Who was Chris McCandless and what was his role in the book Into the Wild?

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belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Chris McCandless is the main character of Into the Wild, and the person about whom the book was written. Jon Krakauer was assigned to write an article for Outside Magazine about Chris, who had been found dead in an abandoned bus in Alaska, and Krakauer was interested enough in Chris's life to research a book. As it turned out, Chris was the son of a well-off family in Virginia, and he became obsessed with traveling alone and finding himself in nature and the wilderness. Although many people helped him along the way, Chris was determined to find a place where he could live alone and survive by hunting and gathering.

He was an extremely intense young man and possessed a streak of stubborn idealism that did not mesh readily with modern existence... McCandless particularly admired how [Leo Tolstoy] had forsaken a life of wealth and privilege to wander among the destitute... he entertained no illusions that he was trekking into a land of milk and honey; peril, adversity, and Tol-stoyan renunciation were precisely what he was seeking.
(Krakauer, Into the Wild, Amazon.com)

Chris traveled across the United States, and made friends with many people who remember him as an intelligent young man, determined to live according to his own ideals instead of those of society. Unfortunately, Chris's journey ended in tragedy; he traveled to Alaska and took up residence in an old bus, and lived there for several months. However, when he decided to return to civilization, he was blocked by a flooded river, and he found it increasingly difficult to hunt and gather enough food. Eventually, he starved to death, leaving behind many letters, diary entries, and some photographs to document his strange and adventurous life.

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Into the Wild

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