Was Chris McCandless's escape into the wild really a painless transition for anyone, including him?
Chris McCandless caused both physical and emotional pain by his decision to go into the wild. The physical pain was his own, though it was balanced by an emotional freedom that he joyfully experienced. The final words he wrote – before crawling into his sleeping bag where he would be found dead 19 days later – shows he did not feel pain at the end of his life:
I HAVE HAD A HAPPY LIFE AND THANK THE LORD. GOODBYE AND MAY GOD BLESS ALL!
However, the pain which Chris McCandless caused others was emotional – and deep. He was survived by his parents and sister who each continue to mourn his passing and question the futility of his actions.
The best illustration of the pain McCandless inflicted was on Ronald Franz. A man in his eighties who had lost his family in a tragic accident, Franz is so protective of McCandless that he wants to adopt him. Once McCandless leaves for his adventure, Franz follows the advice McCandless gave him about changing his sedentary lifestyle.
Krakauer clearly explains how the relationship profoundly affected Franz-
One can only speculate about why Franz became so attached to McCandless so quickly, but the affection he felt was genuine, intense and unalloyed. Franz had been living a solitary existence for many years…When McCandless came into his world, however, the boy undermined the old man’s meticulously constructed defenses.
McCandless left Franz, and everyone else who offered him love behind. His passing affected those close to him, and those like him.