Into The Wild By Jon Krakauer: Wilderness Hero Or Foolish Youth

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Christopher McCandless was a young man who wanted to give the world a challenge and use his energy to survive in the wild. He had very few reasons for venturing out into the wild without the proper equipment and gear to survive for at least a month. But of those reasons was one of a determination to become a hero of the wild, and following the hero’s journey. To do this, he needed to have the right mindset with the right materials and equipment, which he was somewhat lacking. Albeit his circumstances and lack of equipment, he decided to go on the journey anyway, so this is his journey in its entirety.

Chris McCandless had, instead of receiving a challenge, created a challenge for himself that he was willing to take up and attempt to defeat. His challenge was to venture out into the wild by himself and to hitchhike his way deep into Alaska, starting all the way from his home in suburban Virginia. He was a smart student and had received great grades throughout high school. As soon as he graduated from Emory College with honors, though, he had disappeared out of sight. This left him with no one to help him with his journey, because of the impulsive decision he had made to leave without thinking of the consequences he would face. According to the website

Nevertheless, McCandless had been able to hitchhike his way all the way to the Canada/Alaska border, which is when he had begun his great journey on the Stampede Trail north of Mt. Mckinley. It was at this time that he had achieved step three of the hero’s journey, which is to “Cross the threshold from his normal, safe home, and to enter the special world and adventure.” In this case, the special world would have been the Alaska/Canada border and the adventure would have been McCandless beginning his journey on the Stampede Trail. During this time, he also left his home for the last time, as he would later on in his journey become trapped in the wilderness to starve to death.

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As McCandless moves bravely forward into step 4 of the hero’s journey, he faced the problem of not finding a ride while hitchhiking. While he has had some great ideas for getting up to Alaska, not everyone will want to accept a hitchhiker, as it would be a risky move on the driver's part because you never know what a hitchhiker could do to you if you let them in your car. Even with the knowledge of the dangers of picking up a hitchhiker, McCandless still proceeds to attempt it, and somehow finds a ride rather quickly. The driver that picked him up was willing to take him all the way to Fairbanks, Alaska, and in addition, take him to get the proper equipment from a shop along the way. This surprised McCandless because he was expecting to never get a ride and to have to walk all the way to Alaska by himself. According to the book “Into the Wild” on page 163, Krakauer writes “Two years he walks the earth. No phone, no pool, no pets, no cigarettes. Ultimate freedom. An extremist. Anesthetic voyager whose home is the road. Escaped from Atlanta. Thou shalt not return, 'cause 'the West is the best.' And now after two rambling years comes to the final and greatest adventure.” This shows how determined McCandless was to achieve his dreams of living on his own in the wild with just the help of a ride or two to get up to Fairbanks.

Then came the time for step 5 of his journey into the wild, which was to face his worst fear. McCandless had already been on his own for a while now, so he was getting fairly used to fending for himself. He was already starting to become weaker from exhaustion as the days of travel climbed and climbed, although his determination and effort were some of the only things that kept him up and running. When he had reached Alaska, he was met with quite possibly one of his greatest fears of being on his own - starvation. He was not hopeful in the first place about finding food easily where he was headed and ended up killing a deer only to find out he did not have a way to preserve its meat, which means he could not eat it. He felt like he had killed an animal for no reason at all because he could not eat it. He felt like he was literally going to starve to death at that moment from the rancidity of the deer meat. McCandless has reached step 6 at this point and feels as if he could die of starvation. He quickly writes up a few more last pleads for help in hope that a passerby hunter would catch their eye on one of them. But it turns out that none of that had happened until it was already too late, and McCandless had already perished from starvation.

Christopher McCandless had skipped steps 7 through the end, as he had died without recognition at first for his feats and accomplishments. At least until Jon Krakauer had written an amazingly descriptive article about him in the “Outside” magazine later on. As a result of Krakauer’s decision to write this article about McCandless, his death went from just general to being recognized as one of the most recognized of the month, maybe even the year.

In conclusion, Christopher McCandless should be considered a hero. He made it to Alaska on foot with only the help of a few rides, he survived a number of months in the wild by himself, and he was able to pursue a dream or passion of venturing into the wild and proving society wrong by surviving in the wild. He was truly an overconfident person that did not know when to stop and think about what he was doing. He wanted to get right into the journey with hardly any preparation whatsoever, which would, in turn, give him a series of inescapable consequences during his journey. He had also suffered from a lack of proper gear and equipment, which caused him to not be able to cross the flooded river during the summer he was alone. McCandless was a daring person, whom some may call a hero and others not, but I am siding with those who do not.

Works Cited:

  1. Krakauer, Jon. “Chapter 16/The Alaska Interior.” Into The Wild, Anchor Books, 1997, pp. 163–163.
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Into The Wild By Jon Krakauer: Wilderness Hero Or Foolish Youth. (2021, August 10). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 26, 2024, from
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