[Contains no spoilers]
Into the Wild follows the final year of Christopher McCandless’s life from his graduation in 1991, to the point he was suddenly found dead in an abandoned bus by a group of hunters in August 1992. After his graduation, McCandless donated his savings to charity, abandoned his car, left his family and most of his possessions, found a new name for himself, – Alexander Supertramp – and hitchhiked around the west and southwest to Alaska on a quest to build a new and better life for himself.
Into the Wild was not exactly what I was expecting. Admittedly, I’d done next to no research about the book and read it mainly because of having a friend who’d enjoyed it, in the hope to learn something about the outdoors, and because of the pretty mountain on the front cover…
However, I’m glad I did. Sitting in my chilly bedroom in the middle over nowhere, with snow drifting down outside the window over the Christmas holidays, reading this book felt like quite the experience, and I think I learned a lot from it.
I expected an adventure story of someone who disappeared off into the wild to explore the outdoors and the deepest depths of their own mind. In many ways, that’s exactly what this book is about. With the addition that the story is completely true. Written as if a 230 page newspaper article, it’s full of interviews and quotes from McCandless’s family, friends, and people he met along the way. Krakauer has clearly done extensive research into not only McCandless’s life, but the lives of similar travellers used in the book to help the reader understand the protagonist’s situation, and the many places he travels to during his journey. As a result, the story is highly immersive and the settings easy to visualise.
McCandless has been extensively criticised for his “foolishness” that led to his death, as has Krakauer for his “mindless adoration” of the protagonist. However, it’s hard not to admire McCandless’s intentions, and the way he approaches the world with an open mind and heart. Yes, he made mistakes, and yes, they proved to be fatal. But that aside, there’s something to be learned from this book about the way we approach new people, new experiences, what really matters, and how we choose to live our lives. I think this was really Krakauer’s focus when he wrote Into the Wild. Though subtle, the lessons that could be learned from the curious protagonist certainly stayed in the front of my mind for days on end after reading the book.
You can buy Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer here!