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The Theme of Forgiveness in Into the Wild

From the first to the last chapter of Into the Wild, Krakauer consistently presents forgiveness as a major topic. Most significantly, the author communicates this topic via the life of the main character, Chris McCandless, and how it connects to not just his parents, but also the rest of the people around him and society at large. On the one hand, Krakauer portrays Chris McCandless as a caring guy who is deeply disturbed by the difficulties and suffering of others around him. He, for this reason, is not willing to ignore the need that he sees to help these people especially to help them have some food and stop starving. Nonetheless, Krakauer goes on to show a contradicting personality of McCandless, essentially his actions coming out as actions that hurt those who are passionate and love him. Importantly, Krakauer brings this inability to forgive in Chris in covering the way he relates with his father. Notably, McCandless cannot forgive his parents for their mistakes, and by this the Krakauer manages to show the cruelty in McCandless’s personality despite his desire to help those starving around him.

McCandless’s resentment for his parents is the primary reason he has to make a difficult decision to go into the wilderness. While from an analytical point of view it is true that the long-kept family secret that McCandless’s father was a bigamist as he finds out when on a trip to California after graduating from high school was wrong, the much anger that McCandless develops against his parents upon this finding is beyond measure. Krakauer describing the anger McCandless felt for his father upon the discovery of the family secret says that McCandless was consumed by “a blinding range” (102), and that his realization that his father who had all the years of McCandless’s life shown himself as a deity was only human was beyond McCandless’s “power to forgive” (102). That the anger gets beyond limit for the family betrayal comes out clear to the reader in that while his sister, Carine, may also have had little knowledge of this secret, McCandless chooses to treat her like his parents and never contacts her after leaving home into the wild. The central point that the author makes by McCandless having to choose to leave home and into the wild is that he is not a forgiving person, and he would rather walk away from home than take the difficult decision to forgive his parents for their wrongs.

McCandless’s unforgiving personality is also extended to the society. This extension of his inability to forgive comes out clear when he is at Emory, where he mostly appears to be very isolated from the society. He pushes away his friends, keeping only very few friends. That he does not have the power to forgive is a major reason he chooses to leave into the wild. Through his actions, the author indicates to the reader that had McCandless chosen to forgive his parents and be at peace with the larger society, he would not have led the kind of life that he did as depicted in the book, ultimately dying alone in the wildness. The reader .is made to take note that the primary reason behind McCandless’s decision to leave home and the society at large is because of the inability to forgive. He feels that he will be better and happy in isolation than having to forgive his parents and truly choosing to show compassion to those around him.

Surprisingly, Krakauer also emphasizes the theme of forgiveness in this book by painting how McCandless was willing to forgive some sins and mistakes of other people, some of which are far much beyond those of his father. Krakauer explains that towards the end of his life McCandless professed to admire a man who repeatedly beat up his girlfriend and he (McCandless), aware of the faults of this man, he forgave all the faults. McCandless was also capable of forgiving the sins of “his literary heroes” (Krakauer 85) including Jack London and Tolstoy who despite advocating for celibacy “went on to father at least thirteen children” (Krakauer, 85). He also shows to be an understanding and compassionate people to the friends he has at the time he is leaving to the wild as shown in his last not where he tells everyone to “take care” and reminds them that “it was great knowing you” (Krakauer 69). Through these examples, Krakauer successfully manages to show how McCandless is useful in conveying the theme of forgiveness in this book.

Concluding, as can be seen in McCandless’s difference in perception and the willingness to forgive sins and faults of some people and not the wrongs of his father and the entire family comes out to support the authors focus on forgiveness as one of the major themes in the story.

Work Cited

Krakauer, Jon. Into the Wild. Villard, 1996.

October 07, 2021

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