Into the Wild Questions and Answers
by Jon Krakauer

Into the Wild book cover
Start Your Free Trial

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.

Expert Answers info

Steph Müller eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2018

write879 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Business, and Social Sciences

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.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2016

write10,944 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

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 act but also one that reveals their caring for their son.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Michael Ugulini eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2012

write607 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Business, and History

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.

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

dymatsuoka eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2007

write3,287 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Math

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.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial