Although Krakauer does try to maintain a certain objectivity in examining Chris McCandless' life and death, I think that his own convictions on the subject begin to be evident even in the introduction. Krakauer describes Chris as "an extremely intense young man...(with) a streak of stubborn idealism that did not mesh readily with modern existence". Long a follower of Leo Tolstoy's philosophy of forsaking "wealth and privilege to wander among the destitute...McCandless began emulating Tolstoy's asceticism and moral rigor to a degree that...astonished...those who were close to him". When he set off into the wild, "he entertained no illusions...peril, adversity, and Tolstoyan renunciation were precisely what he was seeking". Krakauer points out that for most of his sixteen-week ordeal, Chris McCandless "more than held his own", and that had it not been for a couple of "seemingly insignificant blunders, he would have walked out of the woods as anonymously as he had walked into them...instead, his innocent mistakes turned out to be pivotal".
Krakauer recognizes that to some, McCandless' actions will be the subject of admiration, while to others, he will be viewed as "a reckless idiot, a wacko, a narcissist who perished out of arrogance and stupidity". Although he does a good job of examining the story from all angles, I think it becomes clear as the narrative progresses that Krakauer, who as a youth shared a sense of adventure, rebellion, and wanderlust similar to the subject of his book, sees McCandless as a character who can be admired "for his courage and noble ideals".