Into the Wild Questions and Answers
by Jon Krakauer

Into the Wild book cover
Start Your Free Trial

In Krakauer's Into the Wild, does Chris McCandless ever change? For example, do his personality, attitude, or beliefs ever change?   

Expert Answers info

Jonathan Beutlich, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12), Professional Writer

bookB.A. from Calvin University

bookM.A. from Dordt University

calendarEducator since 2014

write6,379 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Science, and History

The question is basically asking if Chris McCandless is a dynamic character.  In general, I would say that McCandless is not a dynamic character.  He really never displays any huge character growth or change over the course of the novel.  Keep in mind that Into the Wild is Krakauer's interpretation of McCandless and what happened to him.  It's possible that McCandless's personality changed a great deal at one point, but McCandless was by himself so often that drastic character changes were never witnessed.  

Throughout the novel, McCandless is portrayed as self-confident, focused, passionate, friendly, intelligent, and at times rash.  In general, McCandless is also averse to asking for help.  

The question above does ask if McCandless ever changes.  If I'm 100% honest, then I have to say yes, McCandless does...

(The entire section contains 441 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

lwinfield | Student

The question is asking whether or not the book shows Chris going through any sort of major change. Since readers get a view of Chris's personality through anecdotes with his family members and people he interacted with during his two year journey on the road to Alaska (as well as excerpts from his journal and passages highlighted by McCandless in his books) it is difficult to determine if he does go through a major change during his journey. There is not much evidence towards Chris's development as a person until the very end of the book once Chris has been in Alaska for a few months. Chris eventually comes to the conclusion that he needs others to be truly happy which is contradictory to his independent nature.

Throughout the book, Chris's personality is portrayed as extremely independent and sometimes impulsive. Chris also quickly developed friendships throughout his journey but often left before he got too close to people rather than staying in one place for a long period of time. Krakauer writes about Chris leaving Ron Franz with a sense of relief, "that he had again evaded the impending threat of human intimacy, of friendship, and all the messy emotional baggage that comes with it." (Krakauer 55) Ron and Chris had become very close, very quickly. Ron treated Chris like a son, but as soon as things between them became serious Chris decided it was best he went on his way. Ron asked Chris if he could adopt him shortly before he leaves. This shows how close the two had become. Chris is quite uncomfortable with this request and rather than giving Ron a direct answer he asks if they can discuss it when he gets back from Alaska. This shows that Chris was willing to become close to people, but only on his own terms, "flitting out of their lives before anything was expected of him" (Krakauer 56). Again, Chris was willing and able to develop close friendships, but he was not willing to sacrifice his individual plans to fulfill any duties true friendship requires. This aspect of his personality portrayed through his interactions with others gives readers evidence that his independence and freedom from social relationships was a major priority in his life.

Despite his extreme need for independence, Chris realizes (after being in Alaska for a few months)he needs and wants human contact and decides to leave the bus. This is clear from the passages highlighted in his books, especially a quote from Tolstoy's "Family Happiness":

He was right in saying that the only certain happiness in life is to live for others...(Krakauer 168).

Here, it is clear that Chris's mindset is changing. Rather than being solitary and finding happiness from independence of the human world, Chris is realizing that he needs others. In Ch. 18 of Into the Wild, Krakauer mentions how Chris had written "HAPPINESS IS ONLY REAL WHEN SHARED" in the margins of Doctor Zhivago as he was reading the book while he was becoming weaker and weaker each day from malnutrition and poisoning from the mold on the potato seeds.