In Into the Wild, how does Chris McCandless feel about his family, and how does Chris' family feel about him? Are there any differences?

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Michael Ugulini eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the book, “Into the Wild”, by American writer Jon Krakauer, it is shown that Chris McCandless is essentially indifferent to his family, except possibly for his sister, Carine, one of nine children in the family. His parents were Walt and Billie McCandless.

What is notable, concerning his feelings for his family, is that Chris never really spoke of them. In addition, it is an indication of his thoughts on his family that he concocted a new moniker for himself, “Alexander Supertramp”, deciding to no longer go with the family name as he traveled.

As stated in the first answer above, it is revealed in the book that Chris believed his parents were too controlling. Chris, like his father, had a stubborn streak in him and a penchant for losing his temper. Quite revealing, regarding his feelings about his family is that they held to and practiced middle-class traditional values, while Chris became increasingly antagonistic to these values his family held dear. This is a prime example of a major difference between him and his family. Chris McCandless began to put away materialism and eventually virtually dispensed with it altogetherwhen he hitchhiked to Alaska and walked unaccompanied into its vast wilderness.

Walt and Billie McCandless had high hopes for their son. They believed he would further his life ambitions through enrolling in law school. They wanted the best for their son and no doubt were positive about this hope. Eventually, as Chris’ journey went on and he was not heard of, or to be found, Walt and Billie did engage the services of a private investigator to find Chris. They loved him. Chris, deep down, may have loved them, but did not ascribe to their traditional way of life any longer.

The major difference between Chris and his family was philosophical and based on different world views of what one needs to do to be happy in life.

dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Chris McCandless was deeply bitter toward his parents, calling their behavior toward him "irrational...oppressive...disrespectful and insulting" (Chapter 7).  He thought they were controlling, and was scornful of their adherence to traditional values and life goals.  Although his father did have an intense, authoritarian personality, he and Chris's mother did seem to genuinely care about him, and the general concensus of the author and those he interviewed seems to be surprise that Chris's anger at them was so extremely virulent.  Chris baffled and frustrated his parents, finally shutting them out of his life completely.

Although he had a number of siblings, Chris was close to only one, his sister Carine.  He confided in her through occasional letters, telling her his feelings about his family and a little about his wanderings.