In Into the Wild, what early influences may have led Christopher McCandless to strike out on his daring odysseys across the U.S.?

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drjrjherbert eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are lots of answers to this question, both positive and negative influences that inspired the decision to take the series of journeys that led to his death. On the negative side, clearly McCandless wanted to sever his connections with his family. As Krakauer notes, 'Chris's resentment of his parents hardened', in part due to their arguments and his father's earlier divorce but, moreover due to their wealth and his increasing discontent with 'inequities in the distribution of wealth'. The latter feeling perhaps inspired McCandless towards leading a life where he could reinvent himself free from his own privileged background. This would seem to explain why, while giving away his inheritance to OXFAM and burning the last of his expendable income, along with abandoning his car, he was willing to work for money, both at McDonald's and for Wayne Westerberg. In this sense, McCandless's frugality might be explained in part by his reading. In his time with Jan Burres, she describes his fixation with Jack London as a formative influence on his life, particularly The Call of the Wild, something that Krakauer confirms in his statement that McCandless was 'infatuated with London' in part due to his 'fervent condemnation of capitalist society' allied to his veneration of wilderness. In the opening of Chapter Two, the first epigraph to the chapter quotes 'Jack London is King' as a quotation carved by McCandless on a piece of wood found in the bus alongside his body. McCandless is also described as having a considerable appetite for endurance, typified in his devotion to cross-country running as 'an intensely spiritual exercise'. This capacity for enduring hardship and physical exertion, allied to his desire to be isolated, authentic and self-sufficient in his lifestyle all seem to have inspired McCandless's journeys. 

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Into the Wild

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