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“Into The Wild” by Jon Krakauer

The cover of the book “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer immediately acquaints the reader with the protagonist of the novel. It says: “In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter…” (Krakauer. Into the Wild). On reading this short introduction, it is already impossible for the reader to put the book back on the table and to continue doing something else. Several sentences are written on the book cover capture our attention, awake our imagination, and make us absorbed in the story of a young man, who wanted to deliver his unusual message to the whole world and who made millions of people all around the world think about life in a new light.

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So, the question is if Chris’s enterprise ever made sense, if it was a search for his soul or just avoiding responsibility? We think that it was something in between because on reading the book it becomes clear that not only was going to Alaska worthwhile for Chris, it was something he had to do, although his immaturity caused him to take unnecessary risks.

The most striking and moving thing about the book, a detail that sends shivers down your spine is that the author does not create a myth, does not describe the life of a made-up character, for it is a true story of a person who once existed. Christopher Johnson McCandless is a successful young man of twenty-two, fresh from college, moreover, he is a person who has graduated with honors from Emory University and is standing now at the door of adult life that promises him success and luck. At first sight, it seems that Fortune smiled on him, he is young, smart, independent, educated, so, how come that such a perfect man decides to abandon everything, to cut his ties with family, leaving them desperate behind without even turning his head when leaving? How come that the man abandons his considerable sum of money, making a beau geste of charity and one more symbolic action connected with money – when he burns the cash from his wallet? Why did he leave without the slightest feeling of regret everything that common people value and appreciate so much? Jon Krakauer tries to answer all of these questions.

Speaking about the causes of Chris McCandless’s behavior, different points of view are possible. There is an opinion that was typical of tabloids that accused Chris of naivety and shallowness and alleged that the man wanted to take his own life in some unusual and impressive manner and to receive posthumous fame. People accused Chris McCandless of neglecting and rejecting everything that life had generously given him. He was considered to be surfeited with successful life without problems. Still, the author of the book did not share this point of view.

Krakauer’s attitude towards the story of Chris McCandless deserves special attention. It is known that Krakauer’s interest was kindled after he had written the article about that young man for the magazine. Later his interest became so strong that it almost bordered on obsession that made Jon conduct a real investigation of Chris’s life. He talked with a great number of people, trying to find out every minor detail about the case, he even followed McCandless’s route to get the best understanding of what had happened to him. Probably, this strong interest of the writer can be explained by his inner similarity with his protagonist, by the inner affinity of these two people.

Returning to the protagonist of the book, it must be mentioned that the life of a young man was not so cloudless and serene as it might seem. The thing is that Chris was deeply wounded by his family drama and his relations with his father were at the root of the whole tragedy. They say, that every family has its skeleton in the cupboard, this was also the case with Chris’s father, Walt, rather a prosperous man, a father of a large family with many children happened to be a hypocrite. He pinned his hopes on his son, demanded too much of him, and at first Chris tried with all his might to meet his father’s expectations, but later he came to know that his father was a liar who tried to live with two women simultaneously. Chris understood that he hated him and he hated hypocrisy, could not, and did not want to survive in a society that was so rotten. This is why he chose to escape from human society, to abandon it forever. Clare Lees also thinks that “McCandless fled the malaise of modern civilization to seek self-discovery in the American West’s wild place” (Lees and Overing. A Place to Believe in: Locating Medieval landscapes. 253).

It can be said, that Chris was an unwanted person in society, he could not accept the order of life, and he had a burning desire to reject everything connected with human society and civilization, but he wanted to join nature and to understand it, he was searching new experience and new knowledge even if this knowledge required looking over the edge. It is necessary to understand that McCandless was not looking for beautiful landscapes, the aim of his search was peace in his soul and harmony with nature.

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There is no denying the fact that McCandless’s aims were philosophic and important, but it is evident at the same time that he was an immature young man, too eccentric and inexperienced. The young man was balancing on the shifty line between heroic martyrdom and self-destructiveness. He was following the ideas of his favorite writers – Jack London and Leo Tolstoy and, certainly, there were romantic shades in his conduct. He behaved in a way like a teenager who decided to become a hero after he had read an adventurous book. The fact that he decided to change his name is good proof of this, Alex Supertramp sounds like a character from comics. The immaturity of the man can be also proved by such actions of his like going to Alaska without maps, without special equipment, without food. This type of asceticism doomed him to death.

Still, we can say that Chris’s adventure was not senseless, despite its sad end, because the man really met interesting people like Wayne Westerberg and Jan Burres, he became more self-reliant and independent than he used to be and he proved to himself that material pleasures were absolutely unimportant in comparison with harmony inside a person’s soul and harmony with nature.

Finally, it should be mentioned that Christopher McCandless wanted to create a new life for himself, the life that would make him happy at last, the life that would give him peace and consent. It is very important that eventually he understood that nature could be a sanctuary, but not forever, happiness was something that should be shared with other people, an isolated person could not be happy alone. We can prove this by referring to his final note that was found after his death: “I NEED YOUR HELP … PLEASE, REMAIN TO SAVE ME” (10). McCandless used to avoid people, but finally, he begged to save him, and, moreover, in this final note he used his real name once again. Unfortunately, Chris did not manage to come back to people in order to tell them the truth, but we know that he died smiling as his last photo suggested. He really managed to find the truth and Jon Krakauer brought it to people.

Works Cited

Krakauer, Jon. Into the Wild. New York: Villard, 1997.

Lees, Clare A. and Overing, Gillian R. A Place to Believe in: Locating Medieval landscapes. USA:Penn State Press, 2006.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) '“Into The Wild” by Jon Krakauer'. 4 November.

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