How does Wayne Westerberg describe Christopher McCandless from Into the Wild?

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Wayne Westerberg is a combine crew foreman and grain elevator owner in South Dakota who took Chris McCandless in during Chris's travels. In exchange for work, Wayne fed and housed Chris, and became fond of him as a hard worker, respectful and conscientious, and very intelligent:

"He was the hardest worker I've ever seen... if he started a job, he'd finish it... He read a lot. Used a lot of big words. I think maybe part of what got him into trouble was that he did too much thinking... he always had to know the absolute right answer before he could go on to the next thing."
(Krakauer, Into the Wild,

A common interpretation of their relationship is that Chris saw Wayne as a father-figure and more in touch with his personal ideals than his own family. After their initial meeting, Chris stayed in touch with Wayne with occasional postcards and letters. One-and-a-half years later, Chris returned to South Dakota and stayed with Wayne for over a month, saving money for his ultimately fatal trip to the wild-lands of Alaska. Wayne was one of the principal witnesses who identified Chris's body, and worked with Chris's family and Sean Penn on the film Into the Wild, which he sees as a faithful and compassionate tribute to Chris's life and ideals.


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