Into the Wild
In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter. How McCandless came to die is the unforgettable story of Into the Wild. Immediately after graduating from college in 1991, McCandless had roamed through the West and Southwest on a vision quest like those made by his heroes Jack London and John Muir. In the Mojave Desert he abandoned his car, stripped it of its license plates, and burned all of his cash. He would give himself a new name, Alexander Supertramp, and , unencumbered by money and belongings, he would be free to wallow in the raw, unfiltered experiences that nature presented. Craving a blank spot on the map, McCandless simply threw the maps away. Leaving behind his desperate parents and sister, he vanished into the wild. Jon Krakauer constructs a clarifying prism through which he reassembles the disquieting facts of McCandless's short life. Admitting an interst that borders on obsession, he searches for the clues to the dries and desires that propelled McCandless. Digging deeply, he takes an inherently compelling mystery and unravels the larger riddles it holds: the profound pull of the American wilderness on our imagination; the allure of high-risk activities to young men of a certain cast of mind; the complex, charged bond between fathers and sons. When McCandless's innocent mistakes turn out to be irreversible and fatal, he becomes the stuff of tabloid headlines and is dismissed for his naiveté, pretensions, and hubris. He is said to have had a death wish but wanting to die is a very different thing from being compelled to look over the edge. Krakauer brings McCandless's uncompromising pilgrimage out of the shadows, and the peril, adversity , and renunciation sought by this enigmatic young man are illuminated with a rare understanding--and not an ounce of sentimentality. Mesmerizing, heartbreaking, Into the Wild is a tour de force. The power and luminosity of Jon Krakauer's stoytelling blaze through every page.
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The author makes it very clear that he feels there are parallels between his life and McCandless's life. He also explains that while completing his research for writing his article, he chased "down details of his peregrinations with an interest that bordered on obsession." This implies that the author/narrator's perspective will be subjective throughout the text. The story is non-fiction, so the perspective that presents the details will be limited by what the author could uncover or interpret from the evidence that remains. The author then explains that he will try to remain objective, so the reader may formulate his own opinion about McCandless. Is this possible when the story is told from a third person limited perspective?
Chapter One - The Alaska Interior
The text is purposefully written out of order. The first chapter tells the account of the last ride Chris McCandless hitchhiked before he went out into the wild. Based on the comments made by Gallien, the man who gave McCandless his last ride, how does Gallien characterize McCandless?
Gallien tries to no avail to convince McCandless to not go on this journey. McCandless has an answer for everything: he will climb a tree if a bear were to chase him, he didn't need a hunting license, he had enough rice to survive. Critics of McCandless believe that it was his arrogance or hubris that led to his demise. (Don't forget about Oedipus. His hubris blinded him to the truth: he was fallible. He did fulfill the prophecy.) Consider this character trait as you read. Was McCandless arrogant? Did this impact his judgement?
After taking McCandless to the Stampede Trail and giving him a pair of boots and food, Gallien did not notify the authorities about McCandless because he "figured he'd be OK...I thought he'd probably get hungry pretty quick and just walk out to the highway. That's what any normal person would do." Based on this statement, what is Gallien implying about McCandless?
Chapter Two - The Stampede Trail
Jack London is best known for his works Call of the Wild and White Fang. To a degree, the adventure tales are culled from London's own experiences. London romanticized the wilderness. As a result, London is the inspiration for many adventures seeking to conquer the wild north, but many, like McCandless, are truly unaware of what the wilderness of areas such as Alaska are like. What is necessary for an individual to thrive, let alone survive, is not found in ordinary men with no preparation or familiarity with the topography. McCandless admired London and other authors who greatly respected and lauded nature. (This annotation contains a link)
The author includes specific details about the terrain and topography of the Stampede Trail to illustrate
The author writes the text in a particular order, but this order does not follow the conventional plot structure. The text begins with the last months of McCandless' life, and the author notes that McCandless dies alone, unidentified, and emaciated. Why do you think the author chooses to create his own structure and deviate from the traditional plot structure? As you read, try to identify a structure and purpose.
Chapter Three - Carthage
Chapter three is set in Carthage, South Dakota. The author introduces a man named Wayne Westerberg; he knew McCandless as "Alex" and hired him during some point of McCandless's vagabond period. The author utilizes _____________ to divulge the details of Westerberg's relationship with and feelings about McCandless.
From Westerberg's point of view, McCandless is characterized as hard-working, unfeigned, intelligent, and his one character flaw was his tendency to do "too much thinking." The author utilizes a variety of sources to paint a complete picture of McCandless: his journals, photographs, highlighted passages from his books, and eyewitness testimonies. Though McCandless left his family without reason and never contacted them again, he was not a hermit or a loner. He is described by most of the people he interacted with in the same manner Westerberg characterizes him. As you continue to read, highlight and annotate more evidence of McCandless' character.
Carthage, South Dakota was the complete opposite of McCandless' hometown of Annandale, Virginia. Carthage is described as having "plebeian virtues and unassuming mien." In other words, the town was simple, hardworking, and modest. In contrast, McCandless's neighborhood was "upper-middle class" and his parents were hardworking entrepreneurs who became "prosperous."
Based on McCandless' admiration and affection to Carthage, South Dakota versus a lack of connection to his hometown of Annadale, Virginia, McCandless most likely valued which quality?
In contrast to Westerberg's description of an congenial young man, McCandless purposefully deceives his parents and leaves without saying a "Good-bye." What is the reason for the fissure between parents and child? Some believe conflict occurs over differences, but many times conflict occurs because two people are too similar. Watch the video to learn about internal and external conflict. (This annotation contains a video)
Chapter Four - Detrital Wash
McCandless abandons his beloved yellow Datsun with a note that reads, "This piece of sh*t has been abandoned. Whoever can get it out of here can have it." Is the voice of the reminiscent of what you know about McCandless? What could be a reason for the truculent tone?
Once again, the author ricochets around time. McCandless' experience with his Datsun reveals two important characteristics of his personality: McCandless is educated but inexperienced. He drives his Datsun into a desert-like wash on a hot day. He doesn't realize a flash flood may occur. Rather than resuscitating his vehicle, McCandless chooses to abandon it because he has let the registration expire, his license expire, and ignored posted signs that prohibited him entering the area. McCandless has little regard for laws or rules that he deems unnecessary. The author informs us that McCandless "took as gospel" Throeau's essay "On the Duty of Civil Disobedience." In the first line of the essay, Thoreau "accepts the motto 'That government is best which governs least." Are McCandless' beliefs and actions the result of the innocence or the arrogance of youth? Or are they the result of the wisdom of experience? A link to "On the Duty of Civil Disobedience" is provided for you. (This annotation contains a link)
McCandless' fascination with nature and landscape and his lifestyle as a tramp seeking work in California is reminiscent of which author's works?
The author is careful to present both sides of McCandless' journey: the tramp's tale and the reality of the life he left behind. The two are dichotomies. While on the road, he befriends and remains in contact with other tramps, but he never once purposefully contacts his parents to let them know that he is okay. Once his parents realize that he acting very uncharacteristically, they begin to worry. What reasons could McCandless have for these decisions and behaviors? Is this simply a young man seeking adventure? Seeking transcendence on his odyssey with nature? Or could this be evidence of something more?
McCandless's personal journal of his travels is told from the _________ person point of view.
One of the emerging themes in the text is transcendence through nature. This literary movement is known as romanticism. Romanticism focuses on the individual communing with natural world and as a result developing a new set of values or beliefs. Romantics tend to vilify urbanization and reason and glorify the natural surroundings and intuition. (This annotation contains a link)
Review the video below to help you understand emerging themes. (This annotation contains a video)
According to McCandless's journals, while in Los Angeles he attempts to "get a[n] ID and a job but feels extremely uncomfortable in society now and must return to the road immediately." Which word best characterizes McCandless's mood on the road during this part of his journey?
Chapter Five - Bullhead City
The author describes the town of Bullhead City as "a community in the oxymoronic, late-twentith century idiom." It is a town, that by definition, is not a town. It has no center and is made up of suburbia and strip malls. Below is a picture of "suburban sprawl." The author's diction and tone suggest he has the same contempt for the "bourgeois trappings of mainstream America" as McCandless does. Though the author tries to tell a objective biography of McCandless's journey, he has lapses of subjectivity. (This annotation contains an image)
While in Bullhead City, McCandless declares he may settle down and stop traveling, he gets a job at McDonald's, and uses his real Social Security number, and "disguises the fact that he was a drifter." This is in sharp contrast to the "Alexander Supertramp" that while in Los Angeles has the realization he cannot be a part of society. This is an example of
McCandless's actions, like the journey itself, are confusing and seem to transform without warning. One moment, he is detailing a map directing his friends Jan and Bob to visit him, and the next he is abandoning his ideas about settling in Bullhead City and shows up on Jan and Bob's doorstep. This may be reflected in the structure of the text. McCandless' journey to Alaska is not clearly mapped out and planned, but it consists of many purposeful undulations throughout the country.
The tone of this passage implies the author believed Jack London was a(n)
A second emerging theme in the text is the value of familial relationships. Jan is eager to point out that McCandless was amicable and sincerely enjoyed spending time with others. He kept contact with Jan and others throughout his journey. In this regard, McCandless values the familial relationship. His friends are his chosen family. There is a disparity between his familial relationships with the people he meets along the way and his actual family. He does not speak of them much and when he does, it is negative. What does this reveal about the nature of familial relationships? Can you develop and sever ties at will as McCandless does?
Chapter Six - Anza-Borrego
In all of his travels and interactions, McCandless leaves a lasting impression and impact on Ronald Franz, an eighty year old Christian man who befriended McCandless in 1992. Why did these two men form such a bond? Be sure to support your answer with three examples from the text.
The author takes the time to vividly describe the setting of an otherwise nondescript town. This information will be helpful in understanding the bond that Franz and McCandless form. Also be sure to highlight the details of Franz's life. After losing his family, Franz is completely alone. Franz is inclined to a friendship with McCandless.
The relationship between Franz and McCandless develops which theme?
Based on the author's tone and the details about the relationship between Franz and McCandless, you almost forget that McCandless leaves, goes to Alaska, and perishes. The bond between Franz and McCandless is true and strong; this is ironic because the relationship with his parents is estranged. Franz is no more like McCandless than his parents are, but McCandless is willing to ignore Franz and McCandless' differences.
Franz recalls that hearing McCandless' voice was "like sunshine after a month of rain." How did Franz feel after speaking to Alex?
McCandless believes that he successfully maintained appropriate relationships with those he met along his journey yet they are bereft of the vehement emotional toll that relationships take on an individual. He believes he keeps "people at arms' length" and never caused pain or hurt. Unfortunately, he is very wrong. The author tells us how empty Franz's life was without McCandless, but his life was not the only one effected by McCandless leaving for Alaska and passing. As you read, continue to annotate the extensive influence and impact McCandless had on those he met. The clip below is from the film version of Into the Wild. It is the scene where Franz asks if he can adopt McCandless. (This annotation contains a video)
Based on the highlighted passage, how would you summarize McCandless's beliefs about spirituality?
McCandless's death has a profound effect on Franz. The narrator tells us that "he regards the world through wary blue eyes." As a result of McCandless' death, there is something about the world that Franz does not trust.
After Franz learns of McCandless's death, all of the following characterize Franz except
Chapter Seven - Carthage
The author includes passages and excerpts from other texts at the beginning of each chapter. Consider how each excerpt relates to the content of each chapter. At the beginning of this chapter, the author includes a paragraph about avoidance behavior in infants and how it transmutes into an adult need to find "order in life which was not entirely, or even chiefly, dependent upon interpersonal relationships." Do you think the author is trying to give a psychological rationalization to explain McCandless' need to alienate himself from his family and friends?
Based on Westerberg's statement, "We was counting on Alex being back at work by now," you can infer that
There is a saying, "You can't see the forest for the trees." This means a person cannot see the larger picture because he cannot see beyond the details. People who are lost in a sea of minute details often cannot appreciate all that is available to them. This characterization of McCandless is important to remember when he begins his walk into the Stampede Trail.
The author describes McCandless' parents' love for their son as tyrannical and unconditional. This is an example of a(n)
McCandless seems to pride himself on his unconventional lifestyle, beliefs, and actions. Could the preoccupation with sex by most Americans resulted in McCandless's celibate tendencies? McCandless' journey is founded in his belief system, but is his belief system based upon the anthesis of the American values and beliefs?
The author suggests that McCandless is seduced by nature, rather than seeking sexual pleasures of the flesh. What do you think initiated this desire? Why do you think McCandless chooses Alaska, when in his own words, the joy of nature was everywhere? Site examples from the text to support your response.
There are two ways to discuss the past: with a clear view in hindsight that rationally maps out events, thoughts, and mistakes, and then there is an attempt to shape history. When people shape history, whether intentionally or unintentionally, this causes the listener to question all details about the past. When Borah discusses her last conversation with McCandless, she surmises that he must have known he may not return or would be reckless on his journey. Based on what you have read thus far, does that seem characteristic of McCandless? Is Borah's hindsight "20/20" or is she shaping history based on what happened to McCandless?
Chapter Eight - Alaska
In Hoagland's excerpt, he suggests that seeking refuge in the wilderness is a "tradition," and then tersely makes the point that "this isn't Michigan...this is Alaska." Which statement summarizes Hoagland's point of view?
Though the author admits he feels a connection to McCandless and must try to be objective as he tells about McCandless's journey, one must consider the opposing views: McCandless was not of sound mind, or McCandless's hubris compromised his common sense. These views may or may not have an iota of truth, but there are others who have attempted to retrace or recreate McCandless's journey who have not been of sound mind. The article below is about a young man who met the same fate as McCandless after finding inspiration in the film version of Into the Wild. (This annotation contains a link)
For what purpose does the author include other stories about men who believed they could survive alone in the Alaskan wilderness but also perished?
Gene Rosellini's story differs from the other tales of inexperienced men trying to live in the Alaskan wilderness. He had a hypothesis he wished to prove: can man be "independent of modern technology"? He did this more than a decade, and upon admitting that "human beings as we know them to live off the land." Instead of moving on, he took his own life. Why do you think the author chose to include this tale? Do you think it demonstrates the impacts of living off the land in the Alaskan wilderness? Rosellini, unlike McCandless, had prepared for two decades to spend a decade in the wilderness, yet he still took his own life.
The story of John Mallon Waterman parallel's McCandless's story in which way?
At face value, there seems to be parallels between McCandless and John Waterman. But quickly you realize that the two men are disparate in many ways. The author utilizes Waterman's tale to retort the critics of McCandless who claim he must be mentally ill. Waterman faced many misfortunes that led to his mental breakdown and his subsequent death.
McCandless and other men mentioned in this chapter have one commonality that emerges as the author reiterates their tales: the impetus for their journeys was dissatisfaction with societal values. Whether it was man's dependence on technology, or "the waste and immorality of the standard American diet," or the need for individuals to seek acceptance by others, all the men went into the wild to rise above the moral standards or beliefs of their society. This illustrates which theme(s)?
Based on the characterization by Mugs Stump and Glenn Randall, Waterman was purposefully ill-prepared to take his final ascent of the Denali. Does this aspect of Waterman's journey mirror McCandless' final journey in any way?
Though the author claims there are some similarities between McCandless and Carl McCunn, all of the following are key differences between the two except
McCandless and McCunn both lacked skill and knowledge to survive in the wilderness. The author intimates that both men would have survived had they used a little common sense and basic planning prior to their journeys. As you read, be sure to highlight the simple mistakes McCandless made that contributed to his death.
Unlike McCandless, which quality led Carl McCunn to believe that someone would come and save him?
Can you answer the author's inquiry? If he wasn't a nutcase, a sociopath, or an outcast, what was McCandless?
Chapter Nine - Davis Gulch
In his letter to his brother, Everett Ruess demonstrates that some people are inclined to be
The author painstakingly describes the typography and geography of Davis Gulch. It is truly a breathtaking sight. Below is a photo of some of the pictographs found in Davis Gulch. (This annotation contains an image)
All of the following are similarities between Ruess and McCandless except
Ruess and McCandless both find beauty in the natural world. Ruess notes that has "some good friends... but no one who really understands why I am here or what I do." The loneliness and solitude both men experienced led them both to travel and find happiness within nature. This comparison further develops the theme of finding transcendence through nature. McCandless and Ruess find meaning in their lives beyond the conventions of their societal boundaries.
Which terms means a pen-name or newly adopted name?
Below is an image of the film poster from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Ruess reveals his youth and in some ways his innocence by inscribing "NEMO" in his travels; as if he is the reincarnation of the fictitious captain. (This annotation contains an image)
Ruess disappeared with several theories about what became of him. Sleight's theory of his demise relies on his ____________ of Ruess.
Do you think the author draws a valid comparison between the monks and Ruess and McCandless? Consider why the monks left Ireland and set sail across the Atlantic to parts unknown. Is it the same motivation that sent McCandless into the Alaskan wilderness? The image below is entitled "St. Brendan the Voyager." According to the Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage website, it is based on an old Irish folktale about a monk, who in his seventies, set sail with 17 other monks in 489 to cross the Atlantic (it was not known as the Atlantic Ocean then). He returned and brought back fruit and precious stones. No one is quite sure if he made it across the Atlantic and back, but his recorded journey makes the idea of monks settling on a barrier island of Iceland plausible. But once again, the monks on St. Brendan's journey returned to their homeland; McCandless did not. (This annotation contains an image)
Chapter Ten - Fairbanks
Which of the following factors resulted in the authorities inability to identify McCandless' body?
Think about the mood that surrounds people like Gallien and Westerberg when they hear the initial news about McCandless' death. They are anxious and probably hesitant at the same time. This paradox is created by the urge to divulge all the information they can to identify McCandless, but there is also a piece of each of them that wishes they weren't right.
In what tone did Sam McCandless say, "How do you tell someone that their child is dead?"
This is the final picture McCandless took of himself. (This annotation contains an image)
Chapter Eleven - Chesapeake Beach
Walt McCandless asks, "How is it that a kid with so much compassion could cause his parents so much pain?" This is an example of
The mood in the McCandless household is grave and sad during their interview with the author. Walt McCandless is characterized by his projection of authority, his intelligence, and his accomplishments via his résumé. The author tells us that "Walt is accustomed to calling the shots." Based on what we know about perspective, is that statement a fact or an opinion? As you read, remember one of the pitfalls of a first person or third person narrator: subjectivity.
What purpose does a detailed characterization of Walt McCandless serve in the story?
Carine is Chris' younger sister and best friend. She provides a great deal of insight into who McCandless was prior to leaving his family. Though he rebelled against his parents and their authority and views, he always maintained a close and open relationship with his sister. This dumbfounds many readers because he left in 1990 and never wrote or spoke to her again. You would think if he loved and cared for her as much as he seemed to, he would at least try to contact her at some point prior to Alaska. Below is a current photo of Carine. (This annotation contains an image)
The author implies that McCandless was like his _____________ in many ways.
The author includes several anecdotes that McCandless' parents tell about McCandless. These assist you in understanding who McCandless was when he had an opposing force, whether that was his father's authority or rules to adhere to in school. On a side note: McCandless' parents helped to author a book called Back to the Wild. Carine McCandless responds to her parents' version of McCandless' life and death below. (Please scroll down to where it reads "UPDATE"). (This annotation contains a link)
In the racquetball anecdote Walt McCandless says that when he tried to help McCandless "bring out that final ten percent, a wall went up." This is similar to
When McCandless spoke about "running against the forces of darkness" and winning was a "simple matter of harnessing whatever energy was available," McCandless' cross country teammates were captivated and motivated. Eric Hathway calls himself an "impressionable high school" kid while under McCandless's guidance. This connotes that the team believed McCandless because of their youth, their vulnerability, and their innocence. Do you believe McCandless' theory? Can your mental state limit or unlimit your physical abilities?
Even at a young age, McCandless was a(n) ___________ for the plight of the less fortunate.
Based on outsiders' perspectives, the relationship with McCandless and his parents was typically turbulent. He complained to some friends, but to most he said much of nothing about his parents. His friend Eric Hathway theorizes that McCandless "would have been unhappy with any parents; he had trouble with the whole idea of parents." Do you believe this to be true? Are some children just unhappy with the authority that parents symbolize?
The author characterizes McCandless's personality as _____________ and _____________.
Chapter Twelve - Annandale
Prior to McCandless' final trip, he gives his father an expensive gift accompanied by a sincere speech to express his gratitude for his father. This event was significant because McCandless uncharacteristically reveals an emotional and appreciative facet to his relationship with his father. Then he leaves to go on his first odyssey across the United States with little contact with his family. Did this foreshadow McCandless' final expedition? Please view the video below to review the definition of foreshadowing. (This annotation contains a video)
McCandless' parents commented, "Chris was good at almost everything he ever tried." As a result, his parents attribute McCandless's _________ as part of the reason McCandless took too many risks.
According to McCandless' parents, there was a shift in his behavior during the summer between his sophomore and junior years. His parents characterized Chris as "caring to a fault" but also as self absorbed and a monomaniac. His sister Carine sheds light on McCandless' behavior that summer. In the letter Carine wrote, she explains the complex family tree created by her father's actions. She writes, "Walt & Billie began their relationship when she was working as his secretary at Hughes Aircraft. Marcia was pregnant with Shelly at the time. Three years later, Shannon was born to Marcia just 3 months before Billie gave birth to Chris, then Quinn was born between Chris and me. Marcia was eventually able to divorce Walt and he married Billie when I was 4 and Chris was 7. After Chris and I learned of this, we always felt guilty that our father’s other children and wife felt abandoned. Still, to this day, Marcia and all of her children regard us with love and respect rather than the products of a painful affair. I state these facts not to condemn my parents, but to shed light on Chris’s true mindset. From the time we were small children, still unaware of how children come to be, I remember Chris being consistently told through our mother’s tears that the family struggles began with his birth, when she became “stuck” with our dad. Chris carried this unfounded guilt with him until the wisdom that comes with age resulted in feelings of betrayal and eventually anger. This mislaid blame was never rescinded, only ignored. Seeing no alternative but to completely remove himself from the pain he could not manage, Chris had just cause to leave in the way that he did. For him it was a matter of survival. He overcame adversity to live a positive and beautiful existence on this earth. His brothers and sisters understand and respect that." Though McCandless discovered this information two years prior, his attitude did not change toward his parents until this summer.
McCandless' feelings of resentment and anger towards his parents were compounded by the fact that
McCandless' resentment towards his parents is not only rooted in his father's misdeeds but in his parents attempts to hide those misdeeds. Ironically, McCandless never reveals the source of his anger and frustration, but instead shuns his parents and leaves them with questions. There is an old saying that a story has three sides: yours, mine, and the truth. McCandless may not have understood his father's mistakes, but he also never asked his father about those mistakes. In addition, the author notes that McCandless did not hold all people in his life to the same standards that he subjected his father. As you learn more about McCandless' past, do you have a clearer vision about what prompted his journey? Do you think it was as simple as it seemed in the earlier chapters?
Which statement accurately summarizes McCandless' attitude and mood during his last two years of college?
Though McCandless and his parents did not have the ideal relationship and were barely speaking prior to his journey, his parents were extremely worried and hurt by his disappearance. This illustrates how a parent's love is unconditional and never-ending.
Chapter Thirteen - Virginia Beach
Based on what you know about McCandless, do you think if McCandless took the family dog Buckley with him on his journey that he would have taken fewer risks? Would he have felt compelled to return home? Cite textual evidence to support your answer.
Carine McCandless enhances McCandless's story by providing a different perspective about his childhood and the relationship with his parents. In McCandless's own words he states, Carine is "the only person in the world who could possibly understand what" he was talking about. Because McCandless believed they had a unique bond, you should give credence to what Carine says and details about McCandless's life.
As McCandless found his faith on his journey, Carine, Franz, and others that loved McCandless lost their faith as a result of his death. This is an example of
The physical impact of McCandless' death on his family is a testament to how great of a loss they suffered. This further develops the theme of familial relationships.
Chapter Fourteen - The Stikine Ice Cap
This chapter and the next shift in perspective from third person to first person. Why does the author include his own personal narrative in a text about McCandless' expedition and journey?
The author's motivation to climb Devils Thumb parallels McCandless's motivation to go into the Alaskan bush. Both men were young, influenced by literary works, and needed a respite from their lives.
As the author traveled into the Strait of Georgia and on his way to Devils Thumb, he is "propelled by an imperative that was beyond my ability to control or comprehend." Which term best describes his mood?
Remember that the author includes his personal account to give you a better understanding of McCandless's possible state of mind. By reflecting back on the author's expedition, he is also honestly commentate in hindsight. For example, the author admits that he "convinced" himself that he didn't "mind the absence of intimacy" and the "lack of real human connection." But as he reflects, he admits he longed for companionship.
When an author uses a pathetic fallacy, he attributes human emotions to inanimate objects in nature. In this case, the author refers to the glacial peaks as "menacing," and his emotions and he peaks mirror one another; "the highs were higher; the periods of despair were deeper and darker." The link below has examples of pathetic fallacy in literature. (This annotation contains a link)
After nearly falling into a crevasse, the author bends over and dry heaves. In that moment, he realized the ______________ of the situation and the consequences of his behavior.
Remember: this is a parallel plot. The literal experiences are different between McCandless's expedition and the author's, but he includes his experience because of the similarities between the emotional journeys they experience. As you read, annotate or highlight the range of emotions the author experiences. Also be sure to annotate why the author feels these emotions. Does his youthful arrogance, lack of preparation, or determination, or solitude contribute to his emotional state?
The author tells you that during the beginning of a climb, "you constantly feel the abyss pulling at your back," and "the siren song of the void puts you on edge." This is an allusion to
The author's mood changes in an instant. He transforms from a methodical pace where he doesn't feel any of the pain associated with his climb, to hyperventilating. This is triggered by the realization that he is not held securely into the rock - an injection of reality. This fear and anxiety must be similar to what McCandless felt when he realized that he was weakening and had no way of getting out of the Alaskan bush.
Chapter Fifteen - The Stikine Ice Cap
The author does not give up on his attempt to scale Devils Thumb despite the weather and other problems. Which emotion fuels the author's motivation?
Aside from a similar experience, the author and McCandless both have issues with their fathers. As you read, you must consider if the author has the ability to be objective if he considers McCandless and himself so similar.
What does the author mean when he says, "In the impressionable way of sons, I did not consider this rhetorically; I took him at his word?"
The author's relationship with his father was similar to McCandless's in that there was an undulation between love and frustration between father and son. Unfortunately, the author had something with his father that McCandless did not: time. The author's time with his father allowed him to see his father through the eyes of experience, reflection, and perspective. Do you think that if McCandless survived, he would have a better understanding of his father's feelings about and hopes for McCandless's life?
Based on the highlighted passage, young people can be characterized as lacking ________________.
There is myriad emotions as the author ascended the peak. He was keenly aware how alone he was and was intent on accomplishing his goal. The impetus for his determination is his fear of humiliation. Ironically, he is the only one who is expecting and relying on him to complete the climb.
The highlighted passage is an example of
The author realizes that his journey to the top of Devils Thumb did not change his life in any significant way. Once again, he places an emphasis on his loss of innocence due to his experience and the insight he gained through experience. This helps to develop the theme of hubris versus innocence.
Chapter Sixteen - The Alaska Interior
What does Nash mean when he says, "the Romantic individual"?
When you characterize a literary persona or in this case, an actual individual, it is important to consider what the character reveals about himself through his own words, actions, and thoughts. It is just as important to consider what others say about and how they react to the character. Be sure to review the clip on analyzing a character below. There doesn't seem to be an individual who met and spoke with McCandless that didn't like him or on some level trust him. What can you deduce from these interactions? (This annotation contains a video)
Reread the previous page and this page. Why does McCandless want to live in the Alaskan bush by himself? Why do you think he will promise a stranger to write when he completes his task, but he refuses to call his parents?
The mood the author creates is sad as McCandless begins his journey into the Alaskan bush. McCandless spends much of his odyssey journaling, in some form, his adventures, escapades, and interactions, but as he passes a landmark that his father had a hand in erecting, he records nothing.
Why does the author refer to McCandless crossing the Teklanika river as his Rubicon?
The Rubicon River is a small river in northeastern Italy. When Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon in 49 BC and uttered the famous phrase, "let the die be cast." It was with this action that Pompey deemed Caesar a rebel and traitor to Rome.
Reread McCandless's inscription he wrote on the bus's plywood. Do you think this is an accurate portrayal of McCandless's life over the past two years? Does this answer the question about what McCandless was seeking in the wild? Cite at least three pieces of textual evidence to support your answers.
As the author details the last leg of McCandless's trip, it seems to be plagued with ironies. McCandless heads to Alaska in the summer, thinking it would be easier to travel, but most Alaskans would tell you that winter is the best time to travel across the land. The rivers are low, the ground is hard and packed with snow and ice, and the land is not a muddy mess. Then McCandless seeks to find himself in Alaskan wild because he believes it is beyond the confines of civilization. However, McCandless spends the majority of his time in the wild in a bus, with a stove for heat, matches, and within thirty miles of a highway, sixteen miles from a tourist attraction, and six miles from stocked cabins. It is like when you are little and "runaway" to your own backyard. You feel as if you are where no one will ever find you; all the while your mother is watching you from the kitchen window.
Based on the advice that McCandless receives from hunters in South Dakota, he butchers and smokes the moose he kills in order to preserve the meat. If he asked Alaskan hunters, he would know the best way to preserve meat in Alaska is to air-dried the meat on a rack. This example demonstrates McCandless's
As McCandless reads Thoreau he seems to have a breakthrough in terms of his values and morals. He claims rebirth and begins a life of "deliberate living." This stems in part to the teachings of Thoreau and partially due to the guilt (and possible shame) McCandless feels about killing and wasting some of the moose meat due to his lack of skills. This change in McCandless's vision exemplifies the theme of transcendence through nature.
Based on the highlighted passage, what can you infer about McCandless's next stage in his life?
Below is a YouTube clip of an interview with Emile Hirsch. He plays McCandless in the Sean Penn film version of Into the Wild. The actor is asked several questions, and the most interesting is if he had difficulty portraying McCandless as a good individual when some viewed him as a spoiled rich kid. View the clip below to hear his response. (This annotation contains a video)
It is ironic that when McCandless wants to leave the bush and is alone and scared, he cannot find his way out. And this illustrates once again how McCandless's poor preparation for the adventure contributed to his seclusion and death. Below is a clip from the film version of Into the Wild. It is the final scenes of McCandless's life and what the film's creators believed he may have been thinking. (This annotation contains a video)
Chapter Seventeen - The Stampede Trail
Why does the author revisit the place where McCandless perished?
As the author retraces McCandless's steps to gain a better understanding of his last days, the author also quickly discovers how simple things, like a proper map, would have help McCandless survive.
According to the author, the setting on the far side of the river is
The two men who discovered McCandless's body were quick to point out that "the kid didn't know what the hell he was doing up there" because he didn't know the difference between a caribou and a moose. The link below lists several characteristics of both animals. Caribou are better known to most as reindeer. You have to wonder, did those men have any knowledge about McCandless beyond his misidentification of a moose to draw that conclusion? Why do you think the men may have been inclined to dismiss McCandless as a "greenhorn"? (This annotation contains a link)
Upon inspection of the remains of the creature McCandless shot, the author confirms it was a moose and not a caribou. The author, taking the Alaskan hunters at their word, reported the wrong information in his original article. Why does the author specifically correct his mistake that he published in his original article about McCandless?
The author "encounters evidence of McCandless's presence wherever [his] vision rests." The author notes his blue toothbrush, toothpaste, boots and clothes are all arranged around the bus. Remember, the author visits the bus a year later yet there are still traces of McCandless everywhere; as if he never left. It is an eerie feeling - like sleeping in a dead man's bed.
Why does the author digress and tell the tale of Sir John Franklin?
The author compares McCandless's actions to that of a rebellious teenager, and the difference between the two is that McCandless "took risk-taking to its logical extreme." Do you agree with the author that McCandless was like a teenager? If so, are the critics of McCandless correct? Use textual evidence to support your answer.
Paul Shepard states that the nomadic Bedouin's life "is so profoundly in transaction with nature that there is no place for abstraction or esthetics or a "nature philosophy.'" For what purpose does he author include this excerpt?
The author's traveling partner and friend Roman admires McCandless's attempt to survive in the bush and admonishes the critics who believe that he was incompetent. Do you think he feels this way because he too identifies with McCandless, or can you value his opinion based on his experience in the Alaskan wild?
Chapter Eighteen - The Stampede Trail
According to Pasternak, what motivates man to create and discover?
It seems as if there are two turning points during the July McCandless spent in Alaska. The first is a physical turning point where he began living in a caloric deficit. The second was the seeming realization that he wanted to return to civilization as indicated by his annotation "Happiness is only real when shared."
The author has a ____________ about what caused McCandless's death, but there is no way to prove his theory.
The author's original hypothesis about McCandless consuming a poisonous seed was so believable that he reported it with certainty. People believed that it was the cause of McCandless's death. Now, after visiting the area where McCandless died, the author can try to prove or disprove his hypothesis. It is important to recognize that the author is determined to uncover a reason - beyond the arrogance or naiveté of McCandless- to cite as a cause of death.
Based on the highlighted text, the term epiphany most nearly means
If the author is correct, McCandless did not have an iota of a chance of surviving once he consumed the poisonous mold. He was already weakened and according to experts McCandless did not have any means of flushing the toxin from his system. It is amazing that a small error can cause a deadly chain reaction.
Prior to his final days, do you think that it is possible that McCandless found the cabins that were just a three hour hike away? And if so, do you believe he could have destroyed the contents of the cabins to "set the wilderness free"? Use three pieces of textual evidence to support your argument.
Here is a photo of the note McCandless left while he foraged for berries. (This annotation contains an image)
Based on the Robinson Jeffers's poem and McCandless's last note, how would you characterize McCandless in his final hours?
Below is a YouTube clip of a man who revisited the bus in March 2011. He created a montage of still photos and videos. It will give you a better sense about where McCandless spent his final days. (This annotation contains a video)
Below is a YouTube clip of Billie McCandless as she and her husband revisit the bus. The McCandless's wrote another text that compiled McCandless's photographs titled Back to the Wild. (This annotation contains a video)
Below is a YouTube clip of Walt McCandless visiting bus 142 in preparation for writing Back to the Wild. This text was a response to the Into the Wild account of McCandless's time as a tramp. (This annotation contains a video)