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

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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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Into the Wild

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