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John Krakauer's nonfiction book "Into the Wild" was originally published in 1996. The story is about a young guy named Christopher McCandless, who died at his tent in the Alaskan wilderness in the summer of 1992. After touring the United States for several months, McCandless had ventured into the woods for one more spectacular adventure and given out his things. During that summer in Alaska, he camped in the shell of an abandoned bus, subsisting on animals he had shot and herbs he had discovered. Significantly, he survived for several months. Except for the fact that something went wrong afterward. The book begins with the discovery of McCandless's body and diaries by a group of hunters in Alaskan who visited Denali National Park and conversed on the annual expedition. The hunters radioed for help, and the FBI arrived and removed the body. Krakauer wrote the book to appraise what happened to McCandless on the trail as well as find his motive in doing this. The paper will explain these puzzling circumstances of McCandless’s death in Krakauer’s book and their possible relatedness in causing his demise.
Firstly, in “Into the Wild” Krakauer speculated that McCandless death was caused by wild potato seeds. Christopher had eaten much of this seeds which the author thought that had a toxic alkaloid. As a result, the seeds made him so weak to the extent that he was unable to forage anymore for food to sustain him. Therefore, he accidentally poisoned himself resulting in his inability to hike out and hence starvation. McCandless in his journal wrote how deprivation made him weak even to stand. Solitude was finally killing him, and as described in Crane's article the field of science has usually linked isolation with adverse outcomes (paragraph 2). Gallien associates his thinking after dropping off on the trail to describe why he did not stop by Alaskan armored unit’s post he passed and explained to them about the tours plan. Gallien comments that “I thought he'd probably get hungry pretty quick and just walk out to the highway” (Krakauer, 7). The comment shows a sad attitude as McCandless did the opposite of what Gallien perceived right and logic and remained in the bus for long to die of starvation.
Moreover, McCandless also believed that the cause of his death was starvation. During this time his thoughts were no longer clouded by his perception and judgment of the society, and instead, he became mentally clear. According to Dweck in her article (paragraph 1) research indicates that the human brain changes continually with experience and learning throughout ones live. Krakauer writes “some people who have been brought back from the far edge of starvation, though, report that near the end the hunger vanishes, the terrible pain dissolves, and the suffering is replaced by a sense of sublime euphoria, a sense of calm accompanied by a transcendent mental clarity (198)”. As much as McCandless died of starvation, his situation presents an example of a real-life literary irony. It is not until he is physically starving to death that his figurative hunger meaning in worldly scenario subsides. His death due to starvation can be perceived as a failure, but its actual ideology is that death is one form of prosperity for an individual with similar ideas to McCandless’s as well as fixed mindset (Dweck Paragraph 4). Even though his death is not intentional, his journey ends when it comes to light that it was not only physical but also metaphorical, mental and emotional. Regarding his physical starvation period that subsequently leads to his death, his thirst and hunger for discovery and personal truth is fed.
Secondly, Christopher McCandless went into the wilderness without any proper preparations. Even though some believe that McCandless was mentally prepared Christopher lacked the correct tools or the needed skills to survive for a longer duration in the wild. However, he knew what he was getting himself into and planned the journey knowing what the risk factors were. McCandless aim was to get away from society where people had to endure inequality and maltreatment. Krakauer says “he was hungry to learn about things. Unlike most of us, he was the sort of person who insisted on living out his beliefs (76)”. The eagerness to leave all behind made him rush to a different life without preparing for it. Crane (p.11) explains that for solitude to be fruitful one has to achieve some preconditions or else it will be harmful. At the same time, the urge of his strong beliefs embodied in the power of living naturally, as the process of healing for those in the question of their identity and existence motivated him further to commit to his journey. However, he was not realistic. Notably, when Gallien asked him about hunting license, his reply was “hell, no” […] “The government has no business knowing what I’m doing” (Krakauer 6).
Additionally, the protagonist did not understand the importance of preparation. McCandless never took the time to evaluate how he would spend the next of his life away from people. To him, it was all about making “radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing or been too hesitant to attempt (Krakauer 56). In light of this, he went to the forest blindly which resulted in a lack of supplies and mastering of directions. In the same vein, his movement was restricted ironically by an impassable river. Notwithstanding, there was a manual tram quarter mile from his previous crossing. Moreover, he chooses to carry only pounds of rice, a book, and a riffle which as mentioned above he could not use properly. Indeed, Chris went out in the wild to search for answers, but he ended up dead due to lack of preparation which subsequently leads to a shortage of supplies.
Thirdly, Christopher did not have enough knowledge of edible plants and acted stupidly. He ate a poisonous plant that resulted in his starvation coupled with other medical illness. McCandless misread the book he carried about the ‘edible plants.’ In light of this, he did not realize that what he ate was indeed poisonous and was the cause of the symptoms he was getting such as starvation and leading to his death. Notably, this indicates lack of preparedness from the beginning by taking time to study and gain all the information needed before venturing into the wild. He stupidly ate plants because they looked edible. Moreover, he continued depending on them instead of going out to look for more in his belief that intelligence could not be developed instead of being constructive (Dweck p. 10). Unfortunately, his body lacked the availability of sources of carbohydrates. In his stupid actions, he never bothered to follow the river where he could have soon or later found a crossing as it was a populated area.
Moreover, McCandless foolishly did not consider the dangers that were associated with him being isolated from human society for such duration. Despite the fact that he made a bold move to “emancipated from the stifling world of his parents and peers, a world of abstraction and security and material excess, a world in which he felt grievously cut off from the raw throb of existence" (Krakauer 22) his stubborn nature of stupidity resulted to his demise. The ignorance of this young man makes him abandon a loving home with the perception of starting a new life as a “master of his destiny” (Krakauer 23). He refuses to further his education with a law degree and instead dedicate to unprepared journey into wild leaving behind a caring sister, father, and mother. McCandless grew up as an intelligent person in most of the things he did. Moreover, he received support from his parents who usually encouraged him in his endeavors. Sadly, McCandless did not reciprocate this love to his parents and sister as well. Instead, he builds an illusion of normality making his parents think all as well while he gradually drifted emotionally and physically from them.
Finally, Christopher discovered that “happiness only real when shared” (Krakauer 189). He began to see his folly in his actions as he started questioning the merit of the solitude that he longed. Crane (p. 11) shows that the difference between loneliness as suffering or as rejuvenation is the capability of going back to people when one wants which Chris was unable. McCandless was a dedicated person with the aspiration and motive to accomplish his goal, but his ignorance and unpreparedness lead him to his death. In conclusion, his impulsive antic into the Alaskan wilderness, lack of preparation and knowledge of edible plants and stupidity shows irresponsibility that resulted in his starvation and subsequently to his death.
Crane, Brent. The Virtues of Isolation. The Atlantic 30th March, 2017
Dweck, Carol. Brainology.National Association of Independent Schools, 2008
Krakauer, Jon. “Into the wild”.Villard, 1996.
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