What was Chris's relationship with his parents like?
Chris had a strained relationship with his parents and was estranged (alienated and separated) from them in the last few years of his life.
He rebelled and wanted a complete separation from them, so he left home without telling anyone, even his beloved sister, where he was going. He wanted to be free of their values. Though they eventually hired a private detective to try to find him, he eluded their grasp.
Chris principally rejected his parents' materialism. They had worked hard to build a successful business, and he believed they placed too much emphasis on money and material things. He believed his father, in particular, used money to control him. Chris went along with his parent's desires and graduated from Emory University, but as soon as he could, he broke away. He gave a $20,000 inheritance to Oxfam that his parents thought he would use to pay for law school. He burned his cash and abandoned his car. He worked on a farm and at McDonald's to earn what little income he needed.
Chris also rebelled against his parents by attempting to live honestly. He was upset that they had lied to him about being married when he was born and that they had kept information from him about another family that Chris's father had had with another wife.
Chris might have reconciled with his parents as he got older, but he died too soon.
Chris had a complicated relationship with his parents, particularly with his father, Walt. In Chapter 11 of Into The Wild, Krakauer describes Chris's childhood. Walt was a perfectionist, who pushed Chris hard to be the best, but as Chris grew into adolescence he began to resent his father's overbearing nature more and more. In many ways, Chris resembled his father; he too could be stubborn and a perfectionist. Chris was a straight-A student, an excellent musician, a natural athlete and top long distance runner. But, on page 111, Walt laments that Chris, despite his great natural abilities, was uncoachable: if you "tried to polish him, bring out that final 10%, a wall would go up." On the other hand, Chris paid a moving tribute to his father when he graduated from college, giving him a telescope and thanking his parents for their many sacrifices. Yet when he discovered that his father had maintained his relationship with his first wife, having a child with her after starting a family with Chris's mother, and that both parents had concealed this, Chris came to reject his parents. In fact, Krakauer says that, because of his father's deception, his "'entire childhood seemed like a deception.'"