Monday, June 25, 2018

Into the Wild

It's become a new site of pilgrimage over the years since Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild first told the story of Chris McCandless, a.k.a. Alexander Supertramp -- the abandoned Fairbanks City bus, #142, that stands a in a clearing a couple hundred feet off the legendary Stampede Trail, a track first blazed by a miner to his claim back in the 1930s. If airfare to Fairbanks and a ride to the trailhead aren't on your calendar, or in your budget, you can even see it on Google Earth, where it's marked "Stampede Trail Magic Bus," a name which invokes another, mobile bus, a.k.a. "Furthur," aboard which Ken Kesey, Wavy Gravy, and others of the Merry Pranksters embarked upon trips of another kind in the 1960's. This bus had been towed (along with another now gone) to the site as temporary shelter for workers years before, and had been fitted with box-spring beds and a stove; when the work was done, the bus was abandoned.

It now has a granite plaque, placed by his family, marking the bus as the end of the trail for McCandless. When his body was found there by moose hunters in September of 1992, his family had not known his whereabouts or even heard from him, for more than two years. A young man full of promise, an A-student with a degree from a top college, no student loans, and a $25,000 start up savings from his parents, he seemed like a young man who had it made. And yet, before he departed on his curious quest, he'd given all that money to charity, burned the cash in his wallet and (soon after) abandoned his car. Changing his name to Alexander Supertramp, he traveled by hitch-hiking, crashing on couches, and working -- apparently hard and well -- at a series of farm jobs. He made friends everywhere he went, and yet at the end, he didn't want anyone to go with him. Krakauer, a journalist for Outside Magazine, was hired to do a story, which he did (it appeared in 1993), but he was still unsatisfied. Tracking down more of McCandless's friends -- some of whom contacted him after seeing the article in the magazine, helped fill out the picture, while Alex's few leavings -- postcards to friends, notes scribbled in the margins of books, and such -- offered the bare outlines of a journey.

Into the Wild, the resulting book, was a huge bestseller, and in 2007 was adapted as a film by Sean Penn. And yet, despite the book's immense popularity, readers have remained divided: for some, McCandless is a true hero, a voyager of the spirit whose restless trek symbolizes everything great about the human desire to explore the world -- while for others, including quite a few Alaskans, he's just one of the apparently endless stream of inexperienced, foolish, and just plain stupid people who head out into the wilderness without the knowledge, skills, or materials essential to surviving. The debate is not an entirely new one; as Krakauer observes, a similar argument has long raged over Arctic expeditions such as that of Sir John Franklin, which -- though sanctioned by the British Empire and provided with what was though the best equipment -- canned food, two enormous ships, flour, buscuit, and rum -- proved unable to survive in the harsh Arctic climate, even though, a few miles from the stranded ice-bound vessels, Inuit families were enjoying a rich meal of seal meat and muktuk, and bouncing healthy babies on their knees in their snug igloos.


  1. This is my first time reading “Into the Wild,” and from the first ten chapters it is easy to see how many people may interpret McCandless’ motives, journey, and demise differently. At first, I will admit that I didn’t feel badly for Chris because it was his conscious decision to journey alone and unprepared. However, it is difficult for me to think that Chris was, for lack of better descriptions, stupid for traveling alone and unprepared after Krakauer described more about how much of an impression Chris made on everyone he met, how far he traveled, and the difficulties he faced. Chris was well liked by everyone he met, and they all offered to help him in any way they could. Even though at first I felt as though Chris wasn’t truly heroic because he received assistance, occasionally worked, and was not always alone in his journey, I realize that he had already made it farther and lasted longer than many others would. Chris had experienced what it was like taking a big risk just by making himself homeless, and it seems as though he truly wanted to make his experience a difficult one and was fully aware of the challenges that he would face. Although Chris received help from the different people he encountered, he had a goal and he stuck to it. I believe he could have made it through his journey to the wild alone, and he certainly endured more than many others could. It is unfortunate that his life was cut short, and one can certainly feel the sense of freedom and adventure and experiencing the sublime without stranding themselves in the wild, but I think Chris knew his risks and he is brave for taking them.

    -Lee DeOrsey

    1. Lee, a great comment! Thanks for "breaking the ice"!

  2. As I continue to explore the book “Into the Wild” in depth, I have considered greatly whether or not to classify Chris Mccandless to be a brave and heroic figure, or an ill-minded thrill-seeker. I found Chris to be remotely similar to mountaineer John Waterman. Their similarities coincide with each other more so than any other survivalist mentioned throughout the book. I can attest that Chris was very intelligent. He seemingly knew how to get along with others and was book-smart as he followed through with his higher education. Waterman was also marked as intelligent as he continued with his education as well; although, he was deemed psychotic later on in life at mental institution. Krakauer mentions that Chris was not mentally ill like Waterman but they resemble each other a lot. I found that both Chris and Waterman had traumatic upbringings causing them to resent their families. These traits follow them throughout their lives as they show avoidant behavior. One could say that they were both ill-prepared because neither carried the correct needs for survival. This does not seem intelligent, even though they were considered to be so. I think there was more psychological damage to the two of them and that is what sprung their unrealistic expectations of surviving alone in the wilderness. I found it was confusing that both Chris and Waterman similarly were interested in feeding the hungry while they eventually starved to death. I found that Chris was uncertain about the value of money as he did not find a use for it and always kept giving it away, but continued looking for jobs and money throughout his journey. Chris and Waterman sent off final postcards to their friends stating that it would be the last time they would hear from them, which makes me interpret that they subconsciously knew they were either doomed for their eventual demise or had no plans of returning to civilization. Overall, I do understand the views on Chris as he was brave for exploring the wilderness on his own, but I believe there were more reasons as to why he went upon his travels the way he did. Chris had imaginary expectations of what it was like to survive alone in the wild. I believe there must have been something psychologically wrong with him (comparably to Waterman) as he was an intelligent person but was not intelligent at all when it came to his poorly thought of expedition in the arctic wilderness.

    -Meghan Clark

  3. This is also my first time reading Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. I remember seeing the movie trailer come out with the fairly popular actor, Emile Hirsch, but never actually watching the movie. After reading and discussing about Christopher’s journey I have my own opinions of why he decided to abandon his ‘normal’ life and embark on this journey.
    As most of us know by now, he was an A-student with a degree from a top college, with no student loan debt to worry about, and a savings of $25,000 that he recently donated to charity. Christopher deserted his successful life he built for himself thus far, along with family and friends to seek adventure within the wilderness. He traveled light and most people insisted he was unprepared for embarking on his journey without certain survival equipment (i.e a map). My first intuition about why he did what he did was that Chris wanted to see if he could survive in the wilderness on his own. It reminded me of the t.v show ‘Naked and Afraid’ where people wanted to test their survival/outdoor skills and see if they would be able to survive with only 1 object they had brought with them.
    After further thought, I believed he could have gone slightly insane with his stereotypical normal life and wanted to escape from that. “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”-Albert Einstein. I think this is why most people looked at him as a hero as well because how many of us can actual say we would have the courage to do this?

    -Nicole Fraser

  4. Similar to everyone else, this is my first time reading Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer and as I read more of Chris Mccandless’ adventure, the more intrigued I am. It is fascinating to me that Chris went from having everything that one would call a dream, to him living is own dream. While this may seem heroic to some, I think that he could have gone about his adventure in a different manner. He should have researched prior to leaving so that he would know the tools and strategies that he needed to survive on his own. He also should have taken advantage of the outreaching that was occurring through many people he encountered while on his journey. He was very quick to shake them off and disregard their offer, which could have kept him from his ultimate fate.
    With that being said, I think that there is also an argument to say that Chris was someone who was lost. He was living the “dream” life that everyone hopes for, but no one understands unless they are in that situation. We were not given much about his thoughts on his wealth, so we don’t know if he was having his own internal conflict with his life. He could have thought his life was stagnant, living the same day as the prior, with nothing thrilling or exciting. He could have decided that enough was enough and decided to just pack up and find a thrill.
    I feel like it is hard to decide whether or not Chris’s choice to go into the wild was from true internal conflict that he needed to escape or from being immature and not knowing survival instincts. We will have to continue to read to find out more about his journey!

    -Jorge Perez

  5. Chelsea DeSchepperJune 29, 2018 at 9:08 AM

    Hi! Like mostly everyone in our class, this is my first time of reading "Into the Wild". I love seeing how everyone is interpreting McCandless' reasons for his actions differently. I personally think that he turned away from his life, because he could have felt like he had everything handed to him, and wanted to prove to someone, whether himself or not, that he could make it on his own. I'm excited to see how the rest of his story pans out!

  6. As I continuously read "Into The Wild" , I cant help myself to not have two different opinions about what Chris did. I find it unintelligent to go into the wilderness without any necessities such as food, a map or shelter. However, I find it incredible that Chris had a crazy idea to do something and did it without thinking twice. When I think about myself there are many different things that I would like to do but never do and I will wonder about those things until I do them, unlike Chris who just went for it! Chris also left a huge impact on thrill seekers and explorers who will now do what he did( hopefully with more preparation). He showed those people that nothing can stop you from doing what you want to do. I feel as though there will never be an agreement about Chris's decision but more and more different opinions and reasons about what he did. I also think that Chris was lost in life because he didn't care about leaving anyone or anything behind when he decided to leave for his adventure. When he left to go on his adventure, he definitely know there was a great chance of not surviving. Im very excited to finish reading about his adventure! - Miranda Jacavone

  7. This is my second time reading "Into the Wild", and my first since watching the film adaptation. And indeed with Sean Penn's filmic vision sort of fixed in my imagination it was interesting to re-encounter scenes he depicts as well as parts of the story he does not. I had, for instance forgotten about many of the details of Chris' Bullhead City stay, and enjoyed little moments like the scene where, at peak frustration McCandles is rescued by duck hunters in Mexico..

    The book, by contrast to the film, obviously provides a somewhat more microscopic and detailed perspective on McCandles, and it was interesting to further ponder his Jack London, Thoreau-inspired motives as well as the central question of "fool or folk hero?".

    In my mind it won't ever be settled one way or the other, as Mccandeles is both observably foolish and naive as well as admirably embodying of the clever and bold human spirt and its pining for freedom. And they are not mutually exclusive traits, indeed perhaps foolishness is even a necessary ingredient for such an enterprise.

    At any rate, that he died in his quest--that it ended in easily avoidable disaster hardly seems to discount its worth--it does not discount Chris' truth, and the beauty of his spirit and search.

    It speaks I think to something in all of us, in our questing, accident-prone lives, where indeed most mishaps are, in hindsight, easily avoided, and all ventures into the unknown dangerous. Because heading into the Alaskan bush, even with the utmost preparation and experience, one might still stub their toe and contract sepsis or suffer a hear-attack or any number of unexpected calamities. And while the ending matters, like with a song or a story--its never the defining point of the thing.

    Brendan Carr

  8. Kevin McKenzie-

    As I finished reading Into the Wild, I started to analyze Chris's personality and find throughout his nomadic journey. In the later chapters of the book around chapter 13 I believe is when Krakauer starts to go into Chris's adolescence. You can see how Chris was always a free thinker but some examples supported in the text for example when he was failing science because he didn't feel like he had to follow directions on how to do lab reports. Also when his dad would try to give Chris advice on how to better his racquet ball skills Chris would simply ignore him. Lastly when Chris showed so much passion over the racial oppression in South Africa, most kids wouldn't concern themselves with things like this. All these things made me realize this was always his personality, a person that wants something more then the basic norm of society. These all were clues and after reading this I'm not surprised of the person he became. It was always ingrained in him to be this type of person, a person who made there on path or took the path less traveled. I admire Chris for everything he did. Some say "well he wasn't prepared" but from the little bit I got to know Chris through the book, I think that's how he wanted it. He clearly wasn't stupid since he graduated with high honors in college. I think he wanted to be lost and thrived on the unknown. If he was alive today from gauging his personality I truly believe he would do it all the same again. He had the opportunity to get more prepared with the help that people he met throughout his travels and he denied most it it. I think the way he thought the way he wanted to die would be the way he did, Living off the land and being truly free.

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  10. “Into the Wild” was a novel I originally tried to read years ago, but could not get through the first chapter. The order of the book is complex and original. The first chapter seemed like it was meant to be at the end of the book and it was done. This book reminds me of a mystery novel, which starts with the death of the main protagonist, Chris and transitions back to how he arrived at the event. Sometimes the chapters would start off with a scene or person that seemed irrelevant, but later ties into Chris’s story. This time I can appreciate the detail that Jon Krakauer writes with such as “the hitchhiker’s (Chris’s) scheme was foolhardy and tried repeatedly to dissuade him,” (5) which sounds interesting somehow like Chris is a villain, who has an awful plan. He is about to embark on a treacherous experience. However, I continued to be impressed, especially when he said “I’ll be fine with what I got [or] I won’t run into anything I can’t deal with it” (6). He is confident in his ability to take care of himself, which seems reckless to others, but for him a sense of striving for autonomy and maintaining his values.
    A section that represented his sense of autonomy was his conviction about the 1982 Datsun B210 vehicle. After graduating from Emory University, a prestigious school with good academic standing, his parents wanted to buy him a new car. However, he was against the idea completely because he had purchased his own vehicle, which he claimed was “the best car in the world…a car that I will never trade in…the car I am strongly attached to” (21). The car as a tool has often been associated with obtaining freedom and autonomy from having one’s parents drive them to their destinations. He wants to be independent from his parents and decide where he wants to go without them or anyone else finding out. I like that he even changed his name and granted himself a new one: No longer would he answer to Chris McCandless; he was now Alexander Supertramp, master of his own destiny” (24). Surprisingly, he ends up abandoning his car, but it was the best option to take considering the authorities could have notified his parents.
    Chris McCandless maintained his values of faith: “I’ll be fine with what I got,” which is his himself, especially after burning his money, which I am sure is a criminal offense of some kind. He maintains his values that money will only hinder his experience, “Tramping is too easy with all this money. My days were more exciting when I was penniless and had to forage around for my next meal... I've decided that I'm going to live this life for some time to come. The freedom and simple beauty of it is just too good to pass up” (33). He understands that experience is more valuable than money and he wants to live without the notion of its forced societal value.

    Vanessa Villon

  11. After reading the first few pages of this book, I realized Christopher's journey would not be similar to anything I have read in the past. At first, I could not understand why a young man would leave his family to go and explore a different way of life. I struggled with connecting to the main character at first because most college graduates plan to look for jobs within their career and are usually ready to start their life. I feel that Christopher on the other hand wanted another path. I could not understand why he decided to attend college and finish school only to give everything away to explore. I thought of many questions such as, did he only go to college to get away from his parents and his unfortunate upbringing? I also wondered if Christopher ever planned on talking to his parents about how he really feels. While reading through the chapters, I felt sadden because Christopher was liked by everyone he encountered, he had many opportunities to have a good life but he could not settle at one specific spot. I feel Christopher's journey is an example of how even when we appear to have it all in life, sometimes we are still searching for more. I feel Christopher should have planned his journey and done his research but who knows maybe Christopher wanted things to remain that way. An intelligent young man like Christopher would know better and would have taken safety measures.

    Martina Goodlin

  12. The story of Chris and "Into the Wild" baffled me. As I read along, it became clear that Chris was an intelligent young man. He graduated college as his parents wanted him to do. Where I get confused is when I think about what Chris was really looking for. Was he really an explorer, looking to travel the country and see all he could? or was he merely a confused, naive teenager? He read the books of many travelers before him, he was resilient in his travels, recovering from floods, getting lost down the Colorado river, and hitchhiking or walking aimlessly back and forth across the West. He touched so many people in his travels, the hippies in northern California, Wayne in Carthage, the people he worked with at McDonalds, and of course his friend in Salton Sea. Chris wanted to be free from his parents shadow, not going to law school as the wanted, and burning or donating any of the money he received from them before making his treck countrywide. Was this enough of a reason for him to roam off into the wild without being prepared? I don't think so. Why would a young man with such ability to engage others in your story roam off onto the Stampede Trail without anything more than a book of plants to eat, a .22 rifle, and a bag of rice? Someone needed to take this kid under his wing, I feel like there could have been so much more Chris could have done, with his ability to touch everyones life around him.

  13. Kevin Waters

    The story of Chris and "Into the Wild" baffled me. As I read along, it became clear that Chris was an intelligent young man. He graduated college as his parents wanted him to do. Where I get confused is when I think about what Chris was really looking for. Was he really an explorer, looking to travel the country and see all he could? or was he merely a confused, naive teenager? He read the books of many travelers before him, he was resilient in his travels, recovering from floods, getting lost down the Colorado river, and hitchhiking or walking aimlessly back and forth across the West. He touched so many people in his travels, the hippies in northern California, Wayne in Carthage, the people he worked with at McDonalds, and of course his friend in Salton Sea. Chris wanted to be free from his parents shadow, not going to law school as the wanted, and burning or donating any of the money he received from them before making his treck countrywide. Was this enough of a reason for him to roam off into the wild without being prepared? I don't think so. Why would a young man with such ability to engage others in your story roam off onto the Stampede Trail without anything more than a book of plants to eat, a .22 rifle, and a bag of rice? Someone needed to take this kid under his wing, I feel like there could have been so much more Chris could have done, with his ability to touch everyones life around him.

  14. Alan Guzman 
     This is my first time ever hearing about this book called “Into The Wild” by Jon KRAKAUE and the story of Chris McCandless. At first, I thought Chris was a very intelligent book smart individual, well spoken and came from a high middle class family so struggle was never a main issue in his life. His dad was probably his hero so maybe he became heart broken once everyone knew about his dads double life antics and physical abusiveness. I think it is very cool that Chris wanted to be adventures and wanted to seek a life of freedom and a lot of travels, but at the same time I feel he wanted to just be away from his family to fill the void he had and also wanting to prove his mom and dad wrong and show them he does not need them. My Issue with Chris’ journey was that he was very confused and unprepared. He hated materialistic things, however, he didn't realize how much he needed his car because how unprepared he was. When his car broke down, he ended up taking multiple lifts to different towns in his journey. 
    Chris was so unprepared that multiple people in the book stated he seemed hungry and skinny and they would always try to feed him and make him stay with them for a few days that most of the time it turned out to be weeks.  he burned his money and then started to work at a ranch for money cuz he realized he needed money for his Alaska trip. that situation to me seemed to be a little backward thinking, from someone who was as smart as Chris. when Chris got lost down in Mexico and lower California he survived because it is easier to survive in warm climates then cold on, but him surviving that experience ultimately made him believe he can do the same Alaska.  

  15. This is my second time reading “Into The Wild.” The first time I read it, during high school, it was taught as a way to not conform with society and to live the life you choose. I think Chris McCandless is someone that will always be symbolic for nonconformity and choosing your own path. His story will always be told and entice others because of the mystery behind his death, journey, and overall reason to embark on this lifestyle journey. Chris McCandless’s story will always be debated because many believe he was just a rebellious, privileged, and out-of-college person that ended up dead and or that he was heroic for following his dreams regardless of societal norms, obligations, and people’s thoughts. I believe that Chris was both admirable and in over his head. I admire him because he followed the ideologies he believed in. He decided to live the life he wanted to life instead of just conforming to a lifestyle he would not enjoy. Many say he’s just being rebellious, I disagree. Chris wanting a different life from the rest of society, even though it was highly extreme, is not anyone’s business to care about. Many people that choose to live differently are much happy, overall, that’s really what mattered. Many people conform to societal norms and expectations and are unhappy and love to blame others for their unhappiness. Chris was not one of those people it seemed to me. He went for the life he wanted and that is admirable. However, the only criticism I will make is that his choice to not be prepared for his journey in Alaska was foolish. If he was more prepared and less stubborn, he probably could have been still alive. Overall, Chris McCandless will always be an enticing mystery. We’ll never get to know his reasons for his journey and I’m not sure we would have found out even if he was alive.

    -Stephanie Madrid

  16. I choose this story or book because I have previously seen the movie and I can understand what Chis was going thru as I get the feeling that he just wanted to try something on his own. I feel that by the way he was acting that he felt some one else was always telling him what they wanted from him and not letting him have any say in his life. Now that he was finishing his college degree with a high GPA. He decided that he would take some time off and do some traveling and see some of the country, and if possibly make it to Alaska and travel in the wildness to see how that would turn out.

    I believe he was a well likeable person with a good attitude to reach whatever goals he wanted. This can be seen in when he met the people during his traveling around the southwest and western part of the country. The people he met really like him according to the book and film. He did find a book about eatable plants in Alaska and he supposed studied these, so he would know what plants he could safely eat.

    We also know that he was trying to leave the area he have been staying at for three or four months, but the running waters was to rough to cross. He then returned to the bus and mistakenly ate the wrong plant and this was his ending.

    -- James M. Faulkenberry

  17. I have watched the film version of "Into the Wild" and really enjoyed it! Now reading the book, I have gained a new appreciation for who Chris was as a person. I admire Chris for being able to go completely off the grid and not once have the urge to reach out about where he was. I compare his journey to the times we are currently living, every moment is documented, that is through social media. As a society we constantly have to post every little bit of our lives, always letting people know what we are doing or where we are. I truly do not think people today would be able to embark on a journey like Chris. Even myself, I would find it hard to leave everything I have here (work, school, family) and just 'experience life'. Chris makes me wonder how life would be if I was as spontaneous and him, maybe in my next life!

    - Ashley R. Nieves

  18. Wow! What a great read! I thought “Into the Wild” was absolutely fascinating but also very tragic. I have always been a huge fan of popular TV shows such as, “Yukon Men” and “Alaska: The Last Frontier” so I find all arctic encounters very interesting. What I find most interesting is that there are people who actually want to live in the freezing cold and they do not know another way of life. This was Christopher’s story; he wanted to be free from the superficial world that he lived in. He was not interested in money or personal possessions, he wanted to live off of the earth and bravely go into the wild. I think that he felt prepared because he relied heavily on his knowledge from books which is great, but it is no match for the blistering cold and the reality of the ruthless artic. Christopher is quite an inspiration as most people would not dare abandon their privileged life and venture out into an unknown world. I do believe that when he passed, he was at peace knowing that he left behind an extraordinary legacy as the brave Alexander Supertramp! I do however wish that he would have been a little less stubborn and prepared better for his journey, I would have liked it much more if he conquered the wild.

    1. This post was written by me, Maria Rosado =)