Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

In Chapter 1, Krakauer uses metaphor in detailing that Alaska has “long been a magnet for dreamers and misfits”. Comparing Alaska to a magnet gives the readers a sense of the magnitude of attraction the Last Frontier can have. In establishing this line of reasoning through this metaphor, Krakauer is able to introduce the readers to the tragic story of Christopher McCandless. It dulls some of the craziness involved, as it seems no sane person would put himself or herself through the frigid and rugged climate of Alaska.

However, people looking for some source to complete themselves often go to extremes, and that is just what McCandless did, which unfortunately led to his downfall.

In Chapter 2, Krakauer utilizes dramatic irony in the unveiling of Chris McCandless, from the “real bad smell from inside [Fairbanks’s bus 142]” to his S.O.S letter to the lightweight item inside the blue sleeping bag. The audience knows that McCandless is dead; however, the couple and the adventurers who found his body did not until perusing further.

In doing this, Krakauer is able to translate the suspense and heart-dropping despair and immerse the readers. In addition, the realization dawns that if the people who had discovered his body arrived two and a half weeks earlier, then most likely McCandless would have survived. The odds were not in his favor, and it did not help his case that he was in no way prepared enough for this treacherous journey.

In Chapter 3, Krakauer employs allusion in describing McCandless’s trip as an “odyssey in the fullest sense of the word”.

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This alludes to Homer’s The Odyssey in which the main character, Odysseus, struggles for ten years to get home after fighting in the ten-year Trojan War. In doing this, Krakauer suggests and foreshadows that McCandless will have a life-changing journey riddled with trials and tribulations. Unfortunately, unlike Odysseus eventually finding his way home and reuniting with his wife, McCandless does not get to experience a happy ending because he died. His obstacles overpowered him, and most likely some degree of pride got the best of him, leading to his undoing.

In Chapter 4, Krakauer includes an instance of hyperbole from McCandless’s when he was spending time with a German couple in the Grand Canyon. Despite losing over 25 pounds from malnutrition, “his spirit is soaring”. McCandless’s spirit is not literally soaring like an eagle, but this shows the reader how free and purposeful he feels. His apparent optimism about living off the land despite the hardships align with his love of a world free from social constructs and show the reader just how engulfed and entranced by this lifestyle he is. It serves as a stark contrast to McCandless’s unfortunate death and entices the audience to read on further to discover what led to his downfall.

In Chapter 5, Krakauer applied situational irony in describing Jack London’s sedentary lifestyle that “bore scant resemblance to to the ideas he espoused in print” because he is Chris McCandless’s idol. Seeing as how McCandless religiously abides by London and other author’s works, one would think London accomplished some great feat in the wilderness. However, this is not the case as he was a “pathetic, obese drunk” who had spent one winter up north. But McCandless seemed to disregard that London’s works were therefore fiction, and Krakauer points out his lapse in common sense. He shows the audience that despite McCandless being an intelligent young man, he was chasing a fantasy that unfortunately led to his undoing.

In Chapter 6, Krakauer incorporates a simile from Ronald Franz when McCandless finally got in touch with him again after traveling, describing it “like sunshine after a month of rain”. By comparing McCandless’s voice with the Sun after a long period of gloomy weather, the reader understands Franz’s sense of hope and excitement. At eight years old, having lost his wife and son to a drunk driver, he felt a genuine connection to McCandless. After a long time without his presence, he was overjoyed to have him back in his life again. Krakauer’s use of this simile serve to clue the readers in on the impact McCandless had, not only on Franz, but on many others despite only spending a short amount of time with them.

In Chapter 7, Krakauer uses juxtaposition in describing McCandless’s “chill” between him and his parents in “marked contrast to the warmth [he] exhibited in Carthage”. Even though his parents just wanted to support their son, he took great offense to their actions and felt they were irrational, oppressive, disrespectful, and insulting. However, he did not hate all authority figures as he took a strong liking to his company in South Dakota. He felt more at ease with them than his parents as he wanted to lure his parents into a false sense of security before cutting them off completely. Krakauer juxtaposes these two sides of McCandless to demonstrate his complexity as a character, and the fact that he still possessed some teen angst which often influenced his decisions.

In Chapter 8, Krakauer utilizes an allusion to the “Exxon Valdez Spill” from a multi-page criticism letter written about McCandless. The worst oil spill in U.S History, this disaster occured when an oil tanker spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil into an Alaskan Sea. The reason the critic compares McCandless’s journey to this oil spill is because it is the same ignorance, arrogance, ill-preparedness, overconfidence, and lack of humility that was present in both cases. Unfortunately, both situations led to death, and disapproval, and other parties taking up the responsibility to clean up the mess. In including this allusion, Krakauer acknowledges the mass condemnation of McCandless and how events like this happen time and time again because people do not learn their lessons from history.

In Chapter 9, Krakauer employs juxtaposition from Everett Ruess’s last letter about preferring “the saddle to the streetcar, star-sprinkled sky to a roof, the obscure and difficult trial”. A 20-year-old Californian boy who ventured into the Utah desert in 1934 never to be seen again, Ruess chased nature’s beauty and opted for a more low-key way of life. Everett Ruess is introduced to the story to provide insight and a comparison that similarly parallels what McCandless experienced. The fact that he also chases the finer things in life go to provide a base line of reasoning from most of his actions. In including Ruess’s juxtaposition, Krakauer ensures the reader is beginning to understand the full picture and see how McCandless progressively descends as opposed to being immediately thrown into despair and death.

In Chapter 10, Krakauer includes McCandless’s half brother’s rhetorical question where he ponders “how do you tell someone that their child is dead?”. Sam, a child from McCandless’s father’s first marriage, was the first one notified of McCandless’s death in Alaska because Walt and his current wife, Billie, had left for their home in Virginia. After being summoned to Alaska and identify Chris’s body, Sam is hit with the realization that he will have to inform his dad and Billie of the death. But as a parent, one hopes their children will be safe and outlive them, so this unforeseen circumstance deviates from that path. Krakauer includes the rhetorical question to make the audience reflect on the hefty weight of McCandless’s death and how it would affect those around him, especially his parents.

In Chapter 11, Krakauer applies a paradox present in McCandless’s views on money, as he believed “wealth was shameful, corruption, and inherently evil” like Tolstoy detailed, but he “was a natural-born capitalist”. Chris McCandless despised handouts like his parents trying to buy him a new car; however, he was talented at making money. He was ashamed of his parents’ hard work being manifested as an upgrade in the quality of material items in their lives, but he himself was an entrepreneur. However much Chris wants to abide by the beliefs of Tolstoy and other authors who condemned materialism in their writings, he could not deny the function of money as a tool in society. In including this paradox, Krakauer acknowledges the contradictions in McCandless’s character, complicating him as an individual.

In Chapter 12, Krakauer incorporates pathos in describing Billie waking up in the middle of the night as she “sat bolt upright…tears roll[ed] down her cheeks” because she swore she heard her son “begging, ‘Mom! Help me!’”. The audience cannot help but feel sorry for her and the sympathetic for the pain she must be going through. Unbeknownst to her, McCandless is still alive at this point in time, but not for long. Billie is clearly mentally and emotionally unhinged because her son left the family two years earlier and has not facilitated any form of communication. In including this emotional appeal, Krakauer tugs at the reader’s heartstrings and a mental picture is put in their mind of the trauma McCandless has caused with his selfish actions.

In Chapter 13, Krakauer uses hyperbole in describing Carine’s reaction to her brother Chris’s death as she began to “keen” so loud and continuous that her husband was worried the neighbors were “going to think he was harming her and call the police”. Carine zoned out and then wailed in denial when her husband, Fish, told her the news because she was so distraught. She was so close to Chris that the news had an extra personal level of devastation associated which turned her hysterical until she could pull herself together. In including this hyperbole, Krakauer gives the readers a scale of the magnitude of pain Chris’s death caused, especially for those who were extremely close to him. In addition, Chris’s selfishness is revealed as he was not properly thinking about those who would be affected by his actions because he was only worried about himself.

In Chapter 14, Krakauer utilizes an idiom in describing the thrill that comes with climbing as “you get used to rubbing shoulders with doom”. The more you climb, the sensation of impending doom and possible death are always so imminent that they just become a way of life. With this gnawing sensation, one learns to rely on himself or herself because that is the only thing keeping them from permanently engaging with death at the moment. With experience, climbing becomes a beautiful and entrancing experience where time whiles away. In including this idiom, Krakauer hones in on the suspenseful aspect of the rewarding phenomena known as climbing, and establishes the hardships as “pain” that is necessary to overcome to achieve the “gain”.

In Chapter 15, Krakauer employs ethos in describing the parallels between his early years and McCandless’s, giving credibility to his arguments and views in the book. The two were similarly affected by “skewed relationships [they] had with [their] fathers”, and they had a similar “intensity…heedlessness…and agitation of the soul”. Both of their fathers’ wishes for them did align with their own agendas, which made them more hesitant to comply. This added in factors that prompted each to go off to attempt dangerous feats in the wild; however it is chance that Krakauer survived and McCandless did not, and had Krakauer died on his journey, people would have swept him under the rug like they did with McCandless. In including this ethical appeal, Krakauer increases the authority he has in making this book as they both had a similar life growing up, which gives him more insight into Chris’s line of thinking since he went through much of the same events himself.

In Chapter 16, Krakauer includes foreshadowing when detailing that McCandless’s previous Californian subsistence escapade assured him that he could “harvest enough food to survive an extended stay in the Alaskan wilderness, too.” The reader is already well aware that Krakauer is going to die as the whole book details the downward spiral that led to that tragic event. A year earlier, McCandless survived about a month near California on 5 pounds of rice and fish he caught, and this trying feat bolstered his confidence and fueled his ego. Right off the bat of the book, Krakauer informs the reader of the Alaskan bush’s harsh and unforgiving nature, so McCandless’s arrogance is understood as impendingly fatal seeing as the numerous differences between California and Alaska yield unique experiences. However, Krakauer redeems him in the sense that McCandless knew what massive challenge he was getting himself into; nevertheless, the fact that he died in the end cut into the admiration the Krakauer and many others saw with Chris’s journey into the Alaskan wilderness.

In Chapter 17, Krakauer applies antithesis from the epigraph describing Earth and nature as “no man’s garden, but the unhandselled globe” and “not lawn…nor wasteland [but] the fresh and natural surface of the planet” in the beginning of the chapter. The contrast present in the insert from Henry David Thoreau’s “Ktaadn” serves to highlight the intricacies of nature. In addition, the Earth and its constitution are more emphatically defined in a way that applies to McCandless’s Alaskan journey.. In including the antithesis, Krakauer gives the reader insight into the type of qualities that drew him, McCandless, and many other adventurers into the wild. Nature- a force that can hold its own in the absence of man- has beauty that entrances and a fierceness that bites, which unfortunately led to Mccandless’s death.

In Chapter 18, Krakauer incorporates a metaphor when describing Chris McCandless’s apparent willingness to “shed a little bit of the armor he wore around his heart” and return to civilization to share happiness. Armor is being compared to protection, and generally if an object is being protected, then removing the security is an unorthodox option. McCandless has always generally been distrusting of traditional social constructs, so for him to want to immerse himself back into that world again, he must have had an epiphany. In including this metaphor, Krakauer dispels the idea that McCandless traveled into Denali National Park on a suicide mission or that he was an antisocial relationship-despising person. People are not meant to go through life alone, and McCandless is no different ; however, after many botched relationships in his life, he just needed a push to reignite that innate desire, and Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago did just that.

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Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. (2022, Apr 29). Retrieved from

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