What type of writing style does Jon Krakauer use in Into the Wild?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Into the Wild, author Jon Krakauer depicts the story of a young man named Chris McCandless, who ventured into the wild of Alaska to live off the land, only to be found starved to death four months later. While the story of exactly what Chris went through while in the wild cannot be told since Chris was all by himself, Krakauer instead sets out to describe Chris's life and to make sense of Chris's desires by paralleling it with the author's own desire to climb Devils Thumb, a mountain in Alaska.

Krakauer uses several stylistic devices to convey Chris's obvious inexperience and the insanity of his idea, and we can start to see those stylistic devices in even the very first chapter. One example of a stylistic devices can be seen in Krakauer's use of third-person narration to describe both Chris's intentions and people's reactions to what he intended to do, such as Gallien's reaction, the union electrician who picked Chris up hitchhiking on George Parks Highway. A second example of a stylistic device concerns the careful diction Krakauer uses to express Gallien's reaction.

In the first chapter, Krakauer takes time using third-person narration to give the reader an initial impression, the same impression Gallien had, of who Chris was and what he planned to do, that he wanted to be taken as far as the "edge of Denali National Park, where he intended to walk deep into the bush and 'live off the land for a few months.'" The "bush" refers to any area in the Alaskan wilderness that is unpaved with roadways. The use of third-person narration creates distance between the reader and both Gallien and Chris, allowing the reader to observe the experience from a more objective standpoint. Hence, even though Krakauer is portraying Chris's venture as ultimately foolish, it's clear he is also trying to portray objectively through third-person narration, like a jouranlist.

Krakauer also uses careful diction to portray Gallien as being far more experienced in such ventures than Chris and to portray Gallien's thoughts that the idea was insane. For example, Krakauer is very careful to note that Gallien is not just a "hunter and woodsman" but an "accomplished hunter and woodsman" to show that Gallien is far more experienced in being in the Alaskan outdoors than Chris. He also uses careful diction to note that Gallien is shocked to see Alex carrying a backpack that weighs "only twenty-five or thirty pounds" and a rifle to show just how much Gallien is convinced Chris is unprepared for venture he is attempting. Expressing Gallien's shock also serves to foreshadow any upcoming doom for Chris.

Throughout the rest of the book, Krakauer continues to use vivid third-person narration and careful diction, along with other stylistic devices, in order to explain Chris's history and to make sense of Chris's decision.

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