. However, instead of embarking on a prestigious and profitable career, he choose to give his savings to charity, rid himself of his possessions, and set out on a journey to the Alaskan wilderness. McCandless felt trapped in a life that he felt was overbearing with others needs that weren’t his and set out to experience all the joys he dreamed of, to achieve all the adventures he read about from his favorite authors. Jon Krakauer tells the story of a man who lived his life without regret, risk, or grief. In the first chapter, Krakauer starts off with the scene of McCandless on the road about 240 miles out of Denali.
Jim Gallien, a union electrician on his way to anchorage picked up McCandless on his way towards his Alaskan voyage. Gallien was the last person to see McCandless alive. “I won’t run into anything I can´t handle” (6). For two years Chris McCandless had backpacked all over the United States, providing himself with shelter and food along the way.
Two years of experience and survival knowledge had lead him to believe that Alaska was no different than the environmental and cultural factors in the United States. The way Chris had repeatedly denied help from Gallien makes it seem as if McCandless really believed without a doubt that he could take care of himself. With how long McCandless had survived on the roads of America, maybe he did know how to survive in Alaska and his death was just a mistake that happened at the wrong place at the wrong time. Over the little amount of time he had been traveling, McCandless came across so many kind people who gave advice and care.
Ron Franz , an 81 year old veteran was one of the many to encounter McCandless. The two spent some time together trading stories and Franz eventually came to care of Chris as a son. In a long and impassioned letter McCandless encourages Franz to leave his routine life and mimic McCandless’s wandering lifestyle. Chris outlines his feelings about how societal expectations play a role in defining a person’s life. As if society was a push back against expectations and instead of people challenging themselves, they remain in an unhappy life. “So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservation, all of which may appear to give one piece of mind, but in reality, nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit”(56-57). Chris thought this of the common “American Dream,” where people strive for education and employment, a family, a home, and then a dignified funeral.
Chris wanted to prove himself against nature itself, and to stretch his personal horizons and boundaries. Without that challenge, he thought he would turn out just like everyone else, fighting a society and system that worked to keep individuals conformed by their societal roles. McCandless claims that having a constantly changing horizon is the only way for a person to feel alive. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences.
There is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. Amazingly, Franz takes McCandless’s advice and at the age of 81, Franz sells his possessions and buys a vehicle to bum around the desert in. One other individual who impacted Chris McCandless on his journey was Wayne Westerberg, a grain elevator operator who offers Chris a job and eventually forms a family like bond with him. ¨Please return all mail I receive to the sender. It might be a very long time before I return South. If this adventure proves fatal and you don’t ever hear from me again, I want you to know you’re a great man. I now walk into the wild” (69). In the last postcard to Wayne Westerberg, McCandless acknowledges chance of no survival, feels as if it is worth it, for the real experience of living completely independent and free is greater than life without it.
These pieces of information provided in the novel, Into the Wild, showcases Chris McCandless as an intelligent being who forged relationships with people throughout his journey. Without the journey he would’ve never had met them or impacted their lives. McCandless would’ve viewed his journey as fulfilling and without regret would’ve done it again.In the biography Jon Krakauer includes interviews from the McCandless family. Some of the story had been kept off the record to save the image of the perfect family from public eye, but Krakauer hinted at it. Krakauer had strategically described the tense relationship Chris McCandless had with his father but never included what Chris had been running from in that family. In the article, Behind The Famous Story, A Difficult ‘Wild Truth’ from nationalpublicradio.
org, Heller Mcalpin shares what was kept off the record between Krakauer and Carine McCandless, Chris McCandless’ little sister. Carine McCandless revealed the terrible past of the McCandless family in her book, The Wild Truth opening with several harrowing scenes Laying the allegations that her brother’s behavior was cruel to their parents to rest. “Carine McCandless gets the grim truth out of the way up front in her introduction, with the quick determination of someone tearing off a painful Band-Aid: She and her brother Chris grew up with a volatile, viciously abusive father who made their weak-willed yet hyper-competent mother both his victim and his accomplice” Mcalpin describes the terrible childhood as a cover up being ripped off and showing the world the wound inflicted by the father.
“After vividly describing one of their father’s attacks on her mother, McCandless moves on to the double beatings she and her brother suffered, ‘forced down, side by side’ across his lap. She writes, ‘The snap of the leather was sharp and quick between our wails. I will never forget craning my neck in search of leniency, only to see the look of sadistic pleasure that lit up my father’s eyes and his terrifying smile — like an addict in the climax of his high.
‘ … Interestingly, she accepts her beloved brother’s abandonment without bitterness, seeing it as an unfortunate casualty of his clean break with their parents,” Mcalpin paraphrased Carine McCandless opinion on what drove Chris McCandless away.
With this type of past, it is easier to connect why Chris didn’t want anything to do with his parents, he wasn’t running from his family he was running from the chained, obedient life his father wanted for Chris. Chris McCandless would’ve seen his death as a gain rather than the alternative of continuing on in law. The experience of adventure outweighed the alternative.Chris McCandless had an adventurous spirit that was better off out on the road, living day to day with a new sun everyday. The experiences were enough, worthy of a lifetime of no regret. McCandless’ courage to live the life he wanted was inspiring to those trapped in the abusive past life he left.