What was Chris McCandless from Into The Wild like as a child?

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Chris McCandless was a stubborn and wilful child, with a taste for adventure even from an early age. In Chapter 11,  it is revealed that he had taken himself in to a neighbor’s house in the middle of the night without waking his parents or arousing any suspicion.

Chris did not want to conform to the norms of society even as a child, and seemed to reject the academic success that defined his father and which brought his parents such pleasure. When identified for an accelerated programme, Chris fought against the decision and tried everything he could to escape the label of ‘gifted’ and the responsibility which came with it. It is telling that a teacher at the time identified a key trait of Chris McCandless’ character-

Chris marches to a different  drummer.

He was in awe of his grandfather, Loren Johnson, and inherited his love of the wilderness and free spirit.  An account of an aborted climbing trip in the Rocky mountains with his father was an early indicator that Chris felt he had some sort of invincibility-

“He didn’t think the odds applied to him. We were always trying to pull him back from the edge.”


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Chris McCandless was the son of Walt and Wilhelmina McCandless.  He grew up in an affluent neighborhood in Annandale, Virginia and had a fairly well-adjusted childhood.  He was athletic and determined.  In high school, he was the captain of his cross country team.  He graduated from W.T. Woodson High School and went to Emory University in Atlanta, GA, where he majored in history and anthropology.  According the book, he was considered abnormally strong-willed and stubborn as a child, always wanting to push boundaries. 

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