Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer is a novel written primarily about a young man, who, in his search for something more in life, reaches a truly unfortunate demise, as he dies at the hands of the Alaskan Wilderness. The young man’s name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. Documented over the course of the novel is his journey of two years: from Graduating Emory University and travelling across North America to his final days on the stampede trail in Alaska.
Stylistically, Krakauer’s writing comes across as relatively “journalist-esque”. This should not be considered “a bad thing”, because Krakauer is capable of capturing one’s attention through immersing them in details of the life and travels of Chris McCandless (or Alexander Supertramp, as McCandless refers to himself as). McCandless was from a fairly well to do family, and up until graduation seems relatively grounded. After graduating university to appease his family, he decides that the rest of his life shall be lived on his own terms. In a whirlwind sequence of near-fantastical events, McCandless gives all of his savings away to OXFAM (a charity), abandons most of his possessions (including his car and the money in his wallet), and proceeds to walk the earth on a devout and internal moral pilgrimage. He walks “into the wild”.
Some may argue that Krakauer romanticizes the story of Chris McCandless, and this is difficult to fully disagree with. However, one must take into account that the recklessness in McCandless’ actions should be taken for granted, and this novel should be viewed as a shift in perspective. It depicts Chris McCandless as more than simply an unprepared idealist, and in doing this, allows the reader to make speculations on McCandless’ desires, impulses, and emotions in general. This potentially serves as a philosophical exercise, with the resulting outcome and increased understanding of “the calling” as component of human nature through Krakauer’s descriptive broadening of perspective.
From the perspective of a fellow teenager, this novel is a must-read for any teenager interested in reading and literature. The ideas that are conveyed through theme provoke thought and connection regardless of whether or not one finishes this book having enjoyed it or hated it.
Chris McCandless, in his zealous sense of moral purity, reliance on the kindness of complete strangers, reluctance to become more than a figure “passing through” the lives of those strangers, and his answering to the noble, reckless call of the wild make him become an impactful figure of speculation. Was McCandless seeking to escape, or searching for something? Does his seemingly pure intent overcome the negative backlash on his family? Does choosing a more comfortable and convention life necessarily mean choosing conformity?
The answers to these questions and others that are brought forth upon reflection of this novel cannot be answered in a review because of the fact that there are no definite answers to these questions. Once again, this is a book that should be read by teens that are interested in literature, for the sake of reflection one’s own internal perception of ideas such as potentially experiencing a definite and emotional “calling” in life.