Customer Review

102 of 107 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Anacortes, WA, August 20, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Into the Wild (Paperback)
After having had this book for some time, I finally set out to make it part of my summer 2000 reading schedule. I am drawn to books of the northern wilderness, which was the initial attraction to this one. I'll state up front that I have not read anything else by Krakauer, so I cannot draw any comparisons as other reviewers have done.
Krakauer tells the tale effectively. He uses an intelligent vocabulary balanced with a conversational writing style. He easily held my attention as the facts unfolded throughout, employing logic and drawing inferences to fill in many questions that remain. He obviously did his research on the central character, Christopher McCandless, and must have invested countless quantities of money and time to gather accurate information. With so many of the facts of this distressing story remaining obscured probably forever, his assumptions and extrapolations about Chris' actual fate are posed as theories rather than as irreproachable conclusions. I appreciate this aspect of Krakauer's account.
Hats off also to the McCandless family, since Krakauer relied upon them not only for information about their son, tragically lost, but also for their courage in allowing many private family issues to be exposed in support of telling the story as thoroughly as possible. Chris' father, mother, and sister are true heroes in my eyes.
I have some degree of understanding of Chris and his northerly wanderlust, and also an appreciation for the not-so-uncommon desire to conquer the wilderness. What concerns me, however, is the apparent arrogance of the central character. According to the author's account, Chris seemed to possess an intermittent wariness about his closest acquaintances, along with outright rejection of others who cared for him much more than he cared for them. He treated some important people who crossed his path as disposable. But probably Chris's most crucial deficiency was the flippant and over-confident approach towards the actual work of survival in the wilderness. He even seemed a bit contemptuous toward relevant learning despite his quality education and intelligence. He especially needed important knowlege about survival in the wilds of the north. However, he apparently rebuffed all attempts from others to assist him in his quest. I have spent considerable time in the extreme north of B.C. (an area not entirely dissimilar to Alaska): it is ridiculous, misguided, and presumptuous to embark on such an adventure with the dearth of equipment, supplies, and knowledge as did Chris. I would want to know everything possible about how to survive such a life and death endeavor. Indeed, I feel a strange combination of sadness and anger as I reflect on Chris's unfortunate departure. Was his death ultimately caused by youthful innocence or arrogant ignorance? It is a question I cannot answer and I commend Krakauer for his deft ability to stimulate thought in the reader rather than provide tidy little assumptive answers.
My only complaint: the personal reflective chapter towards the end of the book. I understand why Krakauer included it (personal connections with the need for adventure, context, struggles with nature, etc.), but for me it was irrelevant and it de-railed the flow of the story.
Perhaps we can learn from Christopher McCandless' experience, not in any attempt to qualify him as a martyr or to label him a fool. I have thought about how my appreciation for the north has changed, how families need to be close, the requirement to really listen to and understand people, and countless other themes which have been tweaked by Jon Krakauer's writing about Chris' misadventure. I recommend this book highly.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 23, 2009 9:46:25 PM PDT
P. Johnston says:
Is it not true that McChandless was only three miles from a highway and eight miles from a town when he died. I seem to recall hearing that somewhere.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 27, 2010 12:09:31 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 27, 2010 12:10:00 PM PST
Johnston is right. He was 3 miles from a "closed" weigh station; not a town. I also disagree with the objects of the personal reflections -- I find that they like Roman's insight at the end helps us understand the psyche of what makes young men go out "into the wild" quoted from Alexander Supertramp aka Chris J. McCandless.

Posted on Mar 24, 2011 6:16:32 AM PDT
TravlinSam says:
Points I agree and a few comments...

1. Christopher McCandless and his story is tragic.
2. Jon Krakauer is a fantastic writer.

Regardless of how tragic this is and how well told, truth be said, Christopher McCandless was a selfish self absorbed jerk. He had little thoughts to how his actions affected others once he decided he was going in one direction. More of my pity goes to his family (especially his sister) who loved and cared about him...all I can say about him was that he was SELFISH and STUPID.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 2, 2011 6:27:11 PM PDT
Are you kidding me Sam? Unbelievable that someone can't follow their dreams of ditching this corrupt society and finding a new way to live, a true way to live. You think he is selfish because he should've gotten a job and been something else for the rest of his life just so he could be with his family? No, and don't even think he hated his family so there was probably some emotion in his departure. If you think he was stupid and selfish that is very arrogant.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 2, 2013 11:02:47 AM PDT
I think you are correct. Selfish and stupid. Or if not stupid, then egotistical and naive. If he was all that brilliant as the book implies discussing his time at Emory, then doncha think he would have I dunno latched onto and devoured a book or two or three along the lines of "Remote Wilderness Backpacking for Dummies"?? I have had the privilege of learning from men who earned uniform shoulder tab ribbons in the army for completing Special Forces training and RANGER training. They are trained in so much to include how to "live off the fat of the land". None of them as far as I know would ever attempt to do what McCandless did alone.
I think Chris' ascetism combined with vanity to convince him he didnt need any companionship, no other relationships and no help on his sojourn.

Posted on Jun 2, 2013 11:10:14 AM PDT
I would like to have seen more of a workup on Chris' psychological state. We read in the book that he had a deep seated anger at this parents after he learned that his father had lived a bigamous life. Bill McCandless evidently still carried on with his first wife even while he was married to Billie, Chris learned that on his own and he was angered about his parents' concealing the origins of their marriage. I don't know how many men are willing to discuss the details of how one marriage ended and another got started.
We don't know anything about the spiritual religious upbringing of the kids. Likely it was a true vacuum of values where earning an income took precedence over everything else. I think the father likely came to regret his neglected poorly managed relationship with "Alex"
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