Chris McCandless had a romantic fascination with nature that dominated his approach to seeking a way to live within nature. Unfortunately, his impatience and lack of logic and planning worked at cross-purposes to his achieving his desires. Jon Krakauer locates Chris within a long American masculine tradition of romanticizing nature. The combined ideas of co-existing with and conquering nature account for some of the drama in classic American literature about wilderness as essential to preserving American ways of life. A sharply dualistic worldview, in which structure and civilization are at odds with the natural world, is a modern perspective which, Krakauer notes, motivated westward expansion. In this respect, the idea of confinement and boundaries—connected with the closing of the frontier—is just as important as nature itself.
Chris became increasingly dissatisfied with a sedentary, conventional way of living. While he sought harmony in natural living, his motivation seems more negative than positive: what he was leaving behind may have been more important than what he was going toward. Chris enjoys the feeling of direct communion with nature and repeatedly rejects the idea that planning and preparation are as essential as emotional attachment. This idea of preferring to share the resources nature provides, instead of hunting and taking animals’ lives to sustain his own, is part of the romance. The image that one friend provides, of Chris walking along the highway grazing on the berries growing there, sums up the innocence of his approach.