What precisely was McCandless from Into the Wild? Use one of Krakauer's terms or use your own.

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Jonathan Beutlich eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The answer to this question is completely dependent on the reader. I've had readers say that McCandless was a romantic, an adventurer, or a naturalist. I've also had readers tell me that McCandless was an ignoramus, a loner, a fool, or an anti-establishment rebel.

Gallien asked whether he had a hunting license. “Hell, no,” Alex scoffed. “How I feed myself is none of the government’s business. Fuck their stupid rules.”

I believe that each one of those could be effectively supported with evidence from the text. McCandless is no doubt okay with being alone. Much of Krakauer's account clearly shows that McCandless preferred being by himself in wild locations like the backwoods of Alaska or the deserts of the American southwest. McCandless prefers solitude over company; however, McCandless isn't averse to being around people. He is completely capable of carrying himself in conversation and being emotionally fed from good company. It's why he continually returns to Westerberg and spends so much time with Franz.

I suppose if had to pick a single term that described McCandless, I would pick "individualist." That term encompasses the positive and negative aspects of McCandless. He does what he wants to do when he wants to do it. He was a living example of carpe diem. He listened to other people and acknowledged their advice, but when it came down to it, McCandless was going to do what he thought was in his best interest. McCandless was like this his entire life, and even his third grade teacher recognized this fact.

His teacher pulled us aside and told us that "Chris marches to a different drummer."

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McKinstry Rose eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Chris McCandless can be categorized as a Romantic. Krakauer describes McCandless as idolizing writers such as Thoreau and Emerson (Transcendentalists). However, McCandless does not share Thoreau's and Emerson's optimistic view of human nature (consider how he viewed his parents and many other humans with whom he came in contact).

American Romanticism emphasizes the purity of nature and its power to teach humans life lessons. McCandless certainly demonstrates this quality. Not only did he want to go into the Alaskan wilderness to test himself, but according to Krakauer, he also showed a desire to want to learn as much as he could from the wilderness. Similarly, Romantics believe in the power of the individual, and McCandless--on numerous occasions--proved that he wanted to "go it alone." At times, he accepted help from others, but apparently did so only to be able to achieve his goal of entering the wild by himself. He truly seemed to believe that he would be able to conquer nature.

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rareynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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There are a lot of terms that can be used to describe McCandless. My favorite one from the book is how Jim Gallien, who gave Chris a ride to the trailhead in Alaska, described Chris as “excited.” Chris’s excitement at finally living his dream of an “Alaskan adventure” had to do with his desire to be apart from other people—to leave the petty trivialities and emotional entanglements of life in society behind for the purer and simpler life in the bush. There is also the sense that Chris, ever the high achiever, felt that this was a kind of ultimate test, a way to demonstrate to himself and others that he could make it on his own. Chris felt that nature was a teacher and that, like any good student, he would be able to “master“ what it had to teach.

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rmccombs87 | Student

Christopher McCandless, the main protagonist of Jon Krakauer' book "Into the Wild" was described by the author as an "innocent" and "ascetic".

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