Donna's Reviews > Into the Wild

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
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's review
Jun 22, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: nonfiction, biography-memoir
Read from June 25 to 28, 2010

In August of 1992, hunters in Alaska found the body of Chris McCandless, a young man who had walked out into the wilderness the previous spring. Two years earlier, McCandless had graduated college, cut off all contact with his family, and began using a different name. He became a drifter, camping out and doing odd jobs. He made friends along the way, but he often took off alone, including for a canoe trip down the Colorado River into Mexico. When he decided to spend a summer living off the land up in Alaska, it proved to be a bigger challenge than he could handle.

This book was well written, but for me Krakauer's identification with Chris McCandless really muddied the waters. I was happy that Krakauer acknowledged and explained it, and it made perfect sense given his perspective. But it often felt like the writer was making excuses for his subject.

McCandless may have loved the wilderness, but he didn't seem to have much respect for it. He had this romantic idea, partly fueled by Jack London novels, of having an adventure, but embarked on it without proper gear, supplies, or knowledge. He seemed to care for some of the people he met on his travels, but he resisted much of their concern, convinced that he knew best. It's difficult for me to even take his years of wandering seriously with the knowledge that if he'd ever been in serious trouble during that time, his well-off family was only a phone call away.

This young man's problems with his parents, with authority, and with society's expectations are hardly unique. His philosophies and outlook on life were only made possible by the privilege he was raised in. If he'd heeded more of the warnings and advice he'd received, he probably would have matured into a remarkable person, but unfortunately it's hard to see him as much more than a selfish boy who valued ideals over people.

Krakauer's opinion on Chris McCandless is based on personal experience, and so is mine. The difference is that while Krakauer's experiences lead him to sympathize with the brash young adventure-seeker, elements from my own life make it easy for me to relate to the people waiting at home for word of him.
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