Into the Wild Questions and Answers
by Jon Krakauer

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From Into the Wild, how did Jon Krakauer see himself as similar to Chris McCandless?

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Sarah Zometa eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Like the other responses suggest, Krakauer felt a deeply personal connection to Christopher McCandless that motivated him to write McCandless’ story. Krakauer has a similar fixation on unspoiled wilderness, and he has a tumultuous relationship with his father—both of which intrigued Krakauer when he first encountered these facts.

To avoid repeating the other educators' apt explanations of Krakauer’s connection to McCandless, I offer another interpretation. Krakauer frequently idealizes McCandless’ actions as borne from an intense desire for purity—something Krakauer admires, and he wishes he would have had the proper mix of courage and naivety that McCandless needed to embark on his journey. In other words, Krakauer sees what he might have been if only he had possessed the same level of dedication and gumption. To an extent, one might suggest that Krakauer wants to be more like McCandless, which explains why the author often goes to such lengths to justify or apologize for McCandless’ actions.

Krakauer believes that McCandless was an intelligent albeit unlucky young man, and the only thing separating Krakauer from McCandless is circumstance.

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Krakauer is open in asserting his sense of identification with Chris McCandless. He was older than Chris when he wrote about him, but Chris brought back vivid memories of what Krakauer was like at the same age.

For instance, Krakauer identified strongly with Chris's desire to test himself through a risky venture in the Alaska wilds—one in which the outcome wasn't certain. Krakauer devotes a chapter to a similar adventure he embarked on at Chris's age: in his case, it was climbing a cliff-like mountain called the Devils Thumb on its most dangerous face. As Krakauer makes clear, he had no death wish, but at the same time, it was only through the grace of God he didn't get killed. However, the adventure would have been meaningless had his safety been assured.

Krakauer states that one of his goals in writing the book is to show that Chris wasn't, as many argued, a suicidal fool. By comparing McCandless to himself, he helps establish his case that young men sometimes, without having a suicidal bone in their bodies, need to push themselves to a dangerous, death-defying limit to prove themselves.

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belarafon eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Jon Krakauer felt a connection with Chris as soon as he wrote the initial article on Chris's death for Outside Magazine. The story both troubled him and nagged at his curiosity until he felt compelled to write the book, tracking Chris's journey and talking with those who crossed Chris's path. Krakauer's connection with Chris is seen in his personal anecdote in Chapters 14 & 15, where he became stranded on a mountain in Alaska. He saw Chris's journey not as a deliberate death-wish, but as an accident brought on by chance. He also writes:

...I believe we were similarly affected by the skewed relationships we had with our fathers. And I suspect we had asimilar intensity, a similar heedlessness, a similar agitation of the soul.
(Krakauer, Into the Wild,

Krakauer uses his personal anecdote to speak both about the inevitable accidents that occur while hiking the wilderness and his own mindset during similarly troubled youthful years. While he never had the single-minded focus on living an idealistic life inspired by Jack London and Henry David Thoreau, Krakauer still yearned for something larger than himself, as well as the forbidden desire to feel personal mortality, and believes that he and Chris shared that desire.

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ryantoa8 | Student

both go to alaska at very young ages, (krakuer at 23, mccandless at 24) and both hitchiked to alaska