Truth in Nonfiction discussion

Into the Wild
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“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.” –Jim Rohn

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Cassia (Cassia11) | 23 comments “Like Chris McCandless, I was a raw youth who mistook passion for insight and acted according to an obscure, gap-ridden logic. We had a similar intensity, a similar heedlessness, a similar agitation of the soul.”

“We were similarly affected by the skewed relationships we had with our fathers.”

“The fact that I survived my Alaska adventure, and McCandless did not survive his was largely a matter of chance.” (155)

But was it really just chance?

Today, let’s focus more on the author rather than the character of this piece. Four characteristics of Krakauer stand out to me: his reasons to escape, his relationship with his parents, his expectations being lowered, and the forgiveness of his parents. Like McCandless, Krakauer had similar reasons to escape, and a similar relationship with his parents. Neither were satisfied with the way their fathers brought them up, and believed the only way out of their “volatile and extremely complicated ways” was to completely disconnect themselves from their known lives. (147) The two young men differed in the other two characteristics though, and perhaps it was these differences that proved to be fatal; Chris failed to lower his expectations when challenged by nature, and could not find it within himself to forgive his parents. So my question for you is, what if Chris had lowered his expectations like Krakauer had? What if he had tried to understand and forgive his father? How does Krakauer show strength of character that Chris does not possess? Do you believe that these four characteristics were the reasoning behind Krakauer’s survival or do you agree with him that it is simply chance?


message 2: by James (last edited Feb 27, 2012 12:54PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

James Augustine | 19 comments I think there are a few important things to recognize here before we jump into the deep and longstanding philosophical debate over whether or not life is chance, although, it will take part in our conversation because there is some validity in the fact that chance does play a role in everyone' lives. To answer your first question, I don't think that the comparison between Krakauer and McCandless is necessarily relevant, I think it is important to stress the similarities being that they both grew up in relatively densely packed areas and that certainly affected both of them in different ways. Krakauer grew up in Brookline, Mass and if any of you have ever been there know that the closest thing to nature is the public zoo that is often filled with more trash than animals. Secondly, McCandless had one family member and it was his sister who he loved dearly. His parents were nothing more than the dreadful notion of a tormented and confinded life filled with unhappiness. Krakauer relationship with his father was certainly not the epitome of a perfect relationship but he did have a decent father figure. The strength of character is something that Krakauer does an incredible job with. Alexander Supertramp is relentless, couragious, and simlpy the most stubborn young man around. That we get see first hand. Krakauer writes, "He had no need to test himself in ways that he was fond of saying, "mattered." He posessed grand--some would say grandiose--spiritual ambitions. According to the moral absolutism that characterized McCandless's beliefs, a challange in which is a successful outcome is occurred isn't a challenge at all" (182). I think that really sums up the feelings that McCandless had toward nature and the adventorous spirit he possessed inside. In other words, I certainly do not think it is chance, there are clear cut reason why this young man was troubled and felt a need to escpae.


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John F. (Johnferg) | 24 comments I think that the fact that Krakauer survived and that McCandless died is by chance, given that the two were different people who had no connection prior to McCandless' death. Reading about Chris, particularly at the end of his two month journey in Alaska, Krakauer did plant the thought into the readers head that he wanted to come home. "He seemed to have moved beyond his need to assert so adamantly his autonomy, his need to separate himself from his parents. Maybe he was prepared to forgive their imperfections; maybe he was even prepared to forgive some of his own. McCandless seemed ready, perhaps, to go home" (168). Maybe this draws light to a possible change in Chris' ideals over time in "the bush", maybe accepting his connection with society and wanting to go back on his own accord. Also, one passage that Chris highlighted from Tolstoy's "Family Happiness" was "He was right in saying that the only certain happiness in life is to live for others..." (169). I like to believe that it was simply chance that Krakauer survived and that McCandless did not due to the fact that Chris did attempt to cross the once tame body of water, a hard obstacle that was difficult to predict.


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Lauren Williams | 17 comments First of all, it is clear that Krakauer had more experience in the field he was attempting to conquer and that, which in the end, unlike Chris, he did conquer. Krakauer writes, "it was my father, a weekend mountaineer, who taught me to climb. He bought me my first rope and ice ax when I was eight years old and led me into the Cascade Range to make an assault on the South Sister" (147). These couple of sentences change the attitude that might be felt towards someone like Krakauer and his mission, a contrasting attitude than that that might be felt towards Chris and his expedition; an expedition many felt he was ill-prepared to embark upon. However, Krakauer claims that he failed to posses two very important characteristics, those of which Chris possessed: his intellect, acquired through receiving a notable education and his goals. I think this is why Krakauer claims that his survival and McCandless's death were simply due to chance. Going along with this is the part when Krakauer admits to having a similar naïve untouchable sense for the dangers around him. Krakauer writes, "I knew that people sometimes died climbing mountains. But at the age of twenty-three, personal mortality- the idea of my own death- was still largely outside my conceptual grasp" (151). Though in the beginning I pointed to a quote about Krakauer's additional experience, he went into the expedition with immature expectations, those similar to Chris's. Krakauer writes, "the euphoria, the overwhelming sense of relief, that had initially accompanied my return... faded, and an unexpected melancholy took its place. The people I chatted with in Kito's didn't seem to doubt that I had been to the top of the Thumb; they just didn't much care" (154). I came back to this quote after reading what Krakauer writes later on, "it was time to bring his 'final and greatest adventure' to a close and get himself back to the world of men and women, where he could chug a beer, talk philosophy, enthrall strangers with tales of what he'd done" (168). The reason I returned to the previous quote is because I felt like maybe Chris would have received the same response after his life changing experience. For the two men, Chris and Krakauer, they had gone out hoping to change everything and as far as Chris got, everything had changed; but Krakauer got back to reality and realized, as he writes it, "in the end, it changed almost nothing" (155). I wish we could see how life would have changed or would not have changed after this 'life altering' experience Chris had. It is hard to say if it was simply, "by chance." I found so many quotes written by Krakauer about himself that I felt I could easily place upon Chris's character. Give each the chance to switch adventures and who knows how things might have ended up.


message 5: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 27, 2012 01:40PM) (new)

I definitely think that, although in the Author’s Note Krakauer says that he “will leave it to reader to form his or her own opinion of Chris McCandless," Krakauer sways the reader. His persuasion is strong enough for me to decide that Chris died by chance and not because of his own faults. He was ready to leave the wilderness but the obstacle of the flooded river, “opaque with glacial sedimentary and only a few degrees warmer than the ice,” forced him to turn back and stay put at the bus (Krakauer 170). There’s one indication that Chris was simply unlucky and he might be alive if it weren’t for the ominous conditions of nature. Krakauer believes that, “He seemed to have moved beyond his need to assert so adamantly his autonomy, his need to separate himself from his parents. Maybe he was prepared to forgive their imperfections; maybe he was even prepared to forgive some of his own. McCandless seemed ready to go home” (168). Thus, I don’t think his reluctance to forgive his parents had anything to do with his survival. I think his inability to lower his expectations and his belief that “a challenge in which a successful outcome is assured isn’t a challenge at all” actually enabled him to survive even longer because he fought until his death (182). Also, Krakauer says that “you don’t dare let your guard down” and “you learn to trust your self-control,” so maintaining your expectations is a self-help technique (142)

Their reasons to escape were different and similar. I think they were different because Chris “wanted to prove to himself that he could make it on his own, without anybody’s help,” while Krakauer worried more about what other people thought of him (159). Chris relies on his self-assurance and Krakauer relies on others’ assurance because he said, “I didn’t want to go up on the Thumb... But the thought of returning to Boulder in defeat wasn’t very appealing either. I could all too easily picture the smug expressions of condolence I’d receive from those who’d been certain of my failure from the get-go” (146). When he told people he climbed the Thumb he was disappointed with their indifferent reactions. That hurt him. Krakauer could have easily died out there due to the pressure he felt from society to succeed. When Chris was ready he would leave the wilderness and it wouldn’t have anything to do with the speculation of others.


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Tina Sport | 21 comments In my opinion, chance might have played a little role in the binary between Krakauer and McCandless, but not enough to say that it was some act of God or something like that. The only role that I can see chance is the fact that Krakauer chose to forgive and understand and McCandless didn't. It could have been the other way around or both or neither. This is more of a fate/destiny question than chance.

Regardless of how similar Krakauer and McCandless are, one of them is smarter than the other. In a way, these two are like the two hemispheres of the brain (bear with me on this one). While I'm not denying Krakauer's free spirit, he took into consideration what others felt and what would happen if he were to be gone. He represents the tactical, rational left brain. The fact that he eventually understood and forgave his parents shows that he took the time to listen and to think before he acted; looking through a logical lens at his situation. With that knowledge, he figured out why he was put under tremendous pressure and that is why I believe he lived. McCandless on the other hand represents the emotional, fluid right brain. He listened to what his parents had to say, as well as other people he encountered, but it seemed to go right out the other ear. McCandless went out into the wild to make a statement against his parents which can be seen as selfish and spiteful and on top of that, he didn't acknowledge his impact on the different communities that he had entered. He was always on the move, never taking a moment to reflect on what was going on; the phrase live fast and die young actually suits McCandless very well. To use the left/right brain allegory on these two men puts into perspective the values that they took when they went on their adventure, and it also shows which one was more successful.


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Brianne Lambert | 22 comments One quote that stood out to me in particular was when Krakauer says, “The old walrus in fact managed to instill in me a great and burning ambition; it had simply found expression in an unintended pursuit. He never understood that the Devils Thumb was the same as medical school, only different” (150). This is one area where I find Chris and Krakauer to me identical, because both journeyed to Alaska to find the same fulfillment of life in nature that their fathers expected them to find in furthering their education. Krakauer admits “…I was dimly aware that I might be getting in over my head…it wouldn’t be easy was the whole point” (135). I also find Krakauer and Chris to be similar here because they decided to embark on these life-threatening adventures as a way of proving themselves to their fathers (and to everyone else) if they survived. As Lauren pointed out, Krakauer had much more experience than Chris did. This is why when Krakauer brings up the difference in intelligence, I find this difference irrelevant as to why the two had different fates. Book smarts and street smarts are two totally different things. You can seemingly be the brightest person in world in terms of the classroom, but this type of knowledge can only take you so far. Chris was a brilliant guy, but he made so many pivotal mistakes because he didn’t know enough about the wild in which he was living. He should have asked Alaskans how to preserve meat rather than rely on what the hunters in South Dakota said, and he should have known the environmental obstacles he could have potentially faced (and did face) as a result of the changes in season. I do believe some of the reason why Krakauer lived is due to chance because although he was much more prepared than Chris, he was still somewhat ill-prepared himself. I agree with Krakauer in that “…we can do no more than speculate about what he intended to do after he walked out of the bush. There is no question, however, that he intended to walk out” (169). It’s hard to say whether or not Chris came to the same conclusions about his life and his family as Krakauer did and decided to end his trip for the same reasons, but it’s important to note that he was planning on ending his trip. However, I still believe chance played a smaller role.


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Kelsey Hatch | 23 comments I think that it was partially by chance that Krakauer survived and McCandless did not, and partially due to each individual's strength of character. Both young men seemed to make similar mistakes in the wilderness. For example, Krakauer burned the tent and McCandless incorrectly preserved the moose meat, causing it to spoil. Krakauer seemed to be driven by the attempt to seek something nearly unattainable while demonstrating his ability to do so, as well as exploring "The world [that] was rich with possibility" (Krakauer, 136). However, like McCandless, Krakauer had little knowledge of the terrain he set foot on. After he broke through a snow bridge and dangled over a hundred-foot crevice, he writes that he "...bent double with dry heaves, thinking what it would be like to be lying in a pile at the bottom of the crevasse, waiting for death to come, with nobody aware of how or where I'd met my end" (139). It is evident here that his naivete of the wilderness could have killed him. I feel like from that point on he was much more cautious in reaching the summit of Devil's Thumb. Moreover, Krakauer conveys his strength of character through determination and perseverance. He has a goal in mind, to reach the summit of Devil's Thumb, and plowed through the difficulties he faced in order to achieve his goal. Krakauer writes, "Hours slide by like minutes. The accumulated clutter of day-to-day existence--the lapses of conscience, the unpaid bills...the inescapable prison of your genes--all of it is temporarily forgotten, crowded by an overpowering clarity of purpose and by the seriousness of the task at hand" (143). This passage contrasts McCandless' lack of strength of character. I feel like McCandless is still trying to find himself, even though he does have a specific personality that his family describes throughout the book. However, I think he feeds off the strength of the characters or authors that he reads about. For example, he often references passages in Thoreau's book, Walden. Krakauer writes, "In the chapter titled, 'Higher Laws,' in which Thoreau ruminates on the morality of eating, McCandless highlighted, 'when I had caught and cleaned and cooked and eaten my fish, they seemed not to have fed me essentially.' " (167). Here, McCandless notes this passage because it directly relates to the failure that he just experienced with the moose. McCandless essentially finds himself within the characters or authors that he reads about. Overall, I do think it was both chance and strength of character that determined Krakauer and McCandless' fates.


Dr. Talbot | 21 comments Mod
I appreciate Cassia's shift to the author and his role in the nonfiction, because sometimes these discussions lean toward judgment of subject (which has no place in literary analysis) rather than analysis of, say, the fiction/nonfiction borderlands in these works, the truth versus the Truth, the author's methods in creating a narrative out of a REAL life. Perhaps someone might take up why Krakauer inserts "his" chapter where he does. And why. And indeed, carry on with Cassia's prompt. A worthwhile discussion of chance/change considering that the text addresses freedom versus restraint, a prevalent theme in American literature. If you've already posted, you are welcome to post again and (re)visit some of these issues. Onward.


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Skdank09 | 23 comments After reading these responses I have to disagree on several points; although, on a whole I do agree that it was partially by chance that one man died and the other survived. In regards to the amount of experience each man had: yes, Krakauer began to climb at the age of eight, but Chris was not far behind him, "climbing the highest summit in Rocky Mountain National Park" at the age of Twelve with his family (109). I think that it is hard to compare Krakauer and McCandless when it comes to forgiveness because McCandless never had the chance to forgive his family. I get the feeling from the reading that Krakauer came to peace with his father long after his risky trip into the wild. For all we know Chris's realization that "the only certain happiness in life is to live for others..." (169) may have lead to him forgiving his father and mother and creating intimate relationships with people. And in reaction to Chris not "[lowering] his expectations," I believe he did. "Faced with the obvious folly of his original ambition, to walk five hundred miles to tidewater, he reconsidered his plans... He'd decided that the Sushana drainage was plenty wild to suit his purposes..." (165). Unfortunately, in lowering his expectations he trapped himself in the the wild. Had he relocated his base camp he might have found the "major thoroughfare" or one of the "four cabins" (165). They both relied on chance in a lot of ways. The one that most prominently comes to mind for me in Krakauer's case is the fact that the Thumb was not attached to the main land and therefore he had to hope that on his return home someone would happen to drive by in a boat. This seems like a large thing to set to chance. Almost as pivotal as McCunn forgetting to "arrange for a pilot to fly him back to civilization at the summer's end" (81). In McCandless's case he did not research his return, but assumed the conditions would be the same. I think that one of the qualities that Krakauer and McCandless share the most is their lack of preparation. Had they taken the time to study a map of the areas which they were to travel into and the seasonal changes of Alaska they may have put less to chance. Chris may have known that the river would swell or that his site "scarcely qualifies as wilderness by Alaska standards" (165). I understand that he wanted to do all of the exploring and learning as he went but it was certainly putting a lot to chance. Similarly, Krakauer would have known more about the supplies and and conditions he was going into had he been slightly more patient and less spontaneous.

From Krakauer's chapter on himself it is certainly easy to draw many similarities between the two men. I think that Krakauer does this in part to show his empathy with McCandless and to illustrate the reason he feels the need to write this man's story. But also to set McCandless free. I think that proving through comparison that McCandless was not going into the woods to die imparts more truth to the reader than showing only McCandless's story.


message 11: by Caroline (new)

Caroline | 24 comments I believe like Krakauer, that it is completely by chance that he survived and McCandless didn't. I also agree that it is easy to draw some very similar lines between Krakauer and McCandless, but with that said I don't think it's "safe" to say that if McCandless had been just a bit more like Krakauer that he would have survived. I also believe the two to be extremely different.

My take on McCandless is that like Krakauer he wanted to "get away," and figure out in a sense the world. I think that both Krakauer and McCandless are strong, but in different ways. Yes Krakauer achieved his goal, and in the end survived, but McCandless unlike Krakauer didn't have a plan or a thought on when he would go back, Krakauer was going to go back when he finished his task. McCandless I believe shows strength in his determination to "go into the wild," I believe if McCandless had lowered his expectations a different story would be written, and I as a reader wouldn't be getting the same emotions. McCandless didn't have to lower his expectations because I believe when entered the wild, he let go of all the expectations and just lived. Krakauer had an expectation all along, to climb devils thumb, McCandless just wanted to live. I don't think if McCandless had tried to understand his father, that it would have changed anything. I believe that yes, McCandless anger and dissapointment with society may have started with his father, but it didn't end with him. It ended in his journey and everything he saw and learn, thats what he came to understand in the end. Take for instance the excerpt from Chris's highschool friend describing a friday night with chris, " It was the weirdest friday night of my life. But Chris that kind of thing a lot."(114) He is describing a night where Chris brought himself and his friend into the " bad " part of town. His misunderstanding with the world and society may have started earlier with his father, but in time he began to find it in other places as well, which leads me to conclude if he had "understood," his father he may have survived, isn't possible.. I don't know if I agree with the idea that Krakauer is somehow showing a strength he has that McCandless doesn't, I go to what Sally says, and that the chapter on Krakauer isn't a way to show a strength he has, but to show some similarites between the two men, and a hint as to why he needed to write this story.


message 12: by Alix (new)

Alix Gresov | 22 comments What happened to Chris McCandless was an unfortunate accident that couldn't very easily have been avoided. Chris was no dummy; he went into the wild knowing exactly what he was getting into and fully aware that he may not return. Although he had less formal training in his area of adventure than Krakauer had, the author admits that Chris had more intellect, and it was clear that Chris could fend for himself in the wild. "He was sufficiently skilled to last for sixteen weeks on little more than his wits and ten pounds of rice," (182). He set out for Alaska with the intent of proving to himself that he could survive on the bare essentials, and he accomplished exactly that. When he believed he had reached his goals, he packed his things and headed out, but by an unlucky chance, found that he was trapped in the wilderness and was forced to return to the bus where he eventually starved.
While many criticize Chris for this crucial miscalculation in his plans, I think that it was pretty easy to overlook this small detail. After all, forging rivers was not really essential for his survival, so it wasn't something that he should have paid much attention to. Chris should have made it out alive, but he was simply unlucky. As Roman Dial points out, he "doesn't see any difference between his own widely respected deeds and McCandless's adventure, except that McCandless had the misfortune to perish." Indeed "not so many years ago it could have easily been [Roman] in the same kind of predicament," (185). Just because Chris died does not mean that we should jump to the conclusion that he was ill-prepared and ignorant of his environment. He was knowledgeable enough to tell the difference between caribou and moose, even when more experienced hunters cannot. I think that in looking at Chris it is more important to judge him by his actual adventure, and not by its outcome, and when we do this it becomes apparent that he deserves more credit than we may initially give him.


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Mallory Garretson | 21 comments I am not really sure how to respond to this question- this one is a toughy.
What I have gathered from this reading is that Jon Krakauer and Chris McCandless share many similarities, as well as an outlook on life. But what Krakauer holds over McCandless is the fact that he actually had outdoor experience. As Krakauer quotes himself, "If something captured my undisciplined imagination, I pursued it with a zeal bordering on obsession, and from the age of seventeen until my late twenties that something was rock climbing"(134). When Krakauer tells of his Devils Thumb adventure/journey, we recieve the notion that this guy knows what he is doing in the wilderness. We realize that he has experience and knowledge in rock climbing, judging by his decisions on when and how to climb Devils Thumb.
Now with Chris, I would like to say that I felt the same sort of experience and knowledge with him, but instead I felt a different kind. With Chris he was brave, he was raw. He did not go by the books, or by the weather patterns of the Alaskan wilderness. Instead he kept to his head and left when his heart told him to. I saw Chris as a genius in so many ways (from just doing what he did was an incredible feat to me), but in the end it came down to what he did not know. How did he know the river would flood? Which brings me to the conclusion that perhaps it was just nature itself that caused the suddenness of Chris's death. Could nature be the explanation for why Krakauer got safely down Devils Thumb and why Chris died? Perhaps it did not depend on either man's knowledge or experience with the Alaskan wilderness, but instead the way in which the Alaskan wilderness treated them. So maybe what I am trying to say is yes, it is by chance that one man got out alive and the other one died. But I can not help but think if the weather conditions were ideal/different in both cases would either man have struggled, let alone die?

I very much enjoyed this section of the novel- to gain a little insight of the life of Krakauer and how erily it relates to McCandless's life. I liked how it felt to actually be put out on Devil's Thumb with Krakauer-what a thrilling and suspenseful experience. I try to think of what I would have done if I was in either one of these man's shoes: climb or don't climb back up Devil's Thumb or cross or don't cross the freezing river? What would you have done? How do we decide such things?


message 14: by Amy (new)

Amy Yao | 21 comments I think the relationships that Krakauer and Chris had with their fathers is exemplified perfectly in the quote on the top of page 145, "But have you noticed the slight curl at the end of Sam II's mouth, when he looks at you? ...he is mad about being contingent when you were necessary, not quite it, he is insane because when he loved you, you didn't notice." I'm sure that Chris' smoldering anger over the years about his father's previously held double life led him to abandon his family and head out to Alaska--he must have felt, just like Carine said, like his "entire childhood was a fiction" (123). I get the feeling that he wanted to atone for his father's mistakes by living a scrupulously celibate and ascetic lifestyle, counteracting his parents' "capitalist zeal" (129) with his "impossibly rigorous moral code" (122).

The similarities between Krakauer's father and Walt McCandless are uncanny: both were extremely successful men who commanded attention and were eager for their sons to do the same. Born with a streak of independence and a drive to accomplish whatever they set their minds to, both Krakauer and Chris were dimly aware of how their journeys "wouldn't be easy... but that only added to the scheme's appeal" (135). I can even see a similarity to Krakauer's secret yearning for human relationships in Chris' personality, though he tries his best not to be tied down in one place--however, Krakauer felt guilty and ashamed about claiming to enjoy solitude, like on page 137, when he said, "the pleasure I'd felt in this woman's company...exposed my self-deceit and left me hollow and aching."

In that sense, I don't believe that the fact that Krakauer survived his expedition was merely due to chance. Krakauer knew all along that, despite his love for leaving and exploring a world of possibility, his true love lay in human relationships, rather than the wild. Chris experienced too much betrayal in his family life (having a father lead a double life would push most people over the edge, I think) to put much stock in interpersonal relationships, and in the end it was his desire for brilliant and dangerous beauty that led to his demise.


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Ali Hiple | 23 comments I believe that McCandless's death was all chance; he was making tracks toward civilization and only returned to the bus because his plans were thwarted by the river. I also don't agree that Krakauer was any "stronger" than McCandless or that McCandless died due to any personal weakness at all (other than simply lesser humanity succumbing to nature). He had already survived two years worth of adventure with a fair share of near death experiences under his pelt.

I like what Caroline said about Krakauer's personal chapters being a "hint as to why he needed to write this story". It's pretty clear that Krakauer identifies strongly with McCandless. I think his sections read as a sort of validation for Chris. He says "But my sense of Chris McCandless's intentions comes, too, from a more personal perspective" (134). McCandless's journey and death was met with mixed reactions- many people question whether he was suicidal, and Krakauer writes of the response letters he received that "heaped opprobrium on McCandless, and on me as well, the author of the story, for glorifying what some thought was a foolish, pointless death" (71). Even in this discussion, Tina refers to McCandless's trip as potentially "selfish and spiteful". Krakauer saw in McCandless many of the same qualities he himself felt and possessed: "And I suspect we had a similar intensity, a similar heedlessness, a similar agitation of the soul" (135). I think he inserts the story of his climb up Devil's Thumb because it allows him to tell the reader from a first hand, personal account, of his motivations for this seemingly crazy expedition, and to draw comparisons between himself and McCandless, thereby throwing some light on the big question of "Why?" that surrounded Chris's adventures.

Krakauer devotes a page or so to beautifully describing the complex emotion that drove his own climb, and connecting this to McCandless's journey. Krakauer "was stirred by the dark mystery of mortality. I couldn't resist stealing up to the edge of doom and peering over the brink.....In my case- and, I believe, in the case of Chris McCandless- that was a very different thing from wanting to die" (155-156). Where people have condemned Chris for being selfish, stupid, or crazy, Krakauer instead sees the complexity and I think indeed beauty in what Chris must have been feeling to drive him out into the wild, and wrote this book as a means of essentially siding with Chris. And haven't we all felt this feeling? Like when you are on top of a mountain or the edge of a cliff and you can't resist looking over and you almost feel like jumping. There's no way to rationalize that really; it is an unbidden, primal thing. But that's what it seems drove both Krakauer and McCandless, and Krakauer understands this.


message 16: by Maggie (new)

Maggie | 22 comments I think that Krakauer obviously felt a strong connection to McCandless because of their similar experiences, and he felt like not a lot of people would be able to relate to McCandless’s journey into the wild without ever hearing firsthand why he decided to do it. By showing us that Krakauer went through nearly the same things, we are able to better-understand why going into the wild was so necessary for McCandless and why his social isolation wasn't such a crazy idea after all. It’s almost like we’re able to see exactly what McCandless was thinking, or it’s like McCandless actually survived the journey and is able to tell us himself about his experiences, all because of Krakauer’s sudden credibility as an author due to HIS own similar experiences.

Contrarily, with “In Cold Blood,” Capote is hardly written into the story. It makes it harder to trust his words – so many times, I found myself questioning what really happened and what was a fabrication of Capote’s desired turn of events. But since Krakauer dedicates a large portion of this book to his own story, we are able to have a better sense of what might be the truth or what might be the “truth.” I think it makes it easier to understand certain parts of the book, such as my personal feeling of justification for McCandless’s abandonment of his family and society. Because I know that these events or the feelings that the events provoke in me are based off of some sort of reality that the author has at least experienced, I have more trust for them. I have more trust in the author and more trust in those feelings that I find myself having. I felt a little bit betrayed or naïve when we learned more about Capote’s life and how it impacted “In Cold Blood,” but Krakauer makes me feel safe again as a reader as I put my trust into his hands.


message 17: by Meghan (last edited Feb 27, 2012 08:07PM) (new)

Meghan | 23 comments I found it hard to determine if the difference between Chris’ death and Krakauer’s survival was merely a matter of chance. I believe that a significant portion of our lives are ultimately determined by chance and therefore our existence is the result of unexpected happenings, however I think that chance is too simple of an answer to explain the difference between two men who were so similar. As I read these responses, trying to decide if I believed that chance was it, I found Mallory’s answer to the question to be refreshing and ultimately, the answer that agreed with my thoughts throughout the reading. She questions if nature, its actions, were the factor that led to death rather than survival between McCandless and Krakauer. I think that is a valid reasoning for what actually separated these two. It was nature, the being that pulled them in to discover a true life, was what ultimately pushed them out of that life that they had forever longed to discover. Either through death or a trip back to the society they despised of, Chris’ and Krakauer’s lives were determined by nature. Therefore, on page 155, we would have read, “The fact that I survived my Alaska adventure, and McCandless did not survive his was largely a matter of (nature).” Nature’s responses in the wild pushed Chris towards death, for he was trapped in the place that had always lured him in.

I want to reiterate what Sally discussed in terms of how comparable Chris and Krakauer were on the basis of experience with the wild. During the reading, I was continuously surprised by how similar the author is to the main character, which likely explains his devotion to this story. Both became intrigued and invested in the wild as children, leaving them yearning to experience it in its entirety for the rest of their lives. I think it is unreasonable to claim that Chris had a lack of experience with the wilderness, which could have led to his failure living in it. We learned of Chris young experiences with his family as a child in the previous section. Chris and Krakauer ventured into the wild on separate tasks. Krakauer was determined to climb Devil’s Thumb, which requires a very different level of experience than what Chris needed, so I do not think they can be compared on this level. Basically, their experiences with the wild were similar yet different. Their similarity also exists when looking at their level of preparation and research into their adventures, especially in Chris’ case. The major mistake that I think Chris made was at the point when he was ready to leave the bus and get out, back to society. He should have known that the river would now be impossible to cross. As a result of this mistake, he was stuck in the place he had always wanted to be but was now satisfied with living outside of. However, I will argue on Chris’ behalf that his lack of preparation was nonetheless, part of his plan. He planned to figure most of his journey out as he went along, for plans, and timing, were what he was eliminating from his life. This was part of the beauty in his process of freeing himself.

Chris was not looking to climb a challenging mountain, nor was he looking for ways to forgive his father. Chris was looking to live off the land, with no connections to the society he had forever wanted to escape. He was looking for freedom, for a way to prove that he could live independently, and to show that he was not under the control of his parents. I don’t think that Chris should have lowered his expectations in search of forgiveness for his fathers, because I think that Chris would have been disappointed if he found that his time and efforts to walk into the wild had led him to the feeling of forgiveness. That was not what he was searching for, unlike Krakauer. Chris had become “Satisfied, apparently, with what he had learned during his two months of solitary life in the wild…It was time to bring his “final and greatest adventure” to a close…He seemed to have moved beyond his need to assert so adamantly his autonomy” (168). Chris had become satisfied with what he had found, done and accomplished. At this point he was ready to return to the real world, yet he found himself caught by nature, with potentially no hope in ever making it out alive.


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