In Into the Wild, how did Chris McCandless feel about his family of origin?

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lschertz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

McCandless was close to his sister, Carine. However, Krakauer sums up his relationship in one simple paragraph:

Children tend to be harsh judges when it comes to their parents...and this was especially true in Chris's case. More even than most teens, he tended to see things in black and white. He measured himself and those around him by an impossibly rigorous moral code." (p. 122)

Chris held a deep contempt for his father as he learned he particulars of Walt's divorce from his first wife, which involved an affair between them while dating Chris's mother.

There was more to his judgement of his parents, however. The more he learned about the rich, and those who were not, the more disgust he developed for money and people who possessed a lot of it.  He felt he could not respect his parents and their wealth.

In a letter to his sister, Carine, he wrote:

I'm going to have to be real careful not to accept any gifts from them in the future because they will think they have bought my respect." (p. 21)

He assumed, whether rightly or wrongly, that his parents used materialistic means to earn their children's respect, and he refused to respect that.  Therefore, he felt he could not love his parents unless they changed who they were.  Once again, this goes back to Krakauer's comment about Chris's world being black and white.  His parents were rich, and rich people were disgusting and undeserving of respect, so he could not respect his parents.

rareynolds eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Chris was disgusted with his parents’ materialism and moral hypocrisy. He felt that his father used money to manipulate people, and he himself felt manipulated to achieve and excel in high school and college. He was outraged to learn the truth about the end of his father’s first marriage, and the fact that for years his father had, in effect, been the head of two households—he continued his relationship with his first wife even after Chris had been born.

In part, his decision to to go into the wild was motivated by a desire to get away from them. While he was close to his sister, Carine, he was a harsh critic of his parents. His parents, for their part, saw Chris as a an extremely gifted child who lacked the discipline to truly excel. They did not understand their son’s attitude toward wealth, for one thing, but more than that they did not understand Chris’s independent spirit and need for freedom. Even though they were family, Chris and his parents were unable to connect.

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Into the Wild

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