In Into the Wild, what are some quotes that support the idea that Chris McCandless is foolish?

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The opening interactions between Chris McCandless and Jim Gallien hold some solid quotes that support the idea that McCandless is more foolish than adventurous. Readers are told that Gallien is an accomplished woodsman, so he knows how to survive in the Alaskan wilderness, and he knows that it is a difficult thing. One of things that Gallien reported to author John Krakauer is that McCandless was not properly equipped for the sort of "adventure" that McCandless was hoping for:

“He wasn’t carrying anywhere near as much food and gear as you’d expect a guy to be carrying for that kind of trip,” Gallien recalls.

Gallien points this out to McCandless and even offers to drive him into town and help him properly supply. McCandless is so foolish and set upon the idea that he will be fine that McCandless turns down the offer:

Gallien offered to drive Alex all the way to Anchorage, buy him some decent gear, and then drive him back to wherever he wanted to go.

“No, thanks anyway,” Alex replied, “I’ll be fine with what I’ve got.”

Obviously, McCandless was not fine with what he had, and by the end of the novel, even Krakauer is somewhat accusatory of McCandless being foolish. Krakauer goes on to explain that besides lacking the proper clothing, footwear and hunting equipment, McCandless was foolish enough to enter the Alaskan wilderness without a proper map. We are told in the Gallien exchange that McCandless had a simple road map, but that was hardly useful in the Alaskan wilderness. What McCandless should have had was a topographic map of the area. Krakauer believes that if McCandless had that simple item, he likely would have been able to survive his ordeal:

Because he had no topographic map, however, he had no way of conceiving that salvation was so close at hand....

Thinking that his escape route had been cut off, he returned to the bus—a reasonable course of action, given his topographical ignorance....

If McCandless had possessed a U.S. Geological Survey topographic map, it would have alerted him to the existence of a Park Service cabin on the upper Sushana River, six miles due south of the bus, a distance he might have been able to cover even in his severely weakened state.

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It is important to note that while quotes can be found that attack Chris as foolish for heading ill-equipped into the Alaskan wilderness, Krakauer's book is an apology for Chris. What this is means is that Krakauer, who admits that he identifies strongly with McCandless, wrote the book to justify Chris's actions. The book arises out of a debate that grew after Krakauer published his initial article about McCandless's death: was Chris a silly fool or wise sage who had bad luck? Krakauer comes down on the latter side of the equation. So while he quotes people who condemn Chris as foolish, he himself will counter these quotes with justifications or explanations of Chris's thinking.

That being said, several quotes that depict Chris as foolish are as follows: 

Gallien [who picked up the hitchhiking Chris in Alaska] thought the hitchhiker’s scheme was foolhardy and tried repeatedly to dissuade him: “I said the hunting wasn’t easy where he was going, that he could go for days without killing any game. When that didn’t work, I tried to scare him with bear stories. I told him that a twenty-two probably wouldn’t do anything to a grizzly except make him mad."

Gallien also says to him: "If you make it out alive, give me a call," suggesting that he thinks Chris is embarking on a foolish adventure."

Some people in Alaska likened Chris to an emblem of foolishness, Sir John Franklin. As Krakauer puts it, Chris

lacked certain pieces of equipment deemed essential by many Alaskans: a large-caliber rifle, map and compass, an ax. This has been regarded as evidence not just of stupidity but of the even greater sin of arrogance. Some critics have even drawn parallels between McCandless and the Arctic’s most infamous tragic figure, Sir John Franklin, a nineteenth-century British naval officer whose smugness and hauteur contributed to some 140 deaths, including his own.


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There is plenty of evidence in this great account of the life of Chris McCandless that could be used to suggest that he was very foolish. You might want to start off, however, by examining the first chapter very carefully. Gallien, who is an "accomplished hunter and woodsman" in Alaska, gives Chris a ride and comments that Chris had an:

...improbably light load for a stay of several months in the back-country, especially so early in the spring.

This causes Gallien to wonder about who actually Chris was. In his time, Gallien has seen a number of foolish young men who want to live out "ill-considered Jack London fantasies." However, when Gallien chats to Chris more, he discounts this, as Chris asks him a number of perceptive questions about his experience and what kind of natural foods he could find in the wilds of Alaska.

Although Gallien revises his opinion of Chris, he is still deeply concerned, as the following quote displays:

Alex admitted that the only food in his pack was a ten-pound bag of rice. His gear seemed exceedingly minimal for the harsh conditions of the interior, which in April still lay buried under the winter snowpack. Alex's cheap leather hiking boots were neither waterproof nor well insulated. His rifle was only .22 calibre, a bore too small to rely on if he expected to kill large animals like moose and caribou, which he would have to eat if he hoped to remain very long in the country. He had no axe, no bug dope, no snowshoes, no compass. The only navigational aid in his possession was a tattered state road map he'd scrounged at a gas station.

In spite of Chris's obvious intelligence, Alaska is still an "unforgiving place" where you are incredibly foolish to take the might and strength of nature for granted. Clearly, although Chris survived for so long by himself, he would not have perished if he had taken more precautions and prepared more effectively for his time in the wild. A map, as Krakauer later reveals, would have shown him how to cross the river that he felt trapped him in the wild.

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