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Jon Krakauer's Purpose For Writing Into The Wild

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American novelist and mountaineer, Jon Krakauer, in his book, Into The Wild, describes the life and death of Christopher McCandless. Krakauer’s purpose is to explain the exact details of McCandless’s final expedition. Krakauer adopts a sympathetic tone to convey to his readers that Chris is extremely gifted and did not die out of stupidity. Krakauer persuades the reader to develop a view that Chris McCandless was more capable and intelligent than most people believed him to be through the application of personal anecdotes and structure. Krakauer’s objective is to demonstrate that perseverance and determination regardless of success, have tremendous value.

One of Krakauer's main methods of persuasion is the implementation of personal anecdotes. Included in the story are several accounts of personal encounters with Chris McCandless in his final years of life. Krakauer also employs a story from his own life that disproves the speculation that Chris was a suicidal maniac. Krakauer set out on a climbing trip to try to climb the north face of the Devil’s Thumb—a mountain in the Stikine Icecaps in Alaska—knowing that the climb was extremely dangerous. He never truly considered how death was a possible outcome; to Krakauer, the idea of death, “remained as abstract a concept as a non-Euclidean geometry or marriage. Explaining how Krakauer didn’t think about death or get scared by the threat portrays the idea that even if someone is doing extremely dangerous activities, it does not mean that they have a “death wish.” Krakauer says that he and Chris alike could have easily died on their expeditions, but Chris was unlucky. The use of this anecdote of Krakauer's guides the reader to the opinion that Chris was not crazy but was more sane and competent than many believed him to be.

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Another anecdote that Krakauer employs is the story of the time that Ronald Franz and McCandless spent together. McCandless and Franz met when Franz stopped to give McCandless a ride while he was hitchhiking back to his camp. From just the short car ride, Franz became infatuated with Chris. Only 2 months after Franz met Chris, Franz “asked Alex if [he] could adopt him”. Franz thought Alex was a very smart kid who just needed some guidance. Franz truly loved Chris after only a couple of months. If Chris were a lunatic with a death wish, Franz would not have spent more time than the original ride he gave Chris. Not only did Franz want to see Chris more, but he also wanted him to be a part of his family. The use of personal anecdotes adds to Krakauer's argument of Chris being more intuitive than many believed him to be.

Another strategy that manipulates the reader to agree with Krakauer is the structure of the novel. The book starts by describing the final day McCandless spent alive and includes the story of how Chris’s body was discovered. Following this is the couple years leading up to his death that he spent on the road. The personality of Chris is slowly unraveled through several stories and interviews. Near the middle of the book, Krakauer accepts the fact that “McCandless was a seeker and had an impractical fascination with the harsh side of nature,” and that “he displayed a staggering paucity of common sense”. The negative descriptions of Chris occur early in the book so Krakauer has ample time to refute the fact that Chris was smart in going into the wild unprepared. Later in the book, Krakauer disproves many arguments that Chris was incompetent and unprepared; the most important one being the reason for Chris’s death. Early after Chris had died, people believed that he mistook a plant for a different, deadly, plant. However, Krakauer invalidates this concluding that stating that “he was probably killed instead by the mold that had been growing on those [plant’s] seeds”. This explanation of the cause of Chris’s death is the most logical, and probably correct. Because Chris did not die from a lack of knowledge, it is harder to believe that he was incapable and ill-equipped. Krakauer purposely ends the novel with his explanation for Chris’s death to leave the reader with a sympathetic view of Chris and that is was not necessarily his fault for dying. The structure of the book adds to Krakauer’s justification of Chris being skilled enough to complete his Alaskan odyssey.

Krakauer influences the reader's perspective of Chris McCandless through personal anecdotes, and structure. Krakauer’s goal in defending Chris is to illustrate to the reader that perseverance no matter if you succeed, is valuable. Krakauer holds Chris in high regard and strongly believes that one should do what will make them happy, even if you do not succeed.

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Jon Krakauer’s Purpose For Writing Into The Wild. (2021, September 02). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 3, 2024, from
“Jon Krakauer’s Purpose For Writing Into The Wild.” Edubirdie, 02 Sept. 2021,
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Jon Krakauer’s Purpose For Writing Into The Wild [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2021 Sept 02 [cited 2024 Mar 3]. Available from:
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