Into the Wild Questions and Answers
by Jon Krakauer

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

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Krakauer mentions these men in an attempt to better understand McCandless's motivations. These men were similar in that they all went into the wilderness alone and eventually died, but their reasons for doing so were quite different. Unlike Rosselini, the "mayor of hippy cove" who was engaged in a kind of "experiment" to see if it was possible to live as a Stone Age person, McCandless was not trying to "prove" anything. Unlike Waterman, whose determination to make a solo ascent of Denali was the result of extreme emotional trauma, McCandless was not mentally ill. And unlike McCunn, who was airlifted into the bush and "forgot" to arrange for a return flight, McCandless was not incompetent.

Perhaps the best comparison to McCandless was Ruess, who, like McCandless, came from a privileged background and was seduced by the beauty of the Utah wilderness. While it is unclear how Ruess died, it seems clear that, like McCandless, Ruess's deep affinity for natural beauty caused him lose sight of...

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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.