Into The Wild Setting

What are two major settings from the book Into the Wild?

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Because Chris traveled so much, it is hard to pin down major settings aside from his final destination in Alaska, his "Great Alaskan Odyssey," where he went to test his ability to survive alone for an extended period of time.

Another setting that comes to mind, however, is the Slabs,...

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Because Chris traveled so much, it is hard to pin down major settings aside from his final destination in Alaska, his "Great Alaskan Odyssey," where he went to test his ability to survive alone for an extended period of time.

Another setting that comes to mind, however, is the Slabs, where Alex spent a week with Jan and Bob. It is described by Krakauer as a:

bizarre encampment, where some two hundred people had gathered to spend the winter living out of their vehicles. The community was beyond the fringe, a vision of post-apocalypse America. There were families sheltered in cheap tent trailers, aging hippies in Day-Glo vans, Charles Manson look-alikes sleeping in rusted-out Studebakers that hadn’t turned over since Eisenhower was in the White House.

Here, Chris, who wanted to get away the phoniness of typical American society, helped Jan sell books at a giant flea market/swap meet on the desert. They became close, and she became a mother figure of sorts to him. In this setting, we see much of who Chris was: a person passionate about literature who tried to get people to read good books, a person set on going to Alaska, and a social person, who went out of his way to be friendly, as if, Burres recalled, he needed to store up sociality for his time alone. Burres also remembers him revealing his musical ability by playing a portable electric organ:

He had an amazing voice. He drew quite a crowd. Until then I never knew he was musical.

Chris let his playful side out there, doing things such as clipping clothes pins all over Burres while she was hanging wash. But also characteristic of Chris, he sidestepped a relationship with a teenage girl who fell in love with him and soon went on his way again.

Another important setting was Chris's solo canoe trip down the Colorado River into Mexico, which he recorded in his journal. He managed by himself in the wilderness but notably almost died in a flood and also lived on very little food, losing a tremendous amount of weight. He nevertheless felt exhilarated by his ability to survive on his own. This trip foreshadows Chris's more fateful journey to Alaska. He had learned he could take risks, almost die, and yet survive: this made him feel optimistic he could also survive in Alaska—perhaps not the best takeaway from his adventure.

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While every setting described was of major importance in the life of Chris McCandless, the two most important are the Magic Bus in Alaska, and the Carthage Grain Elevator of Wayne Westerberg.

Obviously, the abandoned bus where Chris lived and ultimately died is important; Krakauer describes both the bus and the surrounding landscape with great detail, explaining how Chris lived by hunting and foraging. The bus itself takes on a character of its own, reflecting Chris's own growth in the changes he made to its interior. Krakauer writes:

Looking up, I notice that the sheet-metal walls of the vehicle are covered with graffiti left by numerous visitors... The longest, most eloquent graffito is one of several inscribed by McCandless...: TWO YEARS HE WALKS THE EARTH. NO PHONE, NO POOL, NO PETS, NO CIGARETTES. ULTIMATE FREEDOM. AN EXTREMIST. AN AESTHETIC VOYAGER WHOSE HOME IS THE ROAD....
(Krakaur, Into the Wild, amazon.com)

This bus has become a sort of pilgrimage spot for travelers who are  touched by Chris's story, and remains virtually undisturbed (although someone did steal a pair of Chris's personal boots left on the bus).

The other major setting is the grain elevator of Wayne Westerberg. More than anyone else in the book, save perhaps Ron Franz, Wayne developed a rapport with Chris, and felt a distinct kinship with him (Wayne was also the person to positively identify Chris's body). Wayne was one of the last people to offer Chris shelter and work, and so his life in Carthage is described with joy and warmth, a place of safe harbor where Chris was unafraid to express himself. The physical labor of the grain elevator was ideally suited to Chris, who like to work for real, demonstrable gains; Krakauer describes the hard labor and how Chris found his friendships with other workers enhanced by this shared experience; Chris would have probably returned there, had he lived.

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