In "Into the Wild", what similarities and differences do you see between Chris and Ruess, Waterman, McCunn, and Rossellini?

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kiwi | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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The main similarities between these men and MCandless is their single-minded determination to conquer some aspect of nature and of themselves.

Krakauer explains the reasons for highlighting the stories of these other adventurers-

 Some insight into the tragedy of Chris McCandless can be gained by studying predecessors cut from the same exotic cloth.

Carl McGunn kept a journal where he detailed his decline before taking his own life. Waterman was undoubtedly deeply affected by his parents’ divorce just like McCandless struggled to cope with his own complex family relationships. Ruess’ letters were very like those which McCandless sent as he travelled, and both were described as “reckless” by people they encountered. Rosselini equalled if not exceeded the intelligence of McCandless. Krakauer notes in Chapter 8-

Like Rossellini and Waterman, McCandless was a seeker and had an impractical fascination with the harsh side of nature. Like Waterman and McGunn, he displayed a staggering paucity of common sense.


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sciftw | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Author Jon Krakauer attempts to describe other men of similar qualities to Chris McCandless in chapters 8 and 9 of Into the Wild.  

Chapter 8 focuses on Gene Rossellini, John Waterman, and Carl McGunn. The similarities between those three men and Chris are small.  Mainly those three are men that sought solitude in the Alaskan wilderness and died.  That's what happened to Chris as well.  While all three men bear some similarities to Chris, Krakauer admits that they were still not enough like Chris to fully understand what might have made Chris "tick."  

There are similarities among Rosellini, Waterman, McCunn, and McCandless. Like Rosellini and Waterman, McCandless was a seeker and had an impractical fascination with the harsh side of nature. Like Waterman and McCunn, he displayed a staggering paucity of common sense. But unlike Waterman, McCandless wasn’t mentally ill. And unlike McCunn, he didn’t go into the bush assuming someone would automatically appear to save his bacon before he came to grief.

Krakauer tells his readers that in order to better understand Chris, he needs to inform readers about Everett Ruess.  

Some insight into the tragedy of Chris McCandless can be gained by studying predecessors cut from the same exotic cloth. And in order to do that, one must look beyond Alaska, to the bald-rock canyons of southern Utah. There, in 1934, a peculiar twenty-year-old boy walked into the desert and never came out. His name was Everett Ruess.

Ruess and Chris are unbelievably similar in a variety of ways.  Both men began their solitary journey as young men.  Both men also didn't shy away from rough, rugged, and harsh conditions.  

Also like McCandless, Ruess was undeterred by physical discomfort; at times he seemed to welcome it.

Both men had a habit of taking on aliases during their travels.  Chris often told people that his name was Alex, and he had a habit of signing his stuff "Supertramp."  Both men enjoyed their solitude, but both men didn't shy away from friendly companionship either.  They simply didn't tolerate it for very long.  

We like companionship, see, but we can’t stand to be around people for very long. So we go get ourselves lost, come back for a while, then get the hell out again. And that’s what Everett was doing.

Personality wise, Ruess and McCandless are cut from the same cloth.  The only difference that I can think of, based on Krakauer's text, is not a personality difference.  We know what happened to McCandless.  His body was found.  Ruess's body was never found. 

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kandi125 | High School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

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1. After venturing into the wild, Chris, Ruess, Waterman, McCunn, and Rossellini started going by assumed names they had given themselves. 2. All of them left modern conveniences behind to experience nature and discover something more within themselves. 3. They all died in the wild. 4. Chris and McCunn seemed to have died from starvation and freezing temperatures.


1. Chris ventured into the wild to achieve spiritual growth, whereas Ruess wanted to wonder in the wild to experience the beauty of nature first-hand. Waterman, however, wanted to make a solo ascent on an untravelled path to Mt.Hunter, the south face of Denali. Rossellini went into the wild to live primitively without modern technology, but McCunn's journey into the wild was aimed at photographing wildlife.

2. Rossellini committed suicide, but Waterman is assumed to have fallen in a deep crack or crevice in the mountain. Ruess' cause of death is uncertain.


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