Homework Help

What are the main characteristics of Christopher McCandless? I hope you can also help...

user profile pic

anna-magdalena | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 3, 2010 at 2:11 PM via web

dislike 0 like

What are the main characteristics of Christopher McCandless?

I hope you can also help me with  the characterization of Chris. I think it is really difficult because of his complex personality.

2 Answers | Add Yours

user profile pic

mkcapen1 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted January 3, 2010 at 6:57 PM (Answer #1)

dislike 1 like

The book "Into the Wild," is an autobiographical account of Chris McCandless' life.  Chris was a young white male.  He grew up in a comfortably well off family environment. Chris was a loner. He craved social isolation.  He was a highly intelligent individual, but he also lacked intuition and safety knowledge.  He was independent.  Chris was very much against the establishment and capitalism.  One of his reasons for exploring the wilderness and giving away his money was so that he could become free of the chains that bind society.  Chris was also narcissistic and selfish in many ways.  He did not care about his own family members concern for him.  When he wanted to do something, he just did it.  One very positive aspect of Chris' personality was his need to find a connection with nature.  He was drawn to the natural environment partially because of his interest in naturalist literary works.  Chris adventurous nature eventually led to an early death.

user profile pic

drjrjherbert | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted December 16, 2014 at 8:31 PM (Answer #2)

dislike 1 like

McCandless might first be defined by his non-conformism and his willingness to eschew the financially comfortable background in which he was brought up. Krakauer states that he 'believed that wealth was shameful, corrupting and inherently evil'.  This non-conformism is perhaps defined by his willingness to ally himself to the civil disobedience of some of the transcendentalist writers, Henry David Thoreau being the prime example. This was not to say that he was not, at times, pragmatic and viewed money earned by what he believed to be moral and honest labour to be valuable. While he gave up his inherited wealth  and 'donated the balance of his bank account to OXFAM', he was nonetheless willing to work for Wayne Westerberg and at McDonalds for money when he needed it. He seems to have drawn the distinction at having too much money and acquiring it as a result of unearned privilege. 

Krakauer, however, is clear to state that he was no liberal, stating that he 'was a vocal admirer of Ronald Regan' and cited Thoreau about the evil of governance - one might describe him better as a libertarian than a liberal. He was, however, it would appear, morally driven, perhaps in part due to the extremity of his reaction to his parents' troubles and his judgement that his father was a 'sanctimonious hypocrite', particularly in relation to the latter's concealed divorce. McCandless's moral motivation, however, found more constructive means than in simply moralising. He was a fan of direct action, Krakauer recounting a number of incidents from his school days where he would practice personal philanthropy such as he would 'wander the seedier quarters of Washington, chatting with prostitutes and homeless people, buying them meals'. It appears that he believed less in state intervention and more in personal responsibility for the poor. One might also claim that he saw an inherent nobility in poverty and liberty, embodied in the name that he chose for himself, 'Alexander Supertramp'. 

The quest for personal liberty is clearly embodied in the willingness to give up his old identity, not only his financial worth and connection to his family but, moreover, his very name. Other examples, of course, come with his desire to live entirely alone and by nature in Alaska but are pre-figured by his quest to kayak down the Colorado river, defying park laws that meant he had to have a license. 

Whether we would characterise McCandless as hubristic (i.e. with over-arching pride that led to his own downfall) or not is an interesting question. I've linked below to an interesting enotes.com essay on this point and the question of whether he is a tragic hero or not. 


Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes