Essay: Krakauer – Christopher McCandless

In just the first pages of this book, Krakauer introduces our main character, “Alex”, aka Christopher McCandless, through the eyes of Jim Gallien, an Alaskan union electrician. Seeing McCandless hitchhiking along the road, Gallien stops and kindly offers McCandless a ride to wherever he needs to go, which in this case is Denali National Park, where Chris states he wants to camp out for several months. In this scene, there is a great deal of slyly incorporated details that provide foreshadowing for what is to become of McCandless. Such details describing the totality of McCandless’ fate are largely pointed out by Gallien’s narration, which spans the majority of the first chapter. One such instance of this is when Gallien mulls over the fact that McCandless’ backpack seems especially light for a month-long trip in the wilderness. He notes that it looked void of the amount of food (he only had a small quantity of rice) and gear you would expect somebody to be carrying for such a venture. In addition to this, McCandless’ hiking boots were not well-equipped for the snow that littered the ground, being both non-insulated nor waterproof, and Gallien discerned, looking at McCandless’ weapon, that he would not be able to kill any large game, and thus gain an additional food source from such hunting. This emphasis that is placed on McCandless’ lack of preparation and knowledge of supplies, induces a sense of fear and a feeling of dread that something is going to go terribly wrong in the future. This emotion is reasserted again when Gallien describes the trail McCandless wishes to be dropped off at as not “even marked on most road maps of Alaska.” Diction such as “crude” and “foolhardy” create a foreboding and apprehensive mood, and imagery used to craft a visual of the area around which McCandless is dropped off, including “weedy stands”, “rapidly deteriorated”, “washed out”, “overgrown”, “rough”, and “unmaintained”, conjures feelings of danger and unease, almost as if McCandless is traveling from a safe and welcoming landscape, to a contrasting menacing and unforgiving setting. Finally, before dropping McCandless off, Gallien questions Chris as to whether or not anyone knows of his whereabouts. McCandless responds by saying that he told nobody, but that he is absolutely positive he will be able to handle everything that is thrown at him. This piece of dialogue incites doubt in the readers as they wonder whether Chris is blinded by his own ego and faith, not able to see the true peril that he is to face. In the end, as discovered in Chapter 2, all of these hints come to fruition, when Chris is discovered to be dead inside an abandoned bus, proving that he finally met his match in the Alaskan wasteland. – Ashlyn Briggs

8/27/17 Chapters 2-3 (Pgs 3-24)

no one in the wild for four months, and then after he is dead five people find the abandoned bus where his corpse lay in the same day. The bus that McCandless body was found in, “Bus 142”. I feel that the bus was a symbol for the life that McCandless desired to live, simplistic and harmonious with nature. But although McCandless craved this lifestyle dearly, it bothers those around him that he would go to that extreme isolation and danger to achieve it. Did the taste of starvation really give him the thrill of life that he was looking for? I feel that McCandless could have achieved his needs, without going to the extreme measure of death. It is evident in chapter two that Krakauer had no interaction with Mccandless and had to solely rely on outside sources to get all his information for this story. In the first chapter he interviews the truck driver, gets information from the five people that found McCandless’s body, and uses every bit that he left behind, such as his camera, the note, his diary, to solve the puzzle that is Christopher McCandless death. – Sarah Hardan

9/4/17 Chapters 4, 5, and 6 (Pgs. 25-60)

To continue Sarah’s point, the way in which Krakauer crafts and portrays the image of Chris McCandless is unconventional to say the least. Because this book was written after McCandless’s sorrowful demise, Krakauer could not directly interview or interrogate Chris on his thoughts, motives, and experiences. Rather, he had to rely completely on what Chris left behind, what he wrote in his journal, the letters he composed and mailed to others, and the accounts and reflections of the people whose paths he crossed. Although this narration style may seem unorthodox and somewhat of a disadvantage, I disagree. I do not think that Chris McCandless could have provided a better story of himself and the person he was, than the outsiders whom he interacted with on his various adventures and treks. I am not dismissing the fact that nobody knows ourselves better than ourselves, but sometimes an outside perspective and pair of fresh eyes is much more revealing and intuitive of our true nature and being. Sometimes we are blind to many aspects of ourselves, too stubborn to acknowledge certain attributes and oblivious as to why we do the things that we do. Sometimes others input is required in order to unveil such things and help us to uncover who we really are at our core, and I feel that Krakauer’s format does just this of Chris McCandless for readers. To further display this point, we can look at specifics from the text. Upon his various escapades in the wilderness, Chris left many indelible impressions and made many an acquaintance of/on those he met. In Chapters 4 and 5, this was Jan and Bob Burres, and in Chapter 6, this was Ronald Franz. In both of these cases, Chris was described as an intelligent and kindly young man, with manners, passion, and no shortage of opinions. Over the course of their relationship, McCandless touched each of them with his demeanor and attitude, earning a special place in their hearts that can be said to be unrivaled by any other. His words and thoughts clearly meant a lot to those around him, especially Franz, who even in his old age, strived to fulfill McCandless’s request to live more vicariously, abandoning his belongings and moving out of his home to settle in the desert where Chris once camped out. However at the same time, those who had the chance to meet Chris portrayed him as stubborn and not to be dissuaded, secretive, and most of all, an anomaly. His strong opposition to mainstream culture, his obsession with wilderness literature, his uncomfortableness with family and attachment/commitment, and his dismissal of all things monetary and material, were just some of odd characteristics that stood out about McCandless, and made him remarkable and unforgettable. Being such a closed off, wary, and cryptic fellow, such details would likely not be able to be eked out of McCandless if he were present today, further demonstrating how outside views can provide invaluable insight, as well as depicting how Krakauer’s chosen narrations strategy was a good one. – Ashlyn Briggs

9/7/17 Chapters 4, 5, and 6 (Pgs. 25-60)

Throughout this section in the book, Krakauer begins to use these resources described previously by Ashlyn, and pieces them to create the a chronological story of McCandless’ experience which begins to identify his character. Although, in previous chapters the story was told purely through outside sources, it becomes a bit unreliable to the reader as Krakauer begins to fill in the gaps with his gained resources. These chapters follows Christopher McCandless journey throughout the wilderness as he ventures through the Alaskan wilderness. These chapters have a reoccurring theme of risk and self reinvention that is evident through McCandless journey. The reader witnesses McCandless’ transformation into Alexander Supertramp in the midst of the heavenly scenes of California, Arizona, and Nevada. He makes persevering associations with different rebels, explorers, and autonomous spirits.Throughout these chapters Chris McCandless has a surprising ability to make friends. One would think that a man such as McCandless would be closed off to society, as much as he was, a new side to McCandless was demonstrated.The motif of friendship emerges further in these pages, as McCandless, who earlier struck up a friendship with Wayne Westerberg, befriends Jan Burres and her boyfriend Bob. In chapter six he gains yet another acquaintance by the name of Franz. McCandless also changes this man’s perspective on lifestyle, as at first Franz disagreed with McCandless desire for this lifestyle. McCandless influences Franz so much in that he wanted to adopt McCandless. This reveals and eliminates the possibility that McCandless did this because he was lonely and incapable of making friends, as it was quite apparent that he had the capability of doing so. He secures aptitudes and demonstrates his capacity to get by in the wild, especially while kayaking, when he survives just on rice and fish he has gotten. McCandless appears to demonstrate independence is conceivable, or that no less than a fractional form can be accomplished. It is valid, eventually, that his eating routine of fish makes him encounter ailing health, yet he stays confident. Krakauer’s speculative depictions of McCandless’ enthusiastic state feature his invigoration, even happiness. Critical portions included by Krakauer, in which he identifies the burning of McCandless’ cash begins to reveal his motives and character. These incidents also testify to the slight irrationality creeping into his actions, which causes the reader to question who McCandless really was. -Sarah Hardan

9/6/17 Chapters 7 & 8 (Pgs. 61-85)

To go in depth of Sarah’s identification of this change and the reader’s ability to identify characteristics of McCandless, I view Chris McCandless as an unusual and complex person. He rejected the social and cultural norms of society and many of his character traits seemed almost to contradict themselves. For instance, he was brilliant and charismatic, making many a friend with ease along his journey, as mentioned, but simultaneously ignorant and reserved. He enjoyed socializing when he wanted, but had a desire to avoid intimacy and any sort of commitment at all costs; he never let anyone too close. He largely stayed private about his family, but seemed to tense up at any mention of them, suggesting uncomfortableness and even anger towards the topic. At one point his true feelings of displeasure towards his family were conveyed, and he even stated to his sister, “I’m going to divorce my parents once and for all and never speak to either of those idiots again…” On top of this, Chris was stubborn, as delineated by the fact that he would not be dissuaded from his Alaskan escapade no matter the danger, as well as obsessed with wilderness books, especially Jack London, the famous nature author. Chris was said to have been bright overall, but lacking of common sense, relaying that he could never “see the forest for the trees…” Finally, he lived a highly unorthodox lifestyle, with many habits and actions that would have been perplexing to outsiders. Chris was constantly fleeing the material, highly social way of life, burning his money, ditching all his belongings, and claiming that he could only stand being around people for so long. In order to entirely evade such a life, he took to nature, completely on his own. Unfortunately, his Alaskan trek didn’t end so well, which begs the question, what specifically went wrong? Was he too much of a dreamer with unrealistic views of what was possible, as McCunn (whose story was told in Chapter 8) was? Was he a little unhinged and purposely suicidal? Was he attempting a social experiment such as that tried by Rosselini? Was he too caught up in the expected image and journey portrayed by the literature of which he held so dear? Or was he simply unlucky? We will never know exactly what psychological aspects were behind McCandless’s death, but we must consider the possibility that he knew and intentionally took his last venture. The letters Krakauer supplies in the text make it sound as though McCandless didn’t expect to ever come back from Alaska. They use phrases such as, “last you shall hear from me” and “it was great knowing you”, that implies Chris was headed to his death on purpose. Other instances that support the idea that Chris might have been purposely traveling to Alaska to die, are that he got rid of all his belongings, just up and left without a goodbye to his family, was unprepared and lacking sufficient supplies and gear, even though he was an experienced adventurer, and the fact that he didn’t tell anyone where he was going, in case he needed rescuing. With all of this, it may have been that McCandless wantonly decided to take one final trip, of which he knew would be his demise. Or, it may simply have been for a multitude of other factors, the worst being simple moral injustice and misfortune. A little under a hundred years later, the epitome of Chris’s death remains a mystery, and in the end, only Chris himself can know what happened and why it did. – Ashlyn Briggs

Ashlyn presented this yearning of the reader to figure out McCandless motives for this journey. In chapter seven, Krakauer shows a quote in chapter seven from McCandless journal, reading. “Hey Guys! This is the last communication you shall receive from me. I now walk out to live amongst the wild. Take care, it was great knowing you. ALEXANDER.”As he travels, Christopher McCandless sends a number of letters and postcards to the people he meets on his journeys in the Southwest and the Pacific Northwest. He follows up with them despite his frequent insistence that he wants nothing more to do with other people, and they become a source of significant narrative information for Krakauer as he constructs his account of McCandless’s trajectory. In the brief postcard quoted here, McCandless’s use of capital letters and the formal spelling of his false name, Alexander, suggests that as he embarks on the final leg of his trip into Denali National Park he has totally transformed himself into a solitary person ready to leave the world behind forever. In addition, the brevity of his language suggests resolve, but it could also be read as an admission that he was not brave enough to say a final goodbye to his friends in person. This connects back to chapter six as Ashlyn identified how McCandless gave the impression as if he knew this journey would take him out. As such, it points up the failure to communicate implicit in almost all of McCandless’s communications and decisions. Christopher McCandless’s emotional state emerges through the postcard’s seemingly insignificant style. The formal, almost silly “shall” and the hyperbolic, unintentionally prophetic phrase “This is the last communication you will receive from me” seem to depict McCandless’s determination but also his naïve idea of his project. Most significant, however, is the sentence, “I now walk out to live amongst the wild.” He goes without help, under his own power, to meet his destiny, but he describes that destiny in abstract, poetic terms that both lend it gravity and fail to demonstrate that he knows anything at all about what awaits him. Krakauer’s decision to include this postcard (as well as others in the text) adds realism and power to his narrative. By the same token, however, it also evidences the idea that only McCandless’s own words, however obscure and bare they might be, could give the reader an accurate sense of his state of mind or his rationale for heading into the wild. This quote also presents how Krakauer goes back and forth between narrative and simply presenting facts and information given to him throughout the story. -Sarah Hardan

9/9/17 Chapters 9, 10, & 11 (Pgs. 87-116)

Throughout the course of this book, Krakauer employs a wide variety of textual strategies and devices to further the plot. As Sarah has identified previously, instead of following a strictly linear storytelling path, he often alternates and switches between narration techniques and chapter topics. Although it would seem this writing structure would be difficult to follow and keep up with as a whole, it actually acts on the contrary; it provides a more thorough and keen look at McCandless and his life story. One of the tactics that Krakauer consistently utilizes to achieve this, is references to people who share personas that are alike that of McCandless. In Chapter 9 this is prominently seen (again), when McCandless’ tale is compared to the story of Utah adventurer, Everett Reuss. Like McCandless, Reuss always pined for a life of solitude and unity with nature, away from people and their tendency to focus on money and material goods. He craved a life disparate of the one that was most commonly lived and sought such an existence through his travels. Similarly, he changed his name, like McCandless, and unfortunately never returned from one of his ventures to Davis Gulch. In describing McCandless’s traveling predecessors, Krakauer successfully develops the plot and Chris McCandless’s character further. His primary character traits are reinforced and emphasized once again, and readers can begin to gain the sense that while McCandless seems odd, his motives and compuls for seclusion and to traverse as a nomad of sorts. Overall this serves to normalize McCandless character, provide further insight into his psyche, and convey that although McCandless had a personality that resembled that of others, he was still entirely unique and remarkable on his own. A second plot approach that Krakauer uses, is the manipulation of time. Not only does he encapsulate others wilderness stories, but he portrays both McCandless past and future. He uses flashbacks to illustrate the complexities and dynamics of Chris’s childhood, and then a flash forward to express his death and it’s profound effects. In doing so, Krakauer enables readers to learn more about McCandless’s family and how his diverse traits developed, such as his smarts from higher education classes at school, his wanderlust from early family trips, his drive, determination, and independence from competitive track/running, his passion in his concern for stopping Apartheid, and his kindness from his community work. In then citing his death, its circumstances, and its influence on his family, Krakauer increases the reality of the situation, reminding us that Chris is no longer with us. It exacerbates the drama and sorrow of the mood of the plot, and also evokes emotion in the audience as Krakauer highlight the wonderful connections and relationships Chris cultivated while he was alive. Overall, by incorporating two such tactics, more about Chris comes to light, and the impact of the plot is strengthened twofold. – Ashlyn Briggs

Ashlyn explained the effectiveness of Krakauer bringing in the story of a character named Everett Ruess. She explained how this tactic used by Krakauer of comparison of someone with a similar story and mindset of McCandless further develops his character. This was implemented in chapter nine, although chapters ten and eleven connect back to chapter two of the book. This comparison between the characters sets a pleasing transition into this jump to the beginning of the story. This was very clever of Krakauer to do, and the effects of this stated previously by Ashlyn. From this new visit to Jim Gallien (the man who picked up Chris to take him to the Alaskan wilderness), he begins to tell the story of the months and weeks just after his death. Rather than interrupt the narrative, this move begins to tie together plot points and themes. The return of Jim Gallien’s character underlines the reader’s rich familiarity with the small group of people in the American West who came to know McCandless well. As the efforts to identify McCandless’s body proceed, Krakauer begins to subtly intimate to the reader that his efforts to examine McCandless’s mind are about to deepen and that a link between McCandless’s life in the West and his past in the East might be established. The phone call from an Alaskan homicide detective to McCandless’s half-brother accomplishes precisely this. Chapter Ten, Krakauer works with character and with tone to expand the emotional range of Into the Wild. He alters the book’s previously predominant note, that of admiration of McCandless and his journeys to a more sobering depiction of grief and family tragedy. The overall theme of technique Krakauer uses throughout chapters nine through eleven are compare and contrast. He first compares McCandless to Ruess, which I found effective in which it normalized McCandless perspective. Chapter ten went back to the beginning of the story, which made the reader compare their first thoughts of McCandless and now that they have gathered more information, the reader presents new thoughts of the situation. In the beginning of the book I believed that this was a suicide attempt and the McCandless believed he didn’t fit into society, as now I believe that he dearly craved this sort of lifestyle and wouldn’t mind dying doing it because he loved it. Then, in chapter eleven Krakauer presents the parents of Chris McCandless, in which he makes contrasts to Chris and his parents. This allows the reader to have almost a personal connection to McCandless, and feel almost sympathetic as Chris differed greatly from his parents and his parents loss of their son way before he even died. This is the beginning of a new rendition of McCandless character in which the reader begins to see his story, from the very beginning. -Sarah Hardan

9/12/17 Chapters 12 & 13 (Pgs. 115-132)

To continue Sarah’s thought that is presented in chapters twelve and thirteen, there are a slew of prominent themes and universal truths suggested and highlighted in this book, young manhood, and the essence of growing up is perhaps one of the largest and most significant of the bunch, and in these chapters, perhaps the most prominently featured as well. The story of Chris McCandless, as rendered in Into the Wild, is essentially a coming of age tale. In his early twenties, Chris was motivated and flawed by many of the classical characteristics that affect and influence modern young adults. These include such attributes as arrogance, innocence, ignorance, a yearn to be independent, and a search for one’s true nature, often through self-reinvention. Of course, Chris was also an odd one with bizarre wishes and qualities, such as an opposition to money, material goods, much of a social life and intimacy, that not many other exhibited and shared. However different, Chris was simultaneously similar to many his age. Arrogance, overconfidence, and self-absorption are simply things that are incited as you progress through your years, especially in your late teens. Chris clearly possessed such facets in his personality, as suggested by his lack of reception to the warnings and concerns of others. He felt sure that he could overcome any and all obstacle, saying at one point in the novel, “I won’t run into anything I can’t deal with on my own” (Pg. 6). This ego and the origin of the hubris that Chris exhibited is further analyzed in Chapter 12, where he was said to “be good at almost everything he tried” and didn’t fail at many things. The conclusion can thus be drawn that this void of failure likely exacerbated and heightened Chris’s confidence, perhaps leading him to be unprepared for his Alaskan venture. In addition to this, Chris exhibited innocence and ignorance. At such a young age, even being a traveled adventurer, Chris had still yet to see much or experience much of what the world had to offer. Having little to go on except exaggerated and unrealistic literature, which largely shaped Chris’s beliefs and views of the world, Chris formed excessive idealistic thoughts, that shaped in him unfeasible and irrational expectations; not thinking rationally and becoming more adept in the ways of the world led to his downfall. In Chris McCandless, there was also a yearn for freedom, self-reliance, and an individual identity. Throughout the story, Chris strives to avoid any long-term relationships or commitments. He gives his employers false credentials, evades writing letters back (esp. to his family as referenced in Chapter 12), and opposes getting too close to anyone; he wants to leave not ties or trace. This is further delved into and depicted in the 12th chapter, where Chris takes off on his own, breaks communication almost immediately with his family, and consistently eludes any conversation with his parent, especially to his father, towards which he holds a grudge on account of lies and adultery. As repeatedly stated throughout the text, Chris wasn’t antisocial, but he enjoyed being alone and independent. He also, like many teens, sought to achieve individuality and uniqueness. He dismissed many of the common practices of society, and instead seeking a more diverse life goal: traversing and making dangerous expeditions across the world. Through this, he shaped and molded himself as his own person and identity. In the end, these imperfections and weaknesses led to Chris’s demise. It might be questioned whether somehow different parenting tactics or interference could have led Chris on a different path, but ultimately, Chris’s path was the one he chose, and the one responsible for Chris’s death is Chris and can only be Chris. It’s pointless trying to place blame elsewhere, because he made his own choices and decisions, even though he was a youth. Unfortunately, these selections led to his death, which is not the classical ending of a coming of age story, but still all the same, serves as a proficient relaying of the ups and downs, and twists and turns that come with growing up. – Ashlyn Briggs

Many of the people who reacted strongly to the story of McCandless’s death were angered be McCandless simply walking into the wilderness with few survival tools and almost no food, and no safety net. In this section, we see evidence that there is indeed some truth to this idea. It may have only been his youth that Ashlyn previously discussed that was a huge role in McCandless motives, but although McCandless acknowledged the danger of his plan, he did not seem to truly believe that he wouldn’t survive. On McCandless’s first independent road trip, he gets lost in the Mojave desert and almost dies from dehydration. Yet, instead of learning a lesson from this, he instead is angered when his parents ask him to be more careful, offended at the idea that he can’t take care of himself. This foreshadows McCandless’s later insistence on going forward with his Alaska trip, against much advice, and without help, though it is often offered. It is also on this trip that he makes the discovery that seems to push him over the edge from passionate and a little eccentric to extreme. While in California, he learns that his father had a double life for many years, and his parents lied to him about it growing up. Interestingly, when he returns from this trip, he seems more interested in school and a normal future than he did before, but once he moves back in with his parents for the summer with this knowledge of their secrets, his anger seethes, and he starts to resent his parents more and more.

This resentment also spreads to the society that his parents are part of. Although they both grew up poor and made their own money, he has always looked down on them for their materialism, and when he learns of their dishonesty, he starts to feel strong antipathy towards anyone with a lot of money. His growing intensity about the things he is passionate about isolates him from almost everyone he knew. -Sarah Hardan

9/16/17 Chapters 14, 15, and 16 (Pgs. 133-171)

Already McCandless’s perplexing character has been analyzed in depth, through his childhood and parents as Sarah had just described, but we have yet to examine and look specifically at Krakauer, the author of Into the Wild, himself. Many questions regarding the creator of this text remain unresolved. For instance, why exactly did Krakauer choose to pen this story on this topic, and more specifically, have McCandless be the primary focus? Moreover, what was his intended purpose, and did he effectively complete what he set out to achieve? These chapters, specifically 14 and 15, begin to supply preliminary answers for these inquisitions. At one point within these pages, Krakauer’s friend, whom with he is following the journey McCandless once took, likens himself to Chris, saying he is “just as green and just as eager” as McCandless was in his early 20’s. He also makes the claim that perhaps everyone is being so critical of McCandless and his mistakes, because they remind them too much of their “former versions of themselves”. This reasoning may also be applicable to Krakauer. Perhaps, like Krakauer’s acquaintance, he found himself readily identifying with the subject of his book. He likely considered himself just as volatile, headstrong, and overconfident as McCandless, relating to the young boy on many levels. This is further supported by Krakauer’s proclamation that it likely could have been him, winding up dead, rather than McCandless. Therefore, it is a paramount possibility that Krakauer wrote about McCandless because it made him think of himself, and all of his mistakes and errors. It likely was a tale that hit close to home, and that he just couldn’t pass up writing about. Although this may have been Krakauer’s pivotal motive for crafting this book, what were the impacts Krakauer desired it to make on his audience? Perhaps his purpose for writing this novel is the most obvious and apparent choice: to provide a cautionary tale meant to guide, warn, and dissuade young men like McCandless from embarking on such dangerous and perilous journeys underprepared and uneducated. Krakauer’s book is pretty straightforward, so his purpose and intentions may always be blatant. However, I believe Krakauer’s inspiration was more complex, multi-faceted, and calculated. Foremost, I feel that one of Krakauer’s purposes was to keep Chris McCandless’s memory alive and to investigate and find out what really happened in order to elicit a closure and finality of sorts. Krakauer was one of the first investigative reporters to cover the events regarding McCandless, so maybe he thought this article was incomplete, and did not live up to or do McCandless enough justice. He had to finish the story, and the way to do that was in composing this book. The other purpose I suspect Krakauer of seeking is a more universal and broad message. Expounding on this, I feel that Krakauer wanted to highlight and emphasize the beauty of life, and help people to notice and acknowledge how how much of a precious and fleeting gift it is. A tale of death and sorrow really makes you appreciate what you have and what others have lost, and this may be one of the central motives behind Krakauer’s work. Lastly, it must be determined and evaluated as to whether Krakauer was successful with his goals. One of his major as a journalist and nonfiction author, is obviously to remain objective. Throughout the book, this aloof and non-opinionated perspective is largely prominent, as we only see his opinion peeking through the lines on rare occasions. But, this all is altered and abandoned upon Chapters 14 and 15, where Krakauer recounts and reminisces about his young adult life as a mountaineer and adventurous soul, hiking the Stikine Ice Cap. This literary choice must be brought into question; did the abrupt transition and abandonment of the impartial tone he uses throughout the text hurt or help his ethos and narration as a whole? For one, it may give off the idea that Krakauer is too close to the story, sympathizing too much with McCandless, and letting his biases and feeling invade and disrupt his ability to think and see straight. For instance, based on just his own experiences and McCandless’s minimal entries, Krakauer draws the conclusion that McCandless’s death couldn’t have been suicidal and intentional. And yet, he doesn’t know this for certain. However, Krakauer’s own biases may in fact be desirable, providing advantageous and coveted insight the rest of us lack. Because Krakauer shares such similar traits, experiences, and history with McCandless, he may have an inside look into McCandless’s brain and thinking, and may get closer to the truth than the outside majority. In the end, I agree with both sides. This textual transition both aided and was detrimental to Krakauer, but in the end, I feel it creates a certain balance that works in this case. – Ashlyn Briggs

***Sarah’s 6th Entry***

9/17/17 Chapters 17, 18, & Epilogue (Pgs. 172-203) with some from previous chapters

Out of all the chapters in this book, it is impossible to choose just one that was the most significant and vital to the story’s plot and progression. Each chapter provided novel insight, new revelations, and and central plot points and techniques. Moreover, each chapter of this book had unique formatting, beginning with one or two quotations or passages pulled from outside texts. Usually, such excerpts were those Krakauer himself felt were pertinent to the story, McCandless, or its overlying themes, or were highlighted or annotated selections from novels that were found with McCandless in the bus where he met his demise. Although each chapter presented a meaningful piece of text to, a few specific chapters can be discerned as being pivotal and essential to further understanding McCandless complex feelings, his ideals and motives for his lifestyle, and finally Krakauer’s own opinions towards Chris behavior. Foremost, are parts of text from the book, Doctor Zhivago, that were underlined by McCandless, and presented by Krakauer in Chapters 18 and 11. In the first portion, some of McCandless values and ideals are portrayed, as the phrases, “love of one’s neighbor”, “free personality”, and “life as a sacrifice” are emphasized. These not only signify McCandless religious and spiritual ties, but also re-iterate his desire to be his own individual, free from confines or rules of any sort. The last clause, “life as a sacrifice”, calls forth many questions. For instance, “What intended cause was McCandless a martyr for exactly?”, and, “ What change did he want or think he would bring about?” Maybe his sacrifice was living untraditionally, devoting his entire life to nature, in order to get people to see that it’s okay to be different and that your life is what you make of it. Or perhaps this was more of an allusion to McCandless want to live on the edge, with the exhilaration of death and danger hanging over his head at all time. More questions arise with the underscoring of the line, “…need for a purpose…” in Chapter 11. Did McCandless ever find his purpose in life, and was that why he was living so nomadically, traversing across the globe to many areas at a time, seeking his place and role in society? It seems that McCandless never really fit in, at least in his mind, so this is a big likelihood. In Chapter 12, we again gain more of a sense of McCandless as his character is further developed. The following passage by Thoreau, was highlighted and found with Chris’s remains: “ Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth. I sat at a table where were rich food and wine in abundance, an obsequious attendance, but sincerity and truth were not; and I went away hungry from the inhospitable board. The hospitality was as cold as the ices.” This eloquent quotation largely demonstrates what I believe to be McCandless view of the sum of society. In the passage above, even though there was food on the table, the guest still went away hungry. This is because he was hungry not for sustenance, but for real, honest, down-to-Earth human interaction; only in real friendship are you full and satisfied. Chris too sought this out his whole life, seeking true and open relationships, not simply the fake and artificial facade and performance many people put on today. He desired something deeper, and that is why I believe he took to nature and ran from almost everyone he met. At last, the excerpt at the start of the epilogue chapter serves as a fitting conclusion to this literary piece, introducing Krakauer and the general public’s opinion toward McCandless, setting the mood for the pages that follow, and reiterating many of the concepts presented in the rest of the chapter. The line goes, “Climb if you will, but remember that courage and strength are nought without prudence, and that a momentary negligence may destroy the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste; look well to each step; and from the beginning think what may be the end.” This quote serves to highlight McCandless’ mistakes and faults. If only he had heeded these words, and focused more on preparation and prudence, he may still be alive today. This mimics many of the ideas presented later on, such as that he may not have perished if he had possessed a map, as he would have been able to discern a narrow pass where he could have crossed the river safely, or a cabin where he might have been able to find needed supplies. Moreover, McCandless may not have met his end if he had companions with him, like Krakauer did, or if he told someone where he was going, which I feel is one of the most critical factors that played a decisive role in McCandless’s death. He shouldn’t have let his familial differences and grudges shape and determine his fate; if he had just mentioned his plans to one person, it would have made a world of difference. Finally, this quote sets the mood for the rest of the chapter, which is one that is grim and foreboding. The diction, “destroy”, “negligence”, and “end” supremely contribute towards this establishment, and the contrast provided through the sentence structure serves to demonstrate the conflict between freedom and control, which McCandless struggled with throughout his short life. In the end, McCandless refused to adhere to the standards of preparation and “prudence” not thinking ahead as to what could happen as a result of his actions. It was largely a battle between McCandless and the world, and in the end, the world won. – Ashlyn Briggs

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