Into the Wild Into the Wild discussion

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message 1: by H3 (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:12PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

H3 This book is one of the books which I would not bother my self to read and would not waste my time on if that was not mandatory. It talks about a guy's adventure to Alaskan forest, in which he died, experiences, life and society. Many people around the world have had similar experiences, some times not by their choice, but they have been forgotten, and/or no one has cared about them and their experiences. Even though, they had thought about their adventures smartly and made them in a way that makes the adventures less dangerous, nobody has written a book about them. His acts do not make any cense to me. Why would any one burn his money while there are people who are starving to death? degrade himself to ask for help while he has the ability? It is not a shame to ask for help from his family because he is a part of that family, in actual fact, asking others is a humiliation to once pride and there is no pleasure in it.
The author has a very good way of describing situations in the story that makes it much easier for the reader to picture and imagine scenes in the story; however, the book is full of unnecessary details which have confused me and lessened my interests in the story.

message 2: by Wes (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:22PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Wes I AM NOT IMPRESSED WITH YOUR POSTING HERE H3. This is an amazing and influential book it is full of amazing characters and ideals. What makes it more amazing is that it is a true story if you want a fast flowing story that has no background and realism then you should read fiction. This book has made a huge impact in my own life and it is a heart wrenching story. Granted in the middle of the book he describes others who have done similar things and the author even places a personal story inside but the best part are the continuation of the last two chapters of the original story. You gave up to soon and I am sad for you. The donating his college fund to hunger charity and burning his money was leaving his old identity behind.

message 3: by Chad (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:26PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Chad It is definetly not a great story by any stretch of the imagination. I would rather read about something meaningful myself. I think it is analogous of the child who said he was going to hold his breath until he died or got what he wanted. The difference is this guy didn't know what he wanted. It's pretty much the story of a guy committing suicide. A very confused person at the least. I suppose it is worth immortalizing in print because alot of people have similar stories. Sad and frustrating not inspiring or moving. If their was a point I have not had it explained to me yet.

message 4: by Wes (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:28PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Wes He left his parents because he found out about their lies of cheating and another son in California. He held a low moral aptitude for their sins. He chose to live a different life away from them. His goal after two years of living like a tramp was to survive for 2 months alone in Alaska then return to write books. He made some serious errors and nature took over. This is a real good story. Sure he was a spoiled brat but he felt he needed self discovery which sometimes men need to find.
I think every man has that wild carnal nature to go out and do something, test of manhood type of action. If there were not people like him out there then there would be no discoveries we may even still feel the world was flat. He was an adventurer and would live one day at a time and conquer challenges thrown at him.

message 5: by Jay & Laura (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:35PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jay & Laura McManus I was handed this book several years ago by a former rock climbing partner of mine, and I have to say this has been one of the best books that I have read in years. I can only assume that the inability to understand the main character by some stems form a lack of an adventurous soul. This book chronicles the life of a young man who was brought up in a well to do family and had a strong desire for personal growth. The fact that he donated so much to charity and then burned his money only shows the level of devotion to his undertaking. I only wish that more people could take the time in their busy lives to experience life from a different perspective.

message 6: by Jed (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:13PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jed Yes Jay & Laura. To understand McCandless one must have an adventurous soul. A societal discontent triggered by his parents hypocrosy also contributed his desire to "escape". I have much admiration for him.

Meels The book is good, empirically. However I found McCandless selfish and impetuous. Had he bothered to learn more and prepare more for his "adventure" he may have survived and I may have had more respect for his attempt. In the end I did recommended the book to a couple of friends, both men. Men have less of a need for a "happy ending", which is I believe why the book ultimately appeals less to women.

message 8: by Xysea (last edited Dec 31, 2007 08:44AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Xysea First off, let me disagree with H3 on one minor point; yes, people have had similar experiences and been forgotten. Or later found after years, by some hunter, trapper or explorer. I think that's one thing that Krakauer aims to address in his book, though I would argue it's not his clearest point, which is that Chris is representative of the people who suffer the same fate. His story is their story, etc. There are other stories out there, by the way. Sure, they don't get a lot of attention, but I've read several - one is discussed below.

McCandless is a good choice for a case study, in my opinion, because he was exactly the typical person to do this - a well-educated, upper middle class guy with such a naive ideology and a lack of experience as to make his belief in his own survival near impossible to swallow.

I just finished reading a book, Cold Burial: A Story of Endurance and Disaster, that also deals with this subject - the similarities between the two men are disturbing. The man in that book was slightly more experienced with the wildnerness, yet he too made reckless decisions that led to his own demise, that of his 16 year old nephew, as well as that of a long-time friend and companion. They froze to death in the Canadian wilderness, and were warned that their expedition was unwise - just like Chris McCandless, and like Chris they felt that they knew what they were doing and ignored those who actually had experience in the Canadian bush.

In Cold Burial, the gentleman was also from an upper class family, with a good education, eccentric behavior and a naive ideology. He had idealized the wilderness, and the idea of rugged survival, just like McCandless did.

As we know from other sources, including documentaries like Grizzly Man, another stunning story of naivete in practice in the wilderness, going into that environment is something you should do with someone who is experienced - and not at all something you should undertake alone. Even group ventures are not to be entered into lightly; the number of participants doesn't necessarily lessen the possibility of death.

I thought Krakauer's other book Into Thin Air was better written, but primarily because he had more personal experience to add to that book. This one was fleshed out of an article he wrote for Outdoor, a magazine, and I was surprised it was as thin as it was. I found the most compelling part was the end of the book. I won't spoil it here, but if you want to know feel free to read my review because I mention it there.

I think stories like these are important reading: There are many out there who romanticize life on the frontiers, on the edges of civilization. These books show that this belief is still in full force today; it is not some shadow left over from the times of Shackleton and Scott. It may be part of the human condition, the human spirt.

But cautionary tales are still educating; and Chris McCandless' story is no less so.

By the way, I saw the movie and it's excellent. Highly recommended; Sean Penn does a great job. There's also an Iconoclasts episode on Sundance Channel that has Krakauer and Penn discussing the movie. I found it compelling viewing, but probably because I enjoy the subject matter.

message 9: by Jeff (new)

Jeff Populist opinion is that the movie is greater than the book. Two different media. The book has some merit although I did not find it all that great in terms of writing as a craft. There were high spots of thought and ideology. A top 100 book though it is not but thought provoking at points none the less. I don't think one has to be of an adventurous spirit to appricate this man's struggle within himself.

Lesley Story aside, how you feel about McCandless aside, everything aside, I have to say that I found Krakauer's writing riveting. He used more than 15 vocab words that had me on my ass, searching through a dictionary, but he didn't overdo it. He writes beautifully and descriptive and if I was faced with the task of writing about McCandless' life and ultimate demise, mine would be a shadow of a job next to Krakauer's account. He really makes you think without telling you what to think. I enjoy books with a good story but more important to me is how the author writes and I don't think any reviewer here has given Krakauer a fair shake.
Read it again, go slow, and take it all in. That's my advice.

message 11: by Tom Chandler (new)

Tom Chandler I think Krakauer did a remarkable job of tracking McCandless and his trek, which ended in disaster.

I think what's most intriguing is how Krakauer seems willing to let the reader decide for himself whether McCandless was a committed idealist or just another dilettante who got himself killed through his own stupidity.

McCandless seems unable to see anything in other than black & white, and it seems Krakauer's book similarly polarizes readers.

Like all Krakauer's stuff, it's extremely well written, and hard to put down.

Lesley "McCandless seems unable to see anything in other than black & white, and it seems Krakauer's book similarly polarizes readers." Excellent point, Tom.

message 13: by Tressa (last edited Feb 07, 2008 11:34AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tressa I'm always surprised at the animosity aimed at this book and Chris McCandless. Jon Krakauer is an excellent writer with an uncanny ability to bring to life another person's adventure to us armchair adventurers.

There is something in man that makes him hunger for adventures, and McCandless and others like him have a hard time finding adventure in such a "tame" world with no new frontiers. Krakauer explains this when he veers off to tell us about his own adventures as a teen when he just had to "steal up to the edge of doom and peer into the brink."

My two favorite passages that sum up everything this book is about:

"It is easy, when you are young, to believe that what you desire is no less than what you deserve, to assume that if you want something badly enough, it is your God-given right to have it."

“In coming to Alaska, McCandless yearned to wander uncharted country, to find a blank spot on the map. In 1992, however, there were no more blank spots on the map--not in Alaska, not anywhere. But Chris, with his idiosyncratic logic, came up with an elegant solution to this dilemma: He simply got rid of the map. In his own mind, if nowhere else, the terra would thereby remain incognita."

I still think about Chris' life and death. Maybe I'm just more sensitive to it because I have a little boy who might get it in his head to go on a similar adventure.

message 14: by Lulu (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lulu Couldn't agree with you more Wes! This book is so inspirational and so moving. It has completely changed my brother's life. This book awoke his inner outdoorsman and has given him a new outlook on life. I find it to be quite a compelling story. It has made me re-evaluate my own life.
Sure, Chris or Alex rather, lives a fairly selfish life. But why is selfish always such a bad thing? There is a type of selfish that is healthy. Chris wants to reconnect with himself, he wants to find himself, and he wants to liberate himself. It is a valid search. I will never understand why society does not value this type of search. It is a noble pursuit.

message 15: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 15, 2008 11:47PM) (new)

This thing drives me crazy!
Warm, wealthy, overfed and overconnected Krakauer is glorifying the sad tale of someone who needed emotional and mental help, not encouragement to chase "adventure and liberation" from conventional life.
As a former outdoor professional I'm incensed that this boys problem is given validation.
Krakauer and Penn put on the gore tex and got flown in to the site of his perhaps inadvertant suicide and think they can speak about adventure!
A map, a compass, proper clothing, provisions, a book about edible plants, what the fuck!?!?! His emaciated, lifeless body was found in an abandoned rusty bus with a supply of sweet potatoe seeds which killed him (he was eating them and they cause the body not to metabolize food-he didn't know this) still in his "pantry." He had tried to walk out but got turned back by the swollen river, not knowing there was a way around it just a few miles away and indeed a hunting camp close by as well, with food in the cupboards and visited periodically by hunters who could have helped him. How did he stay there for several months and not know these things were close by? Perhaps because he laid in the bus shivering, in a deep depression or because the seeds prevented him from getting any benefit from the other food he was eating and he was too weak to walk around! This is NOT a story about ADVENTURE! It is a hideous death tale that Penn and Krakauer are making money on by glorifying his heartbreaking end. WHICH COULD HAVE BEEN PREVENTED!!! And shouldn't be perpetuated by these pampered delusional twits writing books in their warm libraries and dreaming of making movies from the comfort of the beverly hills perch. Arrrrggggghhhhh. He's DEAD, and there is nothing glorious or noble or adventurous about how he died. It's vile that these men are encouraging others to blindly and blithely head off into the wilderness unprepared!

message 16: by Jed (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jed He died Maureen... how does that encourage someone to say... "Cool, I want to do that!"? And how did he stay there for several months without knowing a way across the river or hunting cabins were close by? He was seeking isolation, a place uncharted and truly wild. So the desire to find these things wasnt there to begin with... he was content at the bus, alone. It was until he became too weak to venture out that it probably became a priority for him to find help... which by then it was obviously too late. You talk about prevention... how would it benefit the world... our society... to have every death prevented. It would be more harmful than helpful. Why not take the inspiring life of a young man, although it ended in death, and celebrate is desire to break free from conformity? Whether he got the mental and emotional help you say he needed.... in the end McCandless still dies. We all do... get over it.

Tressa Maureen, I disagree. I don't think he was depressed or mentally unstable at all. In fact, I think he was just the opposite. I think he was energized about the adventures in front of him. I think he was perhaps too idealistic, but not mentally ill.

It's obvious by the time he wrote the note he stuck on the windshield of the bus that he had started to panic from his weakness and knew he was in danger. But before that, he was enjoying being "in the wild."

Have you ever read any of Krakauer's other books? I don't know about Sean Penn, but I think Krakauer can "speak about adventure"! He's had many adventures since he started climbing as a teenager. I don't think he was too warm, wealthy, and overfed when he was on Everest in 1996.

Jed, great post. Women for the most part are self-preservationists, and that's fine because that's the part we play in this world. But I've always admired the adventurous side of males. Without that, where would humankind be right now? Perhaps not sitting in front of a computer discussing Chris McCandless.

At least Chris died doing what he loved and not sitting in a Lazy-Boy watching TV with an economy-sized bag of chips on his lap.

message 18: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 16, 2008 04:36PM) (new)

I've worked with bush pilots, professional wilderness guides, and expedition organizers in Arctic Canada, Iceland, Scotland, the American Southwest, Mongolia, the Northwest Territories, and the Yukon, primarily running wilderness rivers. I've participated in trips in Maine and NB Canada as well as backcountry camping, hiking and sled dog trips.
Chris starved to death, cold, and alone. If as he was slipping away he still said to himself..."at least I'm doing what I love," then I would contend he was indeed crazy and needed help. Instead, I bet he died going "oh shit what did I foolishly do to myself."
My point about Krakauer is he is glorifying a romantic notion of "the wild" and "adventure" that is false. He is perpetuating stupidity by wrapping it up in false romantic notions.
When the world truely had mapless voids, people still took provisions, knew what they could and couldn't eat or had a method of finding out. They took compasses and knew navigation and used them as they drew the maps. Self preservation is not a bad thing. Knowing woods lore, and wilderness survival techniques and first aid is part of the fun. Chris stepped into terra incognita with an innocent notion of what he needed to survive. I hate that Krakauer is glossing over that.
Everest has it's own controversy. There is a lot of debate in the professional outdoor community about Everest and people's need to grab the summit regardless of safety. With the support teams, oxygen etc. it's not quite the same risk in one way but with the flippant attitude of the Krakauer ilk it is now quite a different risk that has quite frankly lost it's nobility. Professional guides and rural outdoorsmen and women who have been going into the wild for their whole lives don't have as high a view of Krakauer as he does of himself.
I have an incredible love for the wild and normally feel if you are so stupid to go out there unprepared then you deserve to die. But I think naivete killed Chris and I hate to see it perpetuated.

message 19: by Jeff (new)

Jeff Truth is nobody knows what this kid Chris was thinking. His death by what I can see was a result of several things and I would include mental illness in that list. Chris appeared to be detached from not only society in general but himself specifically. I don't buy that he was on this self discovery trek thing only. And if he was an adventerer he appears to have been ignorant and in many ways stupid. He was ill prepared and even more there is a sense of self irresponsibility too. I agree with Maureen. this kid needed professional help mentally not an ill planned stint in the woods in a climate he knew nothing about. Society understands so little about mental illness and this kid was just another victim of himself and it appears to me untreated depression.

Tressa Maureen, I seriously doubt that anyone reading about Chris' sad, lonely death would think, "Wow! I want to do this!" I think Chris' experience would serve as a cautionary tale of how to be adventurous in a safer way.

I still don't see that Chris was depressed. In school he turned inward, but I myself am a solitary person; that doesn't mean I'm depressed or mentally ill or want to kill myself.

It's Chris' fault and his alone that he didn't take enough precautions and provisions. I don't think Krakauer romanticized his experiences in the wild. Krakauer admitted that Chris was foolish not to be prepared, but he did admire his adventurous spirit. I think there's a difference and Krakauer is being unjustly criticized.

message 21: by Tom Chandler (new)

Tom Chandler Maureen: On several occasions - and in his "Into Thin Air" book -- Krakauer openly questions current Everest guiding practices, and in fact, it was the largely the basic theme running through his Everest book.

It's a shame to misrepresent the author's stance on things like Everest guiding in order to make a point.

I think he doesn't condone the risks McCandless took (or those Krakaeur himself took as a young man) but is instead attempting to explain why somebody like McCandless would take them to begin with.

Steve I agree with Maureen. The writing is compelling and initially drew me in but that doesn't make a good book - content does. The argument that 'adventurous' souls will understand his drive romanticizes an ill-prepared, spoiled kid who wanted to do something radical and his cockiness cost him his life. Only people with money burn money in this country.

As I read more about his travels I was expecting more ambiguity regarding his motivation - perhaps there was something I was missing or his calling was based on a revelation the author was about to reveal. Not the case.

Young, idealistic folks can easily see Chris' escape from the grind of parental and peer expectations ('normal' life) as an admirable decision. It's similar some people I've met here in NYC who are living on the street or hand to mouth but come from some cushy suburban upbringing or are attending one of the extremely pricey private universities - poor people aren't trying to throw away their personal belongings and head off the grid. They're too busy surviving to experience being unencumbered by material possessions.

In the end it simply annoyed me that I read a book (and now there is a movie) about a kid who had everything provided test his own mortality in an unresponsible and ultimately fatal way. Nothing in the book aside from following his heart held any validation for his decisions.

message 23: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 28, 2008 08:53PM) (new)

Thanks for the support Steve. I think you may have made a better argument than I did. I know why this particular incident makes me crazy but it makes me so angry I'm not sure I articulate it well.
My dislike for Krakauer and Penn stems from a tv interview I saw with them. He romanticized adventure in a way that made my skin crawl. He approaches adventure with his ego intact.

If I force myself to be succinct...
it's an issue of respect and deference. The wilderness, adventure, terra incognita, living by your wits, eschewing conventional living for the freedom to make your way in the natural world requires first and foremost RESPECT. You can't fully respect something if you don't cower at the feet of it's majesty and power and come as a supplicant with as much fore knowledge as possible. There is a magic on river, in the wild, on a mountain and that force knows who comes as a diletante and who comes with reverence. It makes me crazy to share those sacred places with diletantes.
Poor Chris was naive and K&P don't even respect his death. They beleive their egos can make of the sad tale a story of adventure.

message 24: by Jed (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jed So Steve... your're saying since Chris came from a wealthy family he should have just taken his parents money and have been content huh? Oh yeah I forgot... money is the answer to everything. You and Maureen are both so full of crap.

message 25: by [deleted user] (new)


Neither of us said money is the answer to everything or that Chris should have taken his parents money and been content.
I said, I hated to see K&P making money off a sad story about a semi-delusional kid and pretending it was about adventure.
I think Steve said he agreed and it bugged him that Chris was impulsive and irresponsible and was being held up as having admirable motivations.
I think it dishonors Chris and may indeed encourage others to be needlessly reckless. I think "wilderness" is important for the soul but the natural world has conventions and rules that if you fail to follow them exactly the consequences are severe. If you are going to go "Into the Wild" realize it's wild.
K&P said let's all share Chris's delusion but Chris is the only one who paid the price for it, therefore all my anger is directed at them for asking everyone to come along and take a look as we strike off "Into the Wild."
There are a lot of good books on wilderness survival, there are a lot of people to talk to and a lot of people who live an adventurous life. Seek them out, ask them questions, take a couple of guided trips, develop your skills, learn about the environment you want to go into and what you need. Don't fling yourself into the wilds out of an urge to run away from disappointment, heatache or betrayal. Stand up to it all and see to the bottom of it and only then go to the beautiful places seeking harmony with the natural world.

message 26: by Jed (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jed Really? Steve did not say that? What did he mean in his last paragraph "a kid who had everything provided"? Sounds like you're trying to dish a lecture to me like I am Chris McCandless... save it for a seance. It might help you to come to terms with things since you are so tore up about his death...and life for that matter.

Tressa I think some people are really doing a disservice to Chris' memory by trying to convince people that what Chris experienced wasn't a "real" adventure but a meandering into some woods by a semi-delusional nut. Chris was living the adventure that HE set out to live and it went south near the end.

And writers write to tell a good story AND make money. Don't begrudge Krakauer his living because he got paid to tell Chris' story. I never got the sense that he was dancing on Chris' grave in order to stuff his pockets with dough. I think Krakauer saw something of his own youthful self in Chris and perhaps was puzzled about why he was able to survive his "reckless" adventure but Chris wasn't so lucky; I think it was too close for comfort.

message 28: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 02, 2008 10:29PM) (new)

Hi Jed,

I can't say what Steve meant but what it sounds like he means to me is that he thinks Chris was spoiled and irresponsible.
Yah, you do seem like Chris to me in the importance of his idea of escaping conventional society and I am trying to convince you that there are better ways to find adventure.
Yah, it makes me sad when young people are hurting and can't find anyone to help them. Yah, I'm sorry that he was betrayed and disillusioned by his parents and yes I am lecturing because I think I know somehting he didn't. The same people who disappoint you can come through for you or you can come thro for yourself. I know this only because I managed to live longer than Chris did.
Ultimately Chris was a suicide even if he didn't totally want to end his life. I have been depressed to that point and I will always try to convince people like Chris that it gets better.
And that's why I don't like the movie and the book glorifying his story.

Lawrence Gonzales wrote a wonderful book called Deep Survival about why one person survives and another doesn't in a traumatic wilderness experience. It deserves the interest more than "Into the Wild."

Steve Hey Jed,

Full of crap is a good comeback, by the way.

Where did you grow up Jed? Did you have a roof over your head and new clothes for school? Those are not a given in all families so, yes, I'm saying when those things are available to you then you should be grateful and appreciate it. You can take that money and go into public service, donate, research and support the outdoors, go to school and make a difference - Maureen said it well - RESPECT. Chris didn't have it because he was arrogant and didn't come prepared for the outdoors and he paid for it. It drives me crazy that so many people are fighting for basic human needs to try and break out of cycles of poverty, insufficient educational resources, etc... and jokers like you like to preach about the evils of money. In the context of this book (which is what we're talking about, yes?) the vague nature regarding Chris' motivation reinforced his lack of principle and conviction when he went off on his trip.

Sounds to me you and Tressa are the ones who are using your own opinions of adventure to apply them to his decision. How do you know what his intentions were? Maybe he was tired of being told what to do and wanted to take control of his life? Perhaps he was concerned with global warming? Maybe he was an idiot?

I believe everyone has the right to do whatever it is they want. I don't believe that when you do something stupid and careless you should be praised for being a trailblazer and immortalized in book and film.

That's what we're discussing here - the book and the subject. All the additional speculation is moot unless you can speak to Chris (you are into seances apparently).

Steve By the way Maureen, I think you're expressing yourself perfectly well. Passion (on both sides of this argument) colors our delivery but that's the point of this site, no? Books are a great resource and that's why good writing and content should be appreciated so much - very difficult to combine the 2 and it's a very subjective thing.

message 31: by Jed (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jed Ok Steve if you are so adamant on peoples rights to do as they choose, why criticize McCandless for doing something other than what YOU think he should have done given his financial status?

It irritates me that people think McCandless was stupid, carless, an idiot...etc. No matter how experienced or inexperienced a person may be when it comes to dealing with nature... accidents do happen. In Chris' case he made a mistake of eating a wrong type of seed despite his efforts to use resources and materials to eat the right foods, does that make him stupid? I dont think so... I think it was an accident that anyone could have made.

Steve I'm not trying to battle with comebacks here, just stating my opinion. It sounds like you havent grown up yet.

message 32: by Jed (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jed Oh yeah... and what did Chris do with his savings Steve? Look it up.

message 33: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 04, 2008 09:42PM) (new)

Jed, your point about accidents was a good one.
However, if I told someone I wanted to work in an iron foundry because I hated wood and felt only iron was honorable and I had read a book about the melting point of iron ore and was really excited and gave away my wooden shoes and ran into the foundry without any protective clothing because I felt that protective clothing made me weak and I died as I stuck my hands on the metal thing-a-ma-jig, I would expect people to think I was stupid and had a death wish. If Bill Gates and Steven Yang got together and started a blog about it entitled "Into the Foundry" and gushed about how adventurous and what a free spirit I was that through banner advertising turned into a tidy profit for them, I would expect someone would question their motives and might even complain that their blog might encouage others to decide to rush head long "Into the Foundry" as well.

Chris was young and dumb. Krakauer and Penn are old and crass and opportunistic and irresponsible and incredibly disrespectful of Chris and his life and death.

p.s. i take it back
the accident argument can be refuted-a prepared person isn't likely to make the mistakes chris did i don't know anyone in the wilderness world who would eat seeds they didn't know were safe

message 34: by Jed (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jed lol...quite an overexaggeration with the foundry analogy Maureen. I dont think that needs to be pointed out. If we look at what first prompted Chris to stay at the bus initially, the rise of the river and his inability to cross it. (Yeah I know there was the cable car not far away... but Chris didnt, unfortunate) We can chalk that event up to nature... something out of Chris' control. Does that make him ill-prepared and stupid for not expecting it? The unexpected happen. Maureen in your infinite wisdom and experience in the outdoors, what if the very unlikely and unfortunate circumstance happened where you encountered a bear. And despite your vast knowledge of bears and the precautions necessary to scare off and defend yourself from bears... it mauls and kills you. Should you go down in history as careless, stupid, and an idiot? I wouldnt think that about you... and I dont think that about Chris. The "Grizzly Man", however, thats definitely getting there.

message 35: by [deleted user] (new)

Was Chris stupid and unprepared because he didn't know rivers rise? Supremely. It doesn't take an oudoors genius to know that or that water freezes or cold winds blow in the great white north.

Thanks for the argument Jed you've convinced me my points are valid.

message 36: by Wes (new) - rated it 5 stars

Wes I think he would have survived if he was not poisoned by the seeds. If he did he would have written some great novels that you could tear appart critically. He died though and he knew he made a mistake and he did face the consequences but the reason he left in the first place was to get away from the generic lying family in the first place. The unhappy people acting like his family only disgusted him to the point of leaving and trying something different.

I personally can't blame him for his "something different", I mean how many of us would get off our fat butts to experience an adventure like this. To take such chances and really experience life without the aminities that you depend on.

Steve We all have our opinions Jed and although you didn't answer my questions I'll answer yours. I've grown up.
It strikes me as a simple difference here - Maureen and I are commenting on the careless nature of a man who died due to his lack of preparation in a harsh environment. You are assuming his motivation and ideals based on your interpretation of Chris' goals which are loosely portrayed by the author and pieced together from forensics and some detective work. I countered with my opinion based on my ideals, etc... so really, you've already engaged in a back and forth so saying you're not trying to is inaccurate.
Additionally the money he 'gave away' was for the last 2 years of his college education that someone left for him for that reason. Left him money to pay for school which he gave away. Life is good for some, huh?

Alaskan Park Ranger Peter Christian wrote: “I am exposed continually to what I will call the ‘McCandless Phenomenon.’ People, nearly always young men, come to Alaska to challenge themselves against an unforgiving wilderness landscape where convenience of access and possibility of rescue are practically nonexistent […:] When you consider McCandless from my perspective, you quickly see that what he did wasn’t even particularly daring, just stupid, tragic, and inconsiderate. First off, he spent very little time learning how to actually live in the wild. He arrived at the Stampede Trail without even a map of the area. If he [had:] had a good map he could have walked out of his predicament […:] Essentially, Chris McCandless committed suicide.”[14:]

Judith Kleinfeld wrote in the Anchorage Daily News that “many Alaskans react with rage to his stupidity. You'd have to be a complete idiot, they say, to die of starvation in summer 20 miles off the Park's Highway.”[15:]

Biographer Jon Krakauer has suggested two factors which may have contributed to McCandless's death in August, 1992. First, he was running the risk of starvation due to his increased activity, compared with the leanness of the game he was hunting. [4:] However, Krakauer insists that starvation was not, as McCandless' death certificate states, the primary cause of death. Initially, Krakauer claimed that McCandless might have ingested toxic seeds (Hedysarum alpinum). However, extensive laboratory testing proved conclusively that there was no alkaloid toxin present in McCandless' food supplies. In later editions of the book, therefore, Krakauer has maintained that a fungus Rhizoctonia leguminicola managed to grow on the seeds McCandless ate. However, there remains no evidence to support Krakauer's theory, and all available forensic data suggests that McCandless simply starved to death.

I appreciate that people respect that he went and did something new and exciting but that's subjective. There have been many trailblazers that deserve praise for trying daring and unconventional ventures - he's just not one of them.

I think the above excerpts reinforce my point (and Maureens) that the romatic version and the actual version do vary.

message 38: by [deleted user] (new)

and i didn't mention the chance of injury or loss of life to dedicated wilderness rescue personnel (often volunteers no less) caused by careless adventurers
or the fact that the river running scenario never happened and the river in question is not runnable in a kayak, to do so is to ensure death before making it to the bus
that scene really ticks me and other river professionals off

and i still fell terrible for Chris and his family

and anyone who tries to replicate his acts due to Krakauer and Penn's portrayal

Meels Maureen, if you will glance at the beginning of the thread, I made a comment weeks ago (maybe months...I don't remember). I have to say 'thank you' for articulating much better than I was able the reason that I found this book so frustrating. And, whoever likes can attack me for that, I don't really care.

message 40: by [deleted user] (new)

i'll take a look amy-i think i remember reading it before i knew you-i see the title of this book and i go crazy! :)

Steve I should have just posted this and saved a bunch of typing:

message 42: by Bob (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bob Steve

I read the essay at the link you provided, but it skipped over one important fact - Alex Supertramp did provide for himself for a very long time using only a rifle and a botanical field guide book. I agreed with the article in general, but the above fact is pretty impressive.

Reading "Into the Wild" left me angry at Chris and sad for Chris and his family.

By random chance, buried next to my grandparents, is a boy I went to high school with. He died at 16. When I visit the cemetery, I always think of him. He never grew up, never married, never knew how damn hard it is to raise children and pay bills. Like my high school friend, Chris will never know these things either.

Chris was punishing his parents with the cold shoulder like the little spoiled brat he was. Except he wasn't a little boy anymore, he was a twenty-something college graduate who was educated beyond his wisdom level. What's even worse, he was worshiping the literary works of authors who were just as morally flawed as his father had been.

I wish he had gone to Africa instead of Alaska and seen the way elephants grieve over the bones of their dead. Maybe Chris would have realized the most important thing we can learn from NATURE is that humans are a social species like elephants. Our species has evolved in the context of the "tribe" and we are happiest when we have a "tribe" or family or village we can support and be supported by. (There is evidence in the book that Chris was coming to understand this in the end.)

Chris and his parents were all guilty of the same kind of "sin" - betrayal of trust. Both parents were guilty in the breakup of Walt's first marriage. Both of them tried to make up for this by trying to be good parents, by totally remaking their lives, by planting a new garden far away from the destructive weeds they had sown in their secret past.

I hate to use the word "karma", but here goes, the weeds of karma hitch-hiked from California in the back seat of the Datsun. The organized garden of their lives, gave way to the chaos and brutal honesty of nature. Chris could never again participate in their fairy tale.

Chris could have (should have) confronted them and they might have slowly rebuild their lives on the truth. But sadly, he did just what his parents had done, he secretly hated them throughout college, then he skipped off to a new life, cruelly severing his ties to them, just as his Dad had done to his first son.

On the positive side, I admire Chris for his courage (foolhardy as it was). I admire him for studying great ideas and trying to come to "the truth" (whatever that is) on his own. I admire him for his ability to enrapture his whole soul in the beauty and terror of nature. I wish he could have lived to have his soul captivated by the beauty and terror of a new baby, or the beauty and terror of a long-term relationship. I wish he could have reconciled with his parents and learned the joy of love based on brutal honesty which is as REAL and as fierce as anything the WILD has to offer.

message 43: by Jed (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jed Great comment Bob. Good insights without just bashing McCandless.

message 44: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 24, 2008 08:57AM) (new)

Provided for himself?
Did you see a picture of his emaciated frame?
How long do you think it takes to starve to death? 1 month, 3? What if you have a "little" food, 4 months, 6?
He failed at providing for himself,
an 800 lb moose (that's a small one) should have kept him alive for at least a year, not a few months.
Furthermore, shooting a moose is about as tricky as shooting a cow, they don't try to avoid people. And they are beautiful, awesome animals and shooting it and then allowing it to rot as the article above mentions is sickening.
All so Chris could feel the thrill of living off the fat of the land? Living by his own wits?
Again it just plain pisses me off.
Only people who don't have a clue about how to survive in their own backyard admire Chris's "outdoors skills"
and your stupid support of his "courage" and grappling with grand ideas just perpetuates the stupidity of others.
I never started out bashing McCandless' arrogance and stupidity because he was young but Krakauer's an adult glorifying the false notion of adventure.
Take a freakin camping trip if you want to feel all misty romantic about the great outdoors,
don't read a book about the sad pathetic death of a mentally disturbed individual and pass it off as something it is not.
How would you like it if i came to your office and decided to grapple with some grand truths by deleting all your files and recreating them in my own arrogant design?
Do you get it yet? Krakauer and Penn are punks making money off someone's death,and possibly causing more needless deaths because, yes those that admire Chris's actions may indeed seek to emmulate them.
Why do I care? Ya know I'm not totally sure except I love the outdoors, moose, the great white north and misguided youth and I feel they are all getting a stone washing on this one.

Tressa Maureen, you are losing it. You started off stating your side and didn't resort to name calling. But you're slowly starting a downward spiral. Perhaps you need to take a break from dancing on Chris' corpse.

message 46: by [deleted user] (new)

tressa-did you miss the first post when i said this issue makes me crazy?
i already acknowledged losing it on this topic
with good reason
i had a person freeze to death in the woods a mile from my house in Maine
i felt horrible that they didn't know how close they were to shelter and instead perished in that dark, lonely night while i sat in the warm house with the wood stove blazing
your last comment is obnoxious

it's krakauer and penn who are the targets of my contempt and yep, it slipped into contempt for those who are singing the same stupid song-but if you blindly follow the herd you get painted by the stupid brush
i guess you helped me clarify it for myself though, that death near my home affected me greatly and i didn't know the people involved just some of their friends
can you imagine being the ones who find the dead? it's not pleasant to hear about and a shock to come across
i also had a brother in law who found a fisherman in a wilderness river and had to pull the body from the water and travel for half a day with the body in his canoe, he'd been in the water for a week
he was greatly disturbed, dreams etc. and
never fished there again
the man had been told the river was unsafe (not free of dangerous ice) but ignored the game wardens advice
i have other friends who work search and rescue in the wilderness and have found the dead who didn't know their way out, sometimes it's injury, other times it's stupidity, drunkeness and often lack of experience and planning

yah, we should do what we can to prevent this sort of thing, so i won't apologize for trying

message 47: by Jed (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jed People die everyday doing real stupid things. Drug overdose, suicide, teens drunk driving, accidental shootings... meddling in nature is no exception. People admire Kurt Cobain... but their admiration isnt fueled by wanting to advocate suicide! I think it is possible to admire Chris while at the same time realize and acknowlege that he did some stupid things. I agree with Tessa.... Maureen you need to take a deep breath and reanalyze your desire to fight the inevitable cyclical nature of life. It's a losing battle and will only drive you nuts.

Babynumzitgel "It's pretty much the story of a guy committing suicide. A very confused person at the least."

Agreed. Most of America seems awed by this amazing kid, especially since the movie was made (not a very good movie in my opinion). I saw the book as a story of a unprepared, ignorant kid who went looking for death in a roundabout way and found it. Not inspiring story, but I really enjoy Krakauer's writing, and so consider it a good book.

Steve Hi Bob,

I think what you wrote is very eloquent and, as I mentioned before, our subjective interpretation of his motivations will likely not change with any of our postings.
On the other hand, I have been discussing issues on this forum regarding the actions he took as empirical evidence that he was not a brilliant artist but another person, albeit intelligent, that screwed up with his life experiment.
"But sadly, he did just what his parents had done, he secretly hated them throughout college, then he skipped off to a new life, cruelly severing his ties to them, just as his Dad had done to his first son."
I would hope that all parents are perfect and do well by their children. We know this is not so. Is it acceptable then that we are allowed to self-destruct and have people idolize these traits? There are many examples of people who enjoy cultural idoltry who were addicts, commited suicide, etc... but are remembered with a certain romanticism. Jed mentions Kurt Cobain - do you really think his committing suicide hasn't influenced someone to think that this is an acceptable answer? There are debates concerning potential Werther effect suicides stemming from his death but I think I can confidently say someone like Cobain struck a chord in a generation he came to identify with thus reinforcing his suicide. Clearly public figures have an impact and Chris has become one due to this book/movie.
In the end I don't think you've shown any more of an argument that Chris was a trailblazer or different in any way. I do think you have given your opinion with more substance than Jed or Maureen but when it comes to Chris, who decided to take on a wilderness unprepared, the Park Ranger summed up my opinion effectively. True respect and admiration takes significant effort and hard work when trying to accomplish a difficult task.

I believe the concept of Chris being unprepared and spontaneous is more believable than making him into a symbol of courage and daring. There are so many other examples of people who deserve that recognition.

Really, anyone who has the courage to face life's challenges and continue to persevere deserve our praise and admiration. I believe living life and making change in that context is far braver than leaving it (I don't mean dying).

message 50: by Bob (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bob Maureen,

Did you forget to take your meds?

- - - stupid support of his "courage" and grappling with grand ideas just perpetuates the stupidity of others - - -

I said his courage was foolhardy, didn't I? Look, he obviously slowly starved to death, I understand that, but he DID provide for himself for a good long time. This is a fact even if you don't accept it. And by the way what's wrong with "grappling with grand ideas"? Chris was on an intellectual journey and this is admirable in any young person. The journey does not have to be "right" or "wrong"

Chris felt very guilty about killing and wasting the moose, and you know it. You only wrote that crap so you could continue riding your moral high horse. We are all guilty of wasting food so what does it matter if we caught it in the woods or at the supermarket?

- - - to grapple with some grand truths by deleting all your files and recreating them in my own arrogant design? - - -

Krakauer did not delete Chris' files and recreate him, he told as much of the truth as was possible - the good, the bad and the ugly about Chris, his friends and his family.

- - - Krakauer and Penn are punks making money off someone's death,and possibly causing more needless deaths because, yes those that admire Chris's actions may indeed seek to emmulate them - - -

As for causing other people to do something stupid - people make their own beds don't they? If someone wants to die they will find a way to do it on their own. Why blame the messenger? Do you want to censor any author that writes a "dangerous" message? Who gets to decide what's "dangerous"? I hope it's not you.

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