“Into the Wild” tells the true story of Christopher McCandless, a young man from an upper-middle class family who gave the $25,000 in his savings account to a charity, abandoned his car in the desert along with most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet and hitchhiked his way to the Alaska wilderness. He walked into the Denali National Forest alone. Four months later, moose hunters found his body.
McCandless graduated from Emory University in Atlanta in 1992 as one of the top in his class. Shortly thereafter, he drove west and reinvented himself as Alex Supertramp. His family never saw or heard from him again.
Krakauer traced McCandless’ journey from his home in Virginia across the United States and up and down the west coast trying to figure out what could drive someone who had everything going for him to choose a solitary, nomadic lifestyle. Along the way, Krakauer encountered several people who met McCandless along his travels. Krakauer walked McCandless’ journey to his very last steps into the Alaskan wilderness to see exactly how this intelligent, idealistic young man had lived and died.
Throughout the book Krakauer includes excerpts of McCandless’ journals. These excerpts give you an inside glimpse of what the young, self-conscious man was thinking as he adopted a Tolstoyan renunciation of wealth and returned to live in nature. Although reading the book didn’t make me want to abandon my life and wander into the woods with Tolstoy’s novel, I did come to understand McCandless’ ideals, passions and the motivations that led him to do what he did.
It’s clear throughout the book that Krakauer feels a strong kinship with McCandless and his sense of adventure. Krakauer sees many similarities between himself as a young man and McCandless. I think because of this, Krakauer does an excellent job of exploring Christopher McCandless the person, not just the unusual media story. McCandless is portrayed as a highly intelligent, idealistic, passionate young man who was trying to understand the world we live in and our dependence on materialistic things. The question of whether McCandless was just a foolish, unprepared young man or if a simple mistake ended his life is left open for debate.
“Into The Wild” is one of the most haunting, unforgettable books I’ve ever read. Krakauer’s writing drew me in and his passion and understanding of McCandless was engrossing. It’s a compelling, tragic story that will absorb anyone - whether you’ve ever thought about wondering off to live in nature or not.
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