Into the Wild Questions and Answers
by Jon Krakauer

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What is the main idea of Into the Wild?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Jon Krakauer chronicles the adventures of a unique, enthusiastic young man named Chris McCandless, also known as Alexander Supertramp, as he hitchhikes throughout the western United States before traveling to Alaska, where he hikes the Stampede Trail and inhabits a bus along the Teklanika River before tragically dying after 114 days in the wilderness.

Chris McCandless hailed from Virginia and grew up in a wealthy suburban home. As Chris grew older, he became extremely interested in social issues that plagued the world and started to become distant from his parents. In college, Chris became increasingly ascetic and was enthralled by the writings of Thoreau, Tolstoy, and Jack London. After earning his degree, Chris donated his life saving to the OXFAM charity and traveled throughout the southwest embarking on several journeys into the desert. Throughout his journeys, Chris befriends numerous people and stops at various locations to work in order to fund his great Alaskan adventure.

After living a short time in Carthage, South Dakota, Chris hitchhikes to Fairbanks, Alaska, where Jim Gallien gives him a ride and drops him off at the edge of Denali National Park. Along with explaining Chris McCandless's adventures, Jon Krakauer explores the reason Chris entered the bush alone and ill-prepared. In an attempt to completely reject capitalism and become closer to nature, Chris was inspired by the writings of Thoreau, Tolstoy, and Jack London to have a transformative experience in the natural world. Jon Krakauer also analyzes Chris's motivations by closely comparing him to other adventurous and seemingly reckless men, including himself.

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amswain1 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Chris McCandless, aka Alexander Supertramp, experiences various enlightening moments that unfold the main idea in the novel, "Into the Wild".  Jon Krakauer clearly portrays this main idea of his novel:  a young man attempts to find true happiness through solitude and nature, instead of finding it in society.  Throughout the text, Chris interacts with characters that differ in lifestyle, particular views about life and society, age, gender, and motives.  The more Chris travels, the more his ambition to enter the "wild" is validated.  He has several contemplations that challenge his departure, but the amount of sadness and dysfunction among humans only pushes him further away from society.  The ending events challenge his aspiration to be alone in nature as he is challenged psychologically and physically.

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