In Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild, why did Chris decide to settle down in Bullhead City? What significance did this city hold and why did it attract McCandless?

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cldbentley | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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In Chapter Five of Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild, the time that Chris McCandless spent in Bullhead City, Arizona is examined as much as possible.  Unfortunately, no one knows exactly what attracted McCandless, who went by his real name during his time in Bullhead City, to that place.  McCandless did end up spending at least two months in that location.

During his time in Bullhead City, McCandless adopted a "surprinsingly conventional existence, even going so far as to open a savings account at a local bank."  The young man was hired by McDonald's and was a good employee, except for the facts that he refused to work quickly, no matter how many customers were waiting, he hated to wear socks, and he had very poor hygience at first.  McCandless was even fortunate enough to be given a place to stay in "a house trailer, furnished, with some of the electric sockets working and a lot of living space."

 

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kipling2448 | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Early in Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer's book about Chris McCandless, the young man from the well-to-do family who eschewed materialism in favor of an itinerant life on the road, and who would die, apparently, of starvation, four months after arriving in the Alaskan wilderness, the author discusses the history of his subject's former automobile, an old Datsun (the manufacturer later renamed "Nissan"). The vehicle had ended up in the hands of a police department that used it in undercover narcotics operations. One of those arrested in an operation that included use of the car was a "high-volume methamphetamine dealer operating out of a trailer park in Bullhead City." The car had been traced to McCandless, who drove it from Atlanta to the Southwest, where he lived the itinerant existence of his peculiar dreams.

Chapter Five of Into the Wild is titled "Bullhead City." It is in this chapter, unsurprisingly given that title, that Krakauer discusses the geographical and cultural characteristics of Bullhead City, Arizona, leading one to conclude that it is a town noteworthy for two things: being across the Colorado River from the gambling mecca of Laughlin, Nevada, and for being otherwise nondescript and rather dull. Why McCandless would choose to settle there for a time is a mystery, but Krakauer suggests that it is Bullhead City's very ordinariness and relative remoteness that attracted this youthful wanderer. Noting, once again, his subject's antipathy for anything reeking of bourgeois consumerism and intellectual shallowness, citing McCandless's affinity for the writings of Thoreau and Tolstoy, Krakauer writes that this town, with its "haphazard sprawl of subdivisions and strip malls," would seem an unlikely place for Chris McCandless. The author, however, in contemplating the reason for McCandless's decision to spend as much time in Bullhead City as he did, states that maybe it was his subject's "affinity for the lumpen, who were well-represented in the community's trailer parks and campgrounds and laundromats; perhaps he simply fell in love with the stark desert landscape that encircles the town."

McCandless, of course, stayed in Bullhead City for two months before moving on to Alaska. One can only speculate on why he liked Bullhead City, but, for someone determined to live apart from mainstream, middle-class society, Bullhead City would be as appropriate as any place. The desert does attract its share of migrants, and the simplicity of life there is entirely consistent with what McCandless envisioned, if not his tenure in a McDonalds, the very epitome of American consumerism. An itinerant traveler could find a home in a place like Bullhead City, so why not spend a couple of months there while preparing for the next, fateful phase of his life?

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