Sheffner's Reviews > Into the Wild

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
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it was amazing

I had vaguely heard of the young man's death and thought it merely odd and due to recklessness, ignorance or lack of adequate preparation. Apparently many others, better informed than me, thought so, too, and wrote as much to Krakauer after his initial investigatory article about the man and his death appeared in "Outside" magazine. It was in order to counter these misunderstandings as Krakauer saw them that he wrote this book.

It builds a picture of an idealist and driven young man of much intelligence and natural talent and charm. It does so by means of extracts and quotes from Chris McCandless' diaries and letters and cards, as well as from many books that McCandless read, especially those he took with him and annotated in Alaska where he died. Krakauer also includes quotes from other writers such as Thoreau, John Muir, Jack London, Leo Tolstoy, etc, and from other men who have made similar journeys (and some met a similar fate). These greatly help to paint a portrait of McCandless as an idealist who loved nature and who enjoyed the challenge and insights that come from spending time in it alone.

One person who also died alone in Alaska was a man who was apparently absent-minded enough to forget to arrange to be picked up, then forgot that he had forgotten! The pilot who had dropped him off was actually concerned enough to fly out to see if he needed help, and saw the man who, however, did not know enough about emergency signals to raise both his arms for help when he saw the plane, and instead gave a single raised fist, which means "I'm OK. Help unnecessary!" He starved as winter set in and realizing his hopeless situation killed himself. McCandless was obviously not of this ilk at all.

Krakauer is obviously a skilled and well-read writer, and his many citations tempted me to look them up and put some of them on my "To Read" list. Many I had never heard of. Krakauer also uses words I was unfamiliar with, specific names for types of landscape, vegetation or flora or fauna. The man does his research.

A key point in the story and a motivator for McCandless' behaviour according to Krakauer, is the discovery by McCandless that he had been conceived while his father was still married (and sleeping with) his first wife, and that this discovery led to the estrangement between Chris and his father that was never resolved. At the time of writing, Krakauer knew there was more (much more) to this story but was asked not to publish it by the sister Chris McCandless was closest to, Carine, who gave him the information. Carine has since gone public with this information, and it puts her brother's behaviour in a very different, and much more understandable, light. (Check out "Into The Wild Documentary Return to the Wild The Chris McCandless Story".)

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Reading Progress

September 26, 2019 – Started Reading
September 28, 2019 – Shelved
September 28, 2019 – Finished Reading

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