Ronald Frankz and McCandless establish a father-son type of relationship in Into the Wild. Identify one benefit or drawback that each gets out of the relationship.

Expert Answers
sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For McCandless, he gets a sort of surrogate father out of Franz.  It's not that McCandless doesn't have a caring father.  He does.  But in McCandless's opinion, his own father is a hypocrite and somebody that tries to control McCandless.  McCandless doesn't like anybody trying to exert control over him.  Franz fills that fatherly role, because Franz will simply sit and listen to him and only give advice when asked.  Franz also functions as a sort of confidant for McCandless.  Franz does financially help McCandless out in small ways too.  Unfortunately, McCandless begins to feel that Franz attempts to reign in his wandering tendencies.  When that happens, McCandless does what he always does when people want him to stay.  He leaves.  

Franz gets an equal amount of benefit out of McCandless as well.  When the reader meets Franz, it's clear that he is an incredibly lonely man.  But in addition to his loneliness, Franz is a deeply generous man.  He sponsors all sorts of wandering souls, which is why he gravitates toward helping McCandless.  Franz gets a friend out of the deal and someone to help him pass the time.  McCandless also gives Franz a sort of hope, because even though McCandless might be gone off wandering, Franz still deeply looks forward to getting mail from McCandless.  Unfortunately, the connection is so deep for Franz, that when he learns of McCandless's death, he is driven toward a perpetual state of drunkenness.  

teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Franz is an 80-something army veteran and recovering alcoholic who Chris McCandless meets on the road. They benefit each other in several ways. Franz is one of the few people McCandless will accept physical help from: Franz drives him places and buys him food. But far more important to each is the relationship they form. Franz is a person McCandless trusts enough to pour his heart out to, writing him a long letter from South Dakota. In this letter, he seems to sort out his thoughts as much for himself as for Franz. Franz thus acts as a muse for McCandless. Chris writes the following to Franz:

The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure . . . Ron, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life . . . make each day a new horizon.

If Franz benefits Chris as a muse, a father figure, and a friend he can trust, Franz gets a new lease on life from his friendship with the energetic and charismatic 20-something Chris. While others might chafe at being lectured by a much younger person about how to live life, Franz values his kinship with the younger man and wants to adopt him as a grandson. Under Chris's influence, Franz buys a camper and moves for eight months to the abandoned camp site at Salton Sea, awaiting Chris's return. The chief benefit each derives from the other is friendship with a kindred spirit.

dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

McCandless fills a void in Franz's life.  The old man is bitterly lonely, having lost his wife and only child in an accident, and he enjoys McCandless's company with "an affection (that) was genuine, intense, and unalloyed".  Unfortunately, when McCandless leaves, Franz is deeply hurt, and when the young man dies he is so thoroughly embittered that he renounces his faith in God and begins drinking again.

In Ronald Franz, McCandless finds someone in whom he can confide, to whom he can vent his anger at "his parents or politicians or... mainstream life".  Franz learns quickly that it is best just to say little and just listen when McCandless becomes agitated, so as not to alienate the boy.  Franz loves McCandless unconditionally.

(All quotes from Chapter 6)

Read the study guide:
Into the Wild

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question