Who are Jan and Bob in Into the Wild?

Jan and Bob in Into the Wild were a couple who befriended Chris McCandless in California. They kept in touch with Chris, and Chris spent some time with them in a desert community called the Slabs. They were part of the counter cultural world McCandless came to know, and they provide a window into some of the ways Chris spent his time on the road.

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Jan and Bob are “a pair of drifters” who happen upon Chris McCandless on US Highway 101. Jan becomes one of the few people who Chris McCandless writes to. Bob is her boyfriend.

We first meet Jan and Bob in chapter 4 of Into The Wild. The two have pulled over to look at their map when they notice Chris picking berries in a bush alongside the road. They offer Chris, who introduces himself as Alex, a ride, and he tells them about how he’s having “a big old adventure,” traversing the country and living on edible plants. Jan and Bob take Alex under their wing and take him with them to Orick Beach, where he camps with them for a week.

Over the course of the next two years, Alex would send the couple a postcard every couple of months, which initially surprised them, because they weren’t expecting to ever hear from him again.

Later, when the family is trying to piece together the journey that “Alexander Supertramp” went on, Jan Burres is one of the people able to fill in some of the blanks. Chris wrote to Jan, telling her that he spent July and August “on the Oregon Coast,” where he describes the fog and rain as difficult to live with. It is also thanks to his letters to Jan that the family learned how he came to be squatting in a vacant mobile home in Bullhead.

Later, when Chris sends another postcard that had a return address on it, Jan writes back immediately and arranges for her and Bob to go and see Chris. Before they can make the trip, however, Chris shows up where they are staying and winds up helping Jan out at the flea market table where she is selling books. Jan is clearly one of the few people with whom Chris feels able to connect at this point in his life.

Over the course of the story, Jan begins to care deeply for Chris, which is in part due to her estrangement from her own son.

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Jan Burres and her boyfriend, Bob, are a couple who reached out to McCandless after they found him picking berries on the side of the road in California, about 60 miles south of the border with Oregon.

According to Jan, he looked hungry, so they asked if he needed help or a ride. She described him as "hungry, hungry, hungry" but also "happy." He was surviving on edible plants and said he didn't need money. He then camped with them for a week at Orick Beach. They got along well, and McCandless kept in touch with them by postcard and letter. His communication with them helps Krakauer locate where Chris was at different times during his wanderings.

About a year and half after their first encounter, Chris reunited with Jan and Bob, staying with them at a place called the Slabs. The Slabs, in the desert, consisted of the concrete slabs that were left over when the army razed an old base. People congregated there, a

culture comprising the retired, the exiled, the destitute, the perpetually unemployed.

There, Chris helped Jan organize and sell her used paperback books. They had a playful relationship, and Jan discovered Chris's musical talents. He told her about his ambitions to go to Alaska, and while she did not think that it a good idea, he was excited. She tried to find out about his family, but he was not forthcoming. Finally, he left.

Bob, and especially Jan, were part of the counter-cultural community that McCandless drew around him. He that felt their values were more congruent with his own than the materialism of his family was. Through them, we are provided with a window into some of the ways Chris spent his time on the road.

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Jan Burres is a forty-one-year-old "rubber tramp" who sells her wares at flea markets throughout the West. Bob is her boyfriend. They are introduced in Chapter Four of Into the Wild.

After McCandless's run-in with "Crazy Ernie," he resumes hitchhiking up the Oregon coast. Jan and Bob notice McCandless picking berries on the side of the road and pull over because the boy looks hungry. They offer him a ride into town, and a friendship begins between them. McCandless later returns to help Jan sell books at a market. 

Jan feels an emotional connection to McCandless and attempts to positively intervene in his life by warning him of the dangers of his behaviors. Recognizing the difficulties of being estranged from her own son, she unsuccessfully tries to convince him to return to his mother. Ultimately, she is one of the few people who McCandless writes to. 

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Jan Burres and her boyfriend, Bob, are first mentioned in Chapter 4. They met McCandless on a roadside as they stopped to consult a map and saw him gathering berries, using a guidebook to help him to identify them. Jan identified with McCandless as he was a similar age to her estranged son. She convinced Bob to take McCandless with them as they moved on towards Orick, where they were attending a flea market.

 McCandless camped with them for a week, and was clearly comfortable around the couple: more than he ever was with his own parents. He also maintained contact with Jan and Bob – something he chose not to do with his family. Jan reflected that-

 When he left, we never expected to hear from him again, but he made a point of staying in touch. For the next two years Alex sent us a postcard every month or two.

 Jan and Bob were drifters, and clearly McCandless felt a bond with them. He did not reveal his real name, but this was more significant in forgetting his past than misguiding those he chose as part of his future. When they met up again he helped out with their book stall and was sociable. However, he discarded the long underwear Jan gave him for hisAlaskatrip: he still did not want to take direction from others.

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