Book Review: “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer
Jon Krakauer implements his methodological assumptions in the frame of readers’ perception in his non-fictional masterpiece within a true story of Christopher Johnson McCandless. In order to arise recipients’ emotions toward the main character in the story, the author uses evidence data, like Christopher’s journal entries, photographs, or interviews with people whose lives were somehow bound with Chris’s during two last years of his life. Nevertheless, appeal to the real individuality of McCandless is represented quite differently based on his attitude toward societal issues and life essence on the whole.
This book is a sample of flashbacks and flashforwards within the frames of Chris McCandless’s life path. He focuses on the world schemata of his that played a crucial part in his decisions and, as the result, led to the tragic end. From the very beginning Jon Krakauer puts the lid on the last day the protagonist was seen alive. Moreover, he acknowledges verisimilitude of the events happening to Christopher while traveling to Alaska and interviewing the people whom he met in pursuit of his own and unique “American” dream, as well as accounts by his parents and his friends in Virginia. He also draws comparisons between McCandless and other people with similar fates or similar world pictures, which arises the prognosticating function of the author’s sympathy with his hero and the real individual. Afterwards, Krakauer depicts the scene of Chris’s death and then stops at the point of distinguishing his family state.
Into the Wild starts with a description of Alex’s hitchhiking experiences and the moment of getting acquainted with Jim Gallien. Having lived through the point of initiation, Chris decides to change his name to Alexander Supertramp in order to accomplish a complete change of his life burdened by societal rules and stereotypes. He wants to get free from the crazy society he lives in. Therefore, he escapes from the circuit that human beings created by themselves and for themselves. That trip “was to be an odyssey in the fullest sense of the word, an epic journey that would change everything” (Krakauer 20).
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At the moment of meeting Gallien, McCandless is a twenty-four year old fellow who claims that he has come from South Dakota. Alex’s backpack is considered to be fairly light for staying in the wilderness for a few months. So Jim tries to change Alex’s decision. Gallien is sure that the hitchhiker is certainly unprepared for living in the Alaskan scene with no appropriate supplies and equipment. To make matters worse, Alex refuses to accept some descent gear Jim has offered him. Yet, Alex takes the boots and Gallien’s phone number to give a call when he survives.
The next flashback is set on the arena of Denali National Park in September, 1992. The spacial-temporal markers of the setting are fulfilled with the following actors: Ken Thompson, Gordon Samel, and Ferdie Swanson, who come to the park to drive their ATVs. The bus invites them with the McCandless’s shout for help in the form of note that was taped on the door. The content explicitly expresses despair and the vulnerable state of protagonist: “S.O.S. I NEED YOUR HELP. I AM INJURED, NEAR DEATH, AND TOO WEAK TO HIKE OUT OF HERE I AM ALL ALONE. THIS IS NO JOKE. IN THE NAME OF GOD, PLEASE REMAIN TO SAVE ME. I AM OUT COLLECTING BERRIES CLOSE BY AND SHALL RETURN THIS EVENING. THANK YOU, CHRIS MCCANDLESS. AUGUST?” (Krakauer 12).
Samel tends to be the most courageous and decides to take a look inside. That is the home of intelligent, idealistic and despaired young person who has been tired of the world injustice, wrong perception of good and bad and didn’t want to obey the rules made by the cynical society. Thus, in the bus setting Samel finds eight books, few pairs of torn jeans, cooking stuff, and an expensive backpack. Besides, the most mysterious finding of his is a blue sleeping back in the rear of the vehicle. The bag looks as if it embodied something or someone. Samuel is not sure about the thing that the sleeping bag contains. This explains why Samel gives it a shake. That something weighs little and after Samuel sees a head sticking out he comprehends what it was. Chris McCandless had been dead for few weeks.
Unfortunately, no one of those three finds room in their vehicles to remove the dead body. In a while another representative of a possible rescue, a hunter from Healy named Butch Killian, appears on the scene. He drives an Argo, i.e. a large amphibious eight-wheeled ATV. Butch uses his two-way radio to inform the authorities of the accident. Soon, a police helicopter evacuates the corpse of Christopher McCandless, his diary on 113 entries, five rolls of exposed film and the note that was taped to the car. The McCandless’s starvation to death was proved by autopsy procedure; it found that his bones weighed only sixty-seven pounds.
Next, the author provides a depiction of the people Christopher met while traveling into the wild. One of his soul-mates who had love for freedom in that wilderness is was Wayne Westerberg. In the book, Westerberg is a hyperkinetic man who owns a grain elevator in Carthage. He once gave Chris employment in his business and rented him a cheap room. The man describes McCandless as an itinerant laborer with the complicated psychic and stringy physique. His dark and emotive eyes “suggested a trace of exotic blood in his heritage – Greek, maybe, or Chippewa – and conveyed a vulnerability that made Westerberg want to take the kid under his wing” (Krakauer 16). According to Wayne’s viewpoint, Alex was the hardest worker who never quit in the middle of something. His moral principle due to his attitude towards work lied in finishing anything he started. He set fairly high standards for himself, and their accomplishment depended on ethical issues of his existence. McCandless was a very intelligent young man and an extremely tough thinker, and that his too much thinking brought him into trouble. He always tried to make sense of the world and while getting too deep in that kind of concepts he found that the absence of answers stuck in his brain. As a result, Alex was unable to move on before he grasped the absolute right answer on the dilemmas he faced.
While Westerberg was involved with “black boxes” that caused him difficulties afterwards, Mccandless continued his travels to the place of destination at that time, namely Saco Hot Springs that are situated on U.S Highway 2. He closely communicated with Westerberg and thereafter claimed he was from South Dakota. Actually, he was from Annandale, Virginia. Christopher Mccandless, a child from a successful family and a graduate of Emory University, drove his second-hand Datsun westwards in search of the answers and of his own self. No one had an idea where he was, neither his family, nor even his sister Carine with whom he had got very close relationships.
Next range of flashbacks makes a picture of the whole idea of Christopher’s life a little bit more chronological by putting puzzles into the frame of his schemata of the world. In October, 1990 McCandless probably got caught in a flash flood with his car. For Chris, the only way out of this occasion was to abandon the car. He took the necessary items and burned one hundred twenty-three dollars, all money he possessed. His deed may serve a function of a symbolic gesture. Soon afterwards, Alexander met Jan Burres and her boyfriend Bob, with whom he spent some time and later kept in touch through sending postcards. In a while, McCandless hitchhiked and gave the police his address in Annandale. Thus, his parents received a hint at their son’s traces through contacting a private investigator. It became known that Chris had given all his savings to charity and set his apartment in Atlanta on rent, which made his parents to worry about their son’s life. Christopher’s travels to Colorado and Mexico aroused some difficulties with navigating the canals. Therefore, he had to spend a night in jail because he had been caught coming across the border in US without ID.
Chris was on his way to the camp at Oh-My-God Hotsprings, of course, hitchhiking. Once he met Ron Frantz, who gave him a ride. Frantz himself felt some sort of connection with Alex. His soul was wounded as well – he lost his wife and the only son in a car accident forty years ago. Therefore, they spent a plenty of time together and Franz instructed Chris in the leatherworking craft. Soon McCandless decided it was high time to move further and claimed that he was going to San Diego. Thereafter, he hitchhiked to Seattle, but came back soon to California where he met Frantz again. Alex wanted to come back to South Dakota, where Wayne Westerberg offered him a job. Later, he wrote Frantz a letter from South Dakota where he proposed his friend to become more nomadic.
The next flashback in Krakauer’s narrative moves again to Wayne Westerberg. He explains that neither he himself, nor his girlfriend Gail Borah with whom Alex became very close, knew for sure what had happened in McCandless’s family between him and his family.
The most touching issue about this book is considered to be the corpus which includes memories of the people Alexander Supertramp met while traveling to the Alaskan wilderness. Everyone whose life was crossed a little with the Alex’s path felt his wounded spirit and generous heart. His willingness to breathe freely was even contagious. McCandless’s friendship with Ron Frantz convinced an old man to change his monotonous lifestyle and chose to become more nomadic because he got convinced that it was was thougght the only way to become free.
In conclusion, McCandless’s impractical idealism may be viewed as a straight path to the fatal consequences. During his last days he was all alone and lonely, weak and vulnerable, near to death that he had done to himself and by himself before two and a half weeks previous to possible rescue. It is the point that proves his social nature. On the other hand, these two years of real life fulfilled his existence with purity and delight of being a human and being free. Real literature and real Alaskan wilderness inspired him in terms of thinking, working and living. Though, the only real happiness occurs when it is shared with others. Alex understood it in the frame of directing his life into the wild.