In Into the Wild, what did Chris learn about his family on his first trip across the country and how did this knowledge affect him?

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sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

McCandless learned that his father had been living a double life with two women and two families. Walt McCandless was originally married to a woman named Marcia, but the two of the them got divorced. Walt then remarried a woman named Billie; however, Walt continued to have a sexual relationship with Marcia. After fathering Chris McCandless with Billie, Walt fathered another child with Marcia two years later.

Walt's actions didn't just hurt Chris McCandless. They hurt everybody involved.

When Walt’s double life came to light, the revelations inflicted deep wounds. All parties suffered terribly.

Unfortunately, Chris McCandless simply couldn't respond the same way that everybody else responded. His rage turned inward, and he grew more and more distant from his family while at the same time distancing himself from his friends at college.

But he did not confront his parents with what he knew, then or ever. He chose instead to make a secret of his dark knowledge and express his rage obliquely, in silence and sullen withdrawal.

McCandless began to became enraged at what he saw as injustices around the world.

In 1988, as Chris’s resentment of his parents hardened, his sense of outrage over injustice in the world at large grew.

Once the semester ended, McCandless couldn't bring himself to go back to his family for the summer. He harbored too much anger and resentment about his father's actions, so instead, McCandless began taking long, solo road trips to various parts of the world. He had very little contact with anybody. . . especially his own family.

To his dwindling number of confreres, McCandless appeared to grow more intense with each passing month. As soon as classes ended in the spring of 1989, Chris took his Datsun on another prolonged, extemporaneous road trip. “We only got two cards from him the whole summer,” says Walt.

dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

During his first trip across the country, Chris visited the Southern California neighborhood where he grew up and met up with some old family friends.  From these friends he learned the details of his father Walt's messy divorce from his first wife Marcia.  Walt had continued his relationship with Marcia long after he began his relationship with Billie, Chris's mother.  Walt had led a secret double life for a time, going back and forth between two households, and had fathered a child with Marcia two years after Chris was born.

Although he never let on to his parents that he knew the truth, Chris brooded over what he considered to be his father's duplicity and betrayal for years.  He told his sister Carine that this knowledge made "his entire childhood seem like a fiction".  There is little doubt that Chris's discovery about his father's secret life festered inside him, fueling the otherwise seemingly inexplicable rage and resentment he felt toward his family, and leading to his finally shutting them out completely from his life (Chapter 12).

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Into the Wild

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