What is a good thesis statement for the book Into the Wild?

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Krakauer's book emerged out of an article for he wrote about Chris McCandless's death that created a hot debate over whether McCandless was a fool or a sage. Audiences were divided: some argued that Chris was a greenhorn who deserved to die because he went ill equipped into the Alaska...

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Krakauer's book emerged out of an article for he wrote about Chris McCandless's death that created a hot debate over whether McCandless was a fool or a sage. Audiences were divided: some argued that Chris was a greenhorn who deserved to die because he went ill equipped into the Alaska wilderness—some on this side of the divide even argued he had a suicide wish. The other camp asserted just as strongly that Chris was on a search for self, made decent preparations according to his goals, and died because he met with an unfortunate series of circumstances.

Since a thesis statement must be arguable—that is, stating an opinion—a good thesis would come down on one side of this divide or the other. Krakauer very clearly defends Chris and feels he was a sage. Do you agree? Or after weighing the evidence in the book, do you think that Chris truly behaved foolishly, despite have good intentions?

Whichever one you choose, marshal your evidence and gather quotes from the book to support you argument. You might say the following as a thesis: "Although Chris McCandless made some mistake in preparing for the Alaskan wilderness, in the end, it was bad luck, not bad planning, that caused his death." On the other side of the divide is the following thesis: "Chris had a good heart, but in the end the evidence shows he simply didn't adequately prepare for what he had to face because he had survived too often on slim margins and became careless."

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Into the Wild is basically a cautionary tale of what not to do in the wild. The people that Jon Krakauer profiles, mostly as adjuncts to the central figure of Chris McCandless, go into the wild but they do not emerge. Lack of preparation, underestimating the difficulties, inadequate food, and some just plain bad luck combine to end their journeys, some would say tragically. A thesis statement might address those commonalities and the negative consequences of their actions.

Yet all of these adventurers are also some variant of quintessentially American types—and many would argue, human types going back at least to Odysseus of ancient Greece. One way to approach this book is to decide what the various men have in common. It seems fairly easy to think about what they are leaving behind, as they all reject civilization in some way. But where are they going? Is their leaving civilization behind simply a form of escapism? A different thesis statement might be concerned with motivations as Krakauer explores them.

Krakauer shows various motives for the distinct individuals. You might consider if personal motives, religious beliefs, or masculine identity issues are common bonds between them (or something else entirely). In contrast to the individuals, the author points out how the idea of the wild has had a hold on the American consciousness. Henry David Thoreau’s views on the wild, for example, motivated some of them.

That which is "wild" is also "bewildering…." To apprehend [nature], we cannot be naked enough. In Wildness is the preservation of the world.

Perhaps his views are still valid, but not everyone would agree.

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In an "Author's Note" preceding the tale of Christopher McCandless, who forwent all the opportunities of the "American Dream," forsaking the promise of a lucrative career in exchange for a life of zero material comforts and a constant risk of disease and death by starvation or exposure, Jon Krakauer summed up his protagonist's life as follows:

"Immediately after graduating, with honors, from Emory University in the summer of 1990, McCandless dropped out of sight. He changed his name, gave the entire balance of a twenty-four-thousand-dollar savings account to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet. And then he invented a new life for himself, taking up residence at the ragged margin of our society, wandering across North America in search of raw, transcendent experience."

When formulating a thesis statement for Into the Wild, then, one would logically begin with that observation regarding the decisions McCandless made that shaped and prematurely ended his life.  Chris McCandless, for reasons ultimately known only to him, was dissatisfied with the way his life was evolving within the conventional confines of society.  He eschewed ambition and materialism in favor of living as close to nature and as far removed form society as he possibly could.  He was alienated from his parents, who loved him, but who could never truly understand him.  A thesis statement, therefore, could read as follows: "Christopher McCandless rejected the American Dream as traditionally defined and sought a more emotionally fulfilling existence in the wilds of Alaska.  His demise from starvation or accidental poisoning was the result of underestimating the scale of distinction between "civilization" and the uncivilized wilds into which he retreated."

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As a writing teacher, I'm forever imploring my students to formulate their thesis statements in a positive way. In other words, think of a thesis statement in terms of a "position statement" or "opinion statement" (as thesis statements are also referred to). The thesis statement must put forth in a clear manner what position you are about to argue. The thesis statement must not be ambiguous. It must be an opinion (your opinion) on the subject that you will support with evidence (details, examples, quotes, etc.)

In the case of Into the Wild, a Wgood thesis statement might look something like, "In the story, Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer, the main character, Chris McCandless relinquished all ties to his 'world' because he had become disillusioned with his place in society."

And then, you'd spend the rest of your piece supporting that notion.

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