Into the Wild Questions and Answers
by Jon Krakauer

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

Chris McCandless has a good relationship with his sister but feels anger and contempt towards his parents, primarily for their materialism. He feels his father has used money to try to control him and also has betrayed him by keeping his other family a secret from him. Chris is trying to forge his own identity by severing ties with his parents. In contrast to Chris's angry feelings, his family shows love and concern for him.

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Steph Müller eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The fact that Chris McCandless goes by the name “Alexander Supertramp” while on the road is very telling. It gives us a clear indication that he does not want to be associated with his family, or his family name, while on this journey of discovery. He was incredibly angry with his father, who, as Chris had discovered the summer before, had an entire second family that had been kept a secret from him and his siblings.

While it is arguable that Chris loved one of his sisters, Carine, I would argue that he intentionally dissociated himself from his entire family. The fact that Chris made absolutely no contact in the two years that followed his departure “into the wild”—not so much as a postcard or a call home for anyone’s birthday—sends a strong statement that, at least for that period of his life, he wanted nothing to do with anyone in his family.

Chris’s family, on the other hand, show over time that they are very worried about their missing son and brother. They go as far as to hire a private investigator to try and track him down, which, in Alexander Supertramp’s mind, would doubtless have just been one more trick to try and control him. In the aftermath of Chris’s death, his sister Carine builds a career out of telling her brother’s story in the hope of motivating others.

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Chris McCandless experiences deep feelings of contempt and anger towards his parents and a strong need to ruthlessly sever relations with them. While he gets along well with his sister Carine, he feels he must cut her off too in order to successfully separate from his parents.

Chris resents the way his father has tried to control him, especially through using money. Although this is never explicitly stated, it becomes clear in the narrative that Chris's father expected to call the shots in Chris's life because he was paying the bills, not an unusual attitude but one that Chris resents. Chris tells Carine that his father is trying to "buy" him by offering him a new car. Chris no longer wants to take anything from his father because he doesn't want to owe him. In fact, his revulsion against his parents' tendency to evaluate their worth in terms of how much money they have has turned him against materialism. Chris burns his cash, a sign of his anger at his parents' material values.

Chris also feels betrayed because his father had a second family he never revealed, causing Chris to feel his childhood was a lie. Like many young people, Chris is trying to break away from his parents and forge his own identity. This kind of separation is a natural impulse as a person matures.

Chris's family doesn't feel the same anger towards him. They feel love and concern. His parents even go so far as to hire a private detective to try to find him, a controlling...

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