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Into the Wild
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message 1: by Dr. Talbot (last edited Feb 29, 2012 02:45PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dr. Talbot | 21 comments Mod
Sherwood Anderson's opening story in WINESBURG, OHIO, "Hands," is about Wing Biddlebaum, a man who lives in isolation, a man who is escaping his past, a man who renames himself.

In that story, Anderson writes, "The story of Wing Biddlebaum is the story of hands." So in the spirit of such succinctness, please complete the following sentence: The story of Chris McCandless is the story of _______.

Offer a brief explication, integrating three (no more, no less) quotes to support your claim.


message 2: by Lauren (new)

Lauren Williams | 17 comments The story of Chris McCandless is the story of attempt.

Chris's first attempt is to rid himself of the constraints of society. The expectation to get an education, work hard, and have money; to be a success in terms of material objects. The desire to become one with nature and to leave all social constructs behind is seen when Krakauer writes, "'I'm going to throw [my watch] away...I don't want to know what day it is or where I am. None of that matters'"(7).
Chris makes another attempt, which is to go about his personal journey without forming personal relationships. It is an expedition for himself and therefore other people would only get in his way of what it is he is looking to find in himself and for himself. Krakauer writes, "[McCandless] was relieved as well- relieved that he had again evaded the impending threat of human intimacy, of friendship, and all the messy emotional baggage that comes with it" (55).
Chris's third attempt is the attempt to live with what he found inside himself and learned about life and land during his journey, and to live with that knowledge back in the world he had escaped. Krakauer writes, "McCandless decided to return to civilization: It was time to...get himself back to the world of men and women...He seemed to have moved beyond his need to assert so adamantly his autonomy, his need to separate himself from his parents" (168). This, however, turned out to be an unfulfilled attempt.


message 3: by Skdank09 (new)

Skdank09 | 23 comments The story of Chris McCandless is the story of contentment.

Throughout his youth and college years Chris seemed to be dissatisfied by his parents morals. Walt and Chris were constantly butting heads and Chris did not appreciate their capitalist mindsets and controlling ways. In a letter to Carine regarding his parents offer to buy him a new car he stated, "I'm going to have to be real careful not to accept any gifts from them in the future because they will think they have bought my respect" (21). Chris found material goods of little use and was not content with the facade of a life he had to live.

Having read the works of many famous authors, Chris saw the wild as a utopia; an ideal place where he could find contentment and get away from the impurity of his past life. "He was so enthralled by these tales, however, that he seemed to forget they were works of fiction, constructions of the imagination..." (44). Chris projected his ideals onto the wild as the wild was the opposite of the oppressive meaningless life he had lived in thus far. He would never find contentment with all of the paper people and places in his life.

Throughout the story we see times of exuberance and happiness that border contentment but Chris is never ready to settle down and let go of his dream of walking into the Alaskan wild. It is only at the very end, when Chris is nearing the the end of his life that he is truly content with his life and what he has accomplished. "One of his last acts was taking a picture of himself... He is smiling in the picture and there is no mistaking the look in his eyes: Chris McCandless was at peace, serene as a monk gone to God" (199). It is apparent from the last line of the book that Chris found satisfaction and contentment in the end.


message 4: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 29, 2012 03:40PM) (new)

The story of Chris McCandless is the story of "outwardness".

Henry David Thoreau wrote, "Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth" (117). This idea spoke to Chris because the outward appearances of society and the people in it disquieted him; his artificial college peers, the flamboyance of money, the deceit of his father. This is evident when Krakauer says, "He later declared to Carine and others that the deception committed by Walt and Billie made "his entire childhood seem like fiction" (123). Chris longs to escape to a place where truth is in the flowing river and the leaves on the trees, where he can trust what he sees and experiences. He can open up. There's validity in the statement, "An extended stay in the wilderness directs one's attention outward as much inward, and it is impossible to live off the land without developing both a subtle understanding of, and a strong emotional bond with, that land and all it holds" (183). Chris wanted to live where "outwardness" matched "inwardness" and he liked nature because he could trust the land.


message 5: by John (new)

John F. (Johnferg) | 24 comments The story of Chris McCandless is the story of the beautiful unknown. From the beginning of the story for me, I could tell McCandless was gung-ho about life, willing to do what he wanted when he wanted after he disappeared from him family. His letter to Franz summer this up for me, reading "So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation... but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future" (57). I felt the strongest connection with McCandless at this point when I learned that he did fully commit to what he wanted to do with his whole heart and life, going after it. Another part of the story was when Gordy Cucullu, a fellow member of the cross-country team, talked about Chris as captain. "He would lead us on long, killer runs through places like farmers' fields and construction sites, places we weren't supposed to be, and intentionally try to get us lost...The whole idea was to lose our bearings, to push ourselves into unknown territory" (112). This goes to show how this mindset was with Chris for most of his life, almost all spent in relative youth unfortunately, but nonetheless Chris did go after what he desired with his whole soul after all, the unknown. The final part of the book was potentially my favorite, reading about Chris' last moments when he took his last picture of himself with death close on his heals. "His face is horribly emaciated, almost skeletal. But if he pitied himself in those last difficult hours-because he was so young, because he was alone, because his body had betrayed him and his will had let him down- its not apparent from the photograph. He is smiling in the picture, and there is no mistaking the look in his eyes: Chris McCandless was at peace, serene as a monk gone to God" (199). Despite the fact that he was never closer to death then at that moment, alone in a secluded area of Alaska, I cannot help but to think that Chris did believe that he did complete his ultimate adventure, other then the tragic and inconvenient ending, he was content, and apparently at peace because he was able to seek the beautiful unknown for his remaining days.


message 6: by Mallory (new) - added it

Mallory Garretson | 21 comments The story of Chris McCandless is a story of spirit.
While reading this novel I could not have picked a better word for Chris than spirited. To me, Chris was always in good spirits, no matter what obstacle he was faced with or what hardship he had to overcome. Chris always looked toward the better (lighter) end of every situation he got himself into, and I admire him so much for that.
Early on in the novel we see this positive and "jubilant" attitutde of Chris's when he first begins his journey. While crossing the border illegally into Mexico, Chris wrote in his journal, "'But his enrty of Mexico is either unnoticed or ignored. Alexander is jubilant!'" (34). The fact that Chris chose to describe his feelings as jubilant shows that he has such high and soaring spirits. He even uses an exclamation point! How can the reader not realize that this guy has such a love and appreciation, such a spirit, for life. His spirits stay high throughout the rest of the novel as well. When Chris begins to loose weight, and grow weak, we can still see his high spirits. A couple who had given Chris a ride once described him as, "'Malnutrition and the road have taken their toll on his body. Over 25 pounds lost. But his spirit is soaring'" (37). This still soaring spirit of Chris's continues to amaze me- if I was starving and weak I think I would be pretty miserable, but not Chris. Chris does not loose his anticipation or desire for his long awaited journey- his spirits remain strong.
At the end of the novel we are left with an image of Chris smiling into the wild. This image is so vivid in my mind; am emaciated young man smiling and at peace with himself. It appears so beautiful and unreal. Krakauer writes, "He is smiling in the picture, and there is no mistaking the look in his eyes: Chris McCandless was at peace, serene as a monk gone to God" (199). I like how Krakauer ends with the word 'God', because this reflects back to all the times that Chris 'Thanked God' or 'God Bless' throughout the novel. He never lost his faith, his hope, his joy in the world and especially in God. Chris kept his strong spirit throughout his entire life- and I bet not many people can say that.


message 7: by Caroline (new)

Caroline | 24 comments Chris McCandless story is a story of freedom.

I have gotten a lot of sass and back talk, when I try and define this story as a story of freedom. But I can't help with every turn of the page see how it is truly a story of freedom. Chris may have died in the end, but once he left society he was free, he had hard times, but during those times he was free, during the good times he was free.

In Chris's last letter to Wayne, he end it by saying " I now walk into the wild."(69) Those last words to me are the words of freedom, the words that one should speak when they truly are being freed. There is nothing more freeing in this world than the wild, wether it be Denali national park, or the ADK's, it's all free.

In a letter to Ron, Chris outlines and describes how Ron needs to free himself. " Don't hesitate or allow yourself to make excuses. Just get out and do it. Just get out and do it."(58) Chris in this letter describes what freedom is and how Ron must achieve it. He like Chris just has to get out and do it, thats freedom.

The last paragraph of the book is all about Chris, and his final moments. The excerpt about his last picture outside the bus to me, describes freedom and the peace one finds in that. "He is smiling in the picture, and thee is no mistaking the look in his eyes: Chris McCandless was at peace, serene as a monk gone to God." (199) Even though he was close to death, Chris I believe realized he was still free, yes he was scared but the smile described in the picture speaks of a man who knows he's truly free.


message 8: by Kelsey (new)

Kelsey Hatch | 23 comments The story of Chris McCandless is a story of freedom. For most of his life, Chris was a person who marched to his own beat. By the time he finished high school, he didn't want to go to college, but ended up enrolling at Emory. He didn't like the framework that society laid out for him. Walt McCandless said, "Billie's dad didn't quite fit into society. In many ways he and Chris were a lot alike" (109). Chris liberated himself from the life that his parents and society expected of him by venturing into the wild to do what he whatever he wanted. Krakauer writes, "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 too have it" (155). It seems that McCandless had that exact desire to pursue what he wanted to do with his life. Although Chris did not survive in Alaska, he certainly achieved what he had wished; he shed the skin that society bundles us in. I think his freedom can be summed up to this: "Wilderness appealed to those bored or disgusted with man and his words. It not only offered an escape from society but also was an ideal stage for the Romantic individual to exercise the cult that he frequently made of his own soul. The solitude and total freedom of the wilderness created a perfect for either melancholy or exultation" (157).


James Augustine | 19 comments The story of Chris McCandless is the story of a young man, with a seemingly relentless personality, who lost his way. His confusion and drive are almost an intrinsically connected to his passion for nature and the desire to escape society. My first quote is during the time after graduation where there is short excerpt from McCandless on his family life and in particular his car represents this symbol of life, eternity, and adventure that Chris loved. It was a Datsun second hand and the rustic characteristic of is gave Chris all he needed, wheels. He quoted once at dinner, "I think I'm going to disappear for a while"(21). Further more, later on in the novel Krakauer gives us a letter that Chris wrote to Ron and it continues to stress this philosophical belief that society is evil and nature is good. The essence of life can be captured in nature and as Chris even say's, "money is an illusion for power". My third and last point would be that Krakauer clearly took a great amount of time energy to get to know the McCandless family and I have faith in him when he says, “My suspicion that McCandless’s death was unplanned, that it was a terrible accident, comes from reading those few documents he left behind and from listening to the men an women who spent time with him over the final year of his. But my sense of Chris McCandless’ intentions comes, too, from a more person perspective” (134).


message 10: by Tina (new)

Tina Sport | 21 comments The story of Chris McCandless is the story of an abused opportunity, misguidance and broken freedom.

I know I'm going to have to explain myself with this statement. But in my opinion, McCandless was given such a huge chance to do something with his life when he chose to defy his parents and his old life only to throw it away. This ties into the Krakauer vs. McCandless debate for they both received this kind of chance. "I had been granted unusual freedom and responsibility at an early age, for which I should have been grateful in the extreme, but I wasn't. Instead, I felt oppressed by the old man's expectations. It was drilled into me that anything less than winning was failure" (148). Understandably, being under that amount of pressure from parents is difficult, but it shouldn't be such heavy baggage. Throughout the book, we see McCandless succeed in everything that he comes across yet we never see him act like a mature individual. He was given the great chance of freedom at an age that was possibly too early for him to handle like Krakauer did. McCandless was always carrying around the "burdens" that he thought people put on him and never took the time to be thankful that he was this lucky.

"It can be argued that youthful derring-do is in fact evolutionarily adaptive, a behavior encoded in our genes" (182). In his family, McCandless's grandfather was a great outdoors man to which he looked up to. Having that feeling that he could go out into the wilderness like a relative before him and other great scholars I use the word "misguide" because he listened to these men and did not get the message that they had made. Like Thoreau, who went out into the wild in an act of civil disobedience or Emerson, stressing the values of self reliance, McCandless read those messages and felt like he could apply them himself. There's no doubt he had the book smarts but he lacked the street smarts which ultimately ended his life. He thought that having a dream and a statement to make would be the only things that he needed out in the Alaskan frontier, but he was sorely mistaken. Even the locals thought so, saying "the scope of his self-styled adventure was so small as to ring pathetic...only one word for the guy: incompetent" (177).

McCandless was a stubborn, intelligent but clueless, ambitious man who went out in search for himself and for purpose. He read all the books that convinced him that he could survive out there with no repercussions whatsoever. Now he is dead, with a lineage of people who have grieved over him and left an empty message for those to read.


message 11: by Brianne (new)

Brianne Lambert | 22 comments The story of Chris McCandless is a story of scoring. My inspiration for this particular word came from the quote, “He didn’t seem interested in the money so much as the fact that he was good at making it. It was like a game, and the money was a way of keeping score” (120-121). Chris scored and evaluated his life according to his own standards, and these standards were drastically different from almost everyone around him. Chris didn’t need money, material possessions, or a law degree to “keep score” and feel a sense of fulfillment in his life. Chris’ sense of fulfillment came from his ability to challenge himself and attain a value of life in a way most couldn’t do or understand. For example, Chris’ way of keeping score in the wild was to record the food he was able to provide himself with, as well as record the various obstacles he was able to overcome before walking into the wild.
Everyone had an opinion about Chris’ actions, most of which were negative because people couldn’t explain what he was trying to achieve. Some felt “McCandless was hardly unique; there’s quite a few of these guys hanging around the state, so much alike that they’re almost a collective cliché. The only difference is that McCandless ended up dead, with the story of his dumbassedness splashed across the media…” (71). Chris wasn’t considered a successful man to many because he ended up dying in the midst of his quest, and he wasn’t trying to find satisfaction in life the way many in society do (as we discussed in the narrative of life).
Krakauer tries to help us understand by scoring Chris’ life against his own “As a young man, I was unlike McCandless in many important regards; most notably, I possessed neither his intellect nor his lofty ideals. But I believe we were similarly affected by the skewed relationships we had with our fathers. And I suspect we had a similar intensity, a similar heedlessness, a similar agitation of the soul” (155). Chris and Krakauer are similar in the way they were trying to find the same sense of fulfillment in ways completely different from their fathers. However, the key difference between Chris and Krakauer was that Krakauer scored his life by other people’s standards and Chris did not.


Cassia (Cassia11) | 23 comments The story of Chris McCandless is the story of success.

Chris desired a life untouched by man, a life that was his own, shared only with nature. This desire could only be satisfied by "wander[ing] uncharted country, to find a blank spot on the map" which was mostly impossible to find in his day and age. Chris did not let this fact fail his desire though. Rather, "he simply got rid of the map. In his own mind, if nowhere else, the terra would thereby remain incognita." (174) In his own mind, Chris was successful in finding the uncharted territory he yearned for so wholeheartedly.

Many critics of Chris say that he was a naive, silly young man for thinking he would survive long enough in the wild with the little supplies he had. But he survived 112 days on his own, and found himself because of it. Perhaps it was this lack of preparedness that caused Chris to suffer in nature, and make the realization that he needed more than just nature and himself. Next to one of his books' passages, he writes, "HAPPINESS ONLY REAL WHEN SHARED." This simple line shows us that Chris's "long, lonely sabbatical had changed him in some significant way." He may have been ready to, "abandon the life of a solitary vagabond, and stop running so hard from intimacy." (189) Though this was not his original plan, Chris's journey was a success in the fact that he realized his mistakes in life, and wanted to change.

After the countless stories, books, lies, and truths that have been told about Chris McCandless, it can be hard to tell whether or not his journey was successful. Yet by simply looking at his last goodbye to the world, we see that even though, "he was so young...so alone, betrayed by his body, and let down by his will," he did not show it. Instead, we see him smiling with, "the look in his eyes: Chris McCandless was at peace, serene as a monk gone to God." (199) Through this one picture, we see that although he did not survive life in the wild, he was happy enough that he had tried. I believe that with this picture alone, despite all other accusations, it is safe to say that Chris McCandless was happy, and that is the true definition of success.


message 13: by Meghan (new)

Meghan | 23 comments The story of Chris McCandless is the story of existence. This is an account of a young man who has one major goal: to cut himself off from humanity’s perception of existence, and instead determine his own, the existence he has forever been dreaming of. As we read, we see the progression of Chris’ determination to capture this existence of the wild, of purity, of nature’s natural best.

His initial step is to cut himself off from the existence he has been trapped in all his life, the one he was been yearning to escape from. “The trip was to be an odyssey in the fullest sense of the word, an epic journey that would change everything…At long last he was unencumbered, emancipated from the stifling world of his parents and peers, a world of abstraction and security and material excess, a world in which he felt grievously cut off from the raw throb of existence.” (22). This shows Chris’ freedom and the beginning of his new reality as he sets out on his odyssey to find it.

In Chris’s letter to Ron, he urges him to find the existence that defines him, one without the rest of humanity, and one that is similar to Chris’ expedition to find his own. Chris writes, “The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun….Once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty…We just have to have the courage to turn against our habitual lifestyle and engage in unconventional living.” (57)

Upon the walls of Fairbanks 142, Chris wrote a message, which basically defined he voyage to the existence he aspired to live. “Two years he walks the earth. No phone, no pool, no pets, no cigarettes. Ultimate freedom. An extremist. An aesthetic voyager…and now after tow rambling ears comes the final and greatest adventure. The climatic battle to kill the false being within and victoriously conclude the spiritual revolution…No longer to be poisoned by civilization, he flees, and walks alone upon the land to become lost in the wild.“ (163)
From these quotes, which I consider to be quite influential to the reader, we see the advancement of Chris’ outlook and existence as his destiny is to live amongst the purity of the wild.


message 14: by Ali (new)

Ali Hiple | 23 comments The story of Chris McCandless is the story of realization.

We've already debated over and over the motivations Chris had for his journey. Thirst for adventure, escape from a suffocating lifestyle, a search for questions about humanity; whatever it was initially, Chris found something on his journey. He went out searching for himself, and for an escape from the familial and societal relationships that had restrained him. This vein is evident throughout the first parts of the book, throughout the early parts of Chris's journey. He flits from town to town and person to person, never staying anywhere for very long. He flees from Franz's request for adoption. Yet ultimately before he has been in the Alaskan wilderness for even 100 days, he realizes the value and indeed necessity of relationships, and of the life he left behind.

The quote that stood out for me in this regard is on page 189, where the passages that McCandless has highlighted from "Dr. Zhivago" are shown. Chris's own marginalia were "HAPPINESS IS ONLY REAL WHEN SHARED". At this point he had already tried to return home, which reflects this change of heart. He had abandoned the moniker of Alexander Supertramp, and taken back his given name. I believe the solitude and autonomy Chris found served to make him realize the value in the relationships he had in his life.

Chris's journey was one of pushing boundaries and testing his own limits. On page 184 Krakauer writes "McCandless distrusted the value of things that came easily. He demanded much of himself- more, in the end, than he could deliver". Once again Chris had come to a realization, in this case about his own personal limits. He had survived on his own living off the land, and before this had survived many other harrowing adventures across America. Perhaps he had finally had enough of such adventures, of each day being a struggle. Perhaps he had realized that he had pushed himself to the point of turning back. I think his efforts to leave the bus and the wilderness reflect some sort of realization that he encountered on his travels that made him ultimately decide to leave. "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" (168).

I think that Chris embarked on his journey with burning questions and a thirst for challenge and adventure. Ultimately, I believe he found all these things, and was satisfied enough to plan to leave his wilderness camp. The Alaskan expedition was his ultimate adventure; I think to have left that he would have no doubt headed for home or at least back to one of the families or people he befriended on his journey. He was headed back, which shows that he had found what he was looking for.


message 15: by Alix (new)

Alix Gresov | 22 comments The story of Chris McCandless is the story of ideals.

No matter what your opinion is of Chris you have to admit that he was a man who had his beliefs and he stuck by them. As Westerberg points out, "Once Alex made up his mind about something, there was no changing it," (67), and Alaska was no different. When Chris decided to embark on his Alaskan adventure there was no one and nothing that could change his mind and convince him to stay. Westerberg even tried to convince Chris to postpone his trip for just one week, but Chris wouldn't hear it. "If you attempted to talk him out of something, he wouldn't argue. He'd just nod politely and then do exactly what he wanted," (119).
Regardless of the outcome, I have a lot of respect for Chris and for what he did. It takes guts and a lot of moral integrity to stick to what you believe despite what others say. "Look Mr. Franz," Chris says at one point, "you don't need to worry about me. I have a college education. I'm not destitute. I'm living like this by choice," (51). Everywhere he went people tried their best to dissuade Chris from his adventure, but he believed in himself even where others didn't, and in the end his own beliefs are what truly matter; if we can't trust and believe in ourselves then other people's opinions mean nothing because you won't get anywhere without self-trust. Chris knew what he was getting into, but he trusted himself. Even though he died in the Alaskan wilderness he stuck to his ideals and did what he set out to do, and this, not the outcome of his adventure, makes him a very successful person.


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