Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer…I Give it Five Stars!
Into the Wild is a non-fiction account of a Chris McCandless’s journey to Alaska. This will not be a review, as such, as the events described in the book are taken from McCandless’s journal, his photographs, writings, postcards sent to people he met along his travels, his letters and postcards to family and friends, family members’ conversations, interviews with those he kept in touch with, etc., Krakauer’s thoughts and feelings on McCandless,
and then Krakauer’s compiling all of the information into the book, in which he is the narrator.
McCandless hitchiked from Georgia to Alaska in April 1992. This book details what might have prompted McCandless to leave and intentionally not have any contact with his family (he estranged himself from them) for over two years, and ends with him being discovered dead and decomposed inside a sleeping bag (sewn by his mother), in an abandoned bus, off the Stampede Trail, Denali, Alaska.
Was he naive and ignorant of life in the wilds of Alaska? Was he stubborn and strong-willed and unyielding in his attitude towards the government and towards his parents outlook on life? Was he blinded by his strong love of classic literature and stories by Jack London, Thoreau, Tolstoy, Pasternak, etc., and a romantic vision of life lived off the natural environment of the land? Was he arrogant and narcisstic? Was his mind filled with fantasies and of stories written of the wild and nature, by some authors who didn’t experience what they wrote about? Did he not know reality from fantasy? Did he inadvertently ingest a poisonous plant without realizing it, or did he eat seeds that contained an alkaloid (undefined in the plant book he carried with him)? All of these questions and more are left for us to ponder.
Alaskans will fault him for being arrogant and ignorant, others will fault his age and lack of preparedness, some will find his journey to be a noble one, some will say that without a compass and map he didn’t stand a chance, and there are those who have found him to be the cause of his own demise. The fact remains that he did survive in the wild, off the land, independently, for sixteen weeks, and not too many can attest to achieving that. The author tries to find the answer to McCandless’s death in an unbiased accounting, and admits he crosses the line at times, as it was impossible for him to be totally impartial, having made a similar journey himself as a young man. The parallels are quite similar.
McCandless chose to venture into the wild on his own and in his own way. He was on a quest for Self, and on a journey he had been envisioning for several years. He made choices, his own choices, and stuck to them, whether through stubbornness or lack of understanding. He knew that once he trekked in, he might never get back out.
Autopsy reports show he starved to death, and notations in his journal show that he knew he was starving and was aware that he was in dire need of help, but was too weak to trek back out.
The narrative is poignant and difficult to put down, and I read it straight through in a matter of a few hours. Krakauer is insightful in his depiction