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Chris McCandless Character Analysis

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Krakauer's novel ‘Into the Wild’ is a controversial yet intriguing work in which questions remain about the main characters goals and inspirations. The views of McCandless’ Alaskan adventure are seen as either arrogant and ill advised or heroic and motivational, but my personal views remain split between the two differencing sides. Instead of viewing McCandless as a ‘Bush Stereotype’, I prefer to believe that Chris was idealistic and searching for a worthy challenge in life.

To begin with, in order to truly understand the mind of McCandless we must reflect on his time as a young boy. Even as a youth, McCandless showed numerous signs of idealistic behavior. For example, one year Chris went on a climb at Longs Peak in Colorado with his father and younger brother. When the three reached an extreme elevation of 13,000 feet, Walt decided that the altitude was too much and it was time to turn around, but Chris had other plans. Walter states: “Chris wanted to keep going, he was only twelve then…if he’d been fourteen or fifteen, he would have simply gone without me” (Krakauer 109). This quotation shows that although Chris was hard headed he was also very motivated and loved the idea of a challenge; which is why the idea of an Alaskan Odyssey was not too far fetched for someone like McCandless. We are able to understand from the words of Gaylord Stuckey that Alaska was “something he’d (Chris) wanted to do since he was little” (Krakauer 159). Alaska wasn’t an idea Chris came up with out of nowhere; instead, Alaska was the ultimate challenge Chris had been training for since he was a teenager when he told his father he wanted to climb higher at Longs Peak.

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In addition, instead of seeing McCandless as arrogant and prude I prefer to see Chris as a dreamer who believed in striving for difference in life. We are able to infer that Chris McCandless had refused to convert to the societal norm and conform to the ideas of those around him. Instead of listening to the input of those around him for further opinion and analysis, Chris simply did what he wanted to do when he wanted to do it. Again, McCandless’s father noticed this incomparable strive for contrast in his son. Walt McCandless states: “He didn’t think the odds of life applied to him. We were always trying to pull him back from the edge”. The way Chris refused to conform could be seen as narcissistic and arrogant but I prefer to see Chris’ refusal to blend in with society as a respectable quality trait and a valuable asset into what makes McCandless the dreamer he once was. For example, even though McCandless showed a lack of judgment and reason on numerous occasions throughout his journey, those who encountered McCandless saw him as an interesting character, but never as arrogant or prude. Chris simply wanted excitement in his life, but he never intended to offend anyone or live a life of disrespect.

In addition, while it is true McCandless was an incredibly respectful character, it goes without saying that he did experience cases in his life of weakness and flawed behavior. One of these flaws included Chris’ conceding over confidence. For example, early on in McCandless’ odyssey, it was known that Chris donated nearly $25,000 to charity, left his vehicle, and neglected to retain his possessions before continuing on his way. In doing this, Chris showed a lack of reality and a desire to participate in impulse decisions that satisfied his short term ‘self’, but proved fatal in the long run. For example, McCandless continued without a map and little food, and had he remembered his map, McCandless may have been able to make the return from the wild to society instead of costing his life.

In conclusion, it is true that Chris often showed a lack of judgment and he probably should have accepted supplies that were offered by people he met on his way. Instead, McCandless often relied heavily on himself and the unforgiving attributes of nature for a trip that needed great depths of planning and collaboration. It is certain that over confidence and judgement errors proved fatal for Chris, but it is of further certainty that Chris endured many levels of difficulty that others could not begin to comprehend which is why I lean towards showing McCandless a sense of respect. McCandless pursued his childhood intents and refused to conform to an often robotic society, and while it is unfortunate that a lack of conformity proved to be fatal to Chris’ survival there must be reason to respect someone who always stayed true to their own judgment and never intended to give up.

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Chris McCandless Character Analysis. (2022, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 5, 2023, from
“Chris McCandless Character Analysis.” Edubirdie, 25 Aug. 2022,
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