Krakauer has organized the book to make the case that Chris McCandless was not a suicidal fool when he entered the Alaskan wild for his last adventure.
The book arose from an article Krakauer wrote about McCandless's death for Outdoor magazine. This article about McCandless's death become one of the most read and commented about in the history of the publication. Readers were sharply divided over whether McCandless was a fool or a sage. Krakauer organizes his book to emphasize McCandless as a sage, a sympathetic young man of purpose, ethics, and intent who knew what he was doing and died through misfortune, not stupidity.
To do this, Krakauer first lays out in outline the facts of McCandless's arrival in Alaska and his death there, then goes back and retraces Chris's long path to arriving in the Alaska wilderness. He does this as a journalist, researching Chris's past, interviewing the people who knew Chris—especially during his wanderings—and visiting the places Chris visited.
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