Jump to content

Into the Wild

Jim Colyer

Recommended Posts

This is the story of Chris McCandless, a young man from an affuent family who graduated with honors from Emory University in Atlanta. In April, 1992, Chris set off into the Alaska wilderness with a rifle and meager supplies to "live off the land." He headed north of Denali National Park. He was idealistic and strongly influenced by the writings of Thoreau and Tolstoy. Four months later, he was found dead by a party of moose hunters in an abandoned Fairbanks city bus. He had starved to death.


Jon Krakauer traces Chris' odyssey across the west. Chris' parents had assumed their son would go to law school with majors in history and anthropology. Instead, he secretly donated his college fund to charity and left with no word. He changed his name to Alex Supertramp. He abandoned his car and took to hitchhiking. He lived off rice. He traipsed through Arizona, Nevada, California, Oregon and Washington. He was liked by the people he met. He spent time in South Dakota and worked for a man named Wayne Westerberg. He befriended an 80-year-old veteran whom he tried to convert to the nomadic life.


Chris kept a journal in which he wrote about himself in the third person. He saw himself as a modern Thoreau. He camped in the Grand Canyon. He worked in a restaurant in Las Vegas. He revelled in his own spirit.


Meanwhile, Chris' parents were worried sick. Krakauer documents their grief.


Krakauer is sympathetic toward Chris and sees him as different from other wierdos who wander off in the wilderness. Chris' story and Krakauer's merge. Krakaeur grew up in Oregon and was taught mountain climbing by his father. He spent time in Alaska as a young man and climbed a peak known as Devils Thumb. He writes about it in detail, relating his mistakes and the unforgiving nature of mountains, ice and freezing temperatures. He questions why he survived his Alaska adventure while Chris perished in his.


It got out of hand with Chris. At least, it would seem so. His disregard for his parents and contempt for the rules of society are hard to defend. His asceticism and high-mindedness are extreme. He became an aimless drifter, a selfish nonconformist.


We are shown the source of Chris' resentment toward his father. His father had a second family by a first marriage. Apparently, it was a factor in this prodigal son's celibacy.


Krakauer admits the gap between himself and his own father, finding it impossible to live the life his father had in mind.


As his wanderlust grew, Chris thought more and more of Alaska. He hitched a ride from Dawson Creek in Canada up the Alaska Highway to Fairbanks. He bought a rifle and hitched again on the George Parks Highway toward the wilderness. He wanted to escape all signs of civilization. He saw Mt. Kinley in the distance. He found the bus and made it his home. For awhile, he was able to live off birds, squirrels and other small game. Krakauer concludes that Chris was poisoned by eating wild potato seeds which weakened him and led to his death. He does not believe he was suicidal or had a death wish as critics have proposed. Still, Chris was not that far into the bush and might have saved himself had he had some presence of mind. A year later, Krakauer escorted his parents to the bus.


Krakauer went on to climb Mt. Everest, an expedition during which several of his party perished. He turned the disaster into another bestseller, "Into Thin Air."


"Into the Wild" is being made into a movie starring Sean Penn and Vince Vaughn. It is due in 2007. Jon Krakauer's original story first appeared in Outside magazine.


Contact: [email protected]

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Create New...

Important Information

Terms of Use