Into the Wild Questions and Answers
by Jon Krakauer

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Was Chris McCandless a visionary hero or a fool? How did stubbornness contribute to his death?

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The central question about McCandless is exactly the one you ask—was he a visionary, or a fool? There is no simple answer to this, other than to say he was a little bit of both. I think McCandless very much thought he was following a dream, and that his adventure in the wilderness would be transformative in a spiritual way. That is, his decision to retreat to Alaska is driven in part by his anger at his parents, particularly his father, who McCandless saw as a liar and hypocrite, and by a belief, fueled by his reading of Thoreau and Tolstoy, that self-reliance could purify his spirit, grant him greater self-knowledge, and bring him some measure of inner peace.

On the other hand, McCandless can also be seen as emblematic of a certain kind of hubris . He truly believes that he can survive in the wild. Partly, his self-confidence comes from his youth—when you are twenty, you think you can handle anything—and partly from a certain kind of middle class privilege. Whatever McCandless...

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