What happens in Into the Wild?

Chris McCandless moves to Alaska in the hopes of living a simple life free from the constraints of capitalism. After graduating from college, he gives away his savings and hitchhikes to Alaska, where he struggles to survive without the proper tools or training.

  • The story begins when an electrician picks up a hitchhiker who plans on living in the remote wilderness for three months with minimal gear or preparation. Four months later, the hitchhiker’s decomposing body is discovered inside of a bus. He had starved to death.

  • The narrative tells the story of the young man who perished in the wild: Chris McCandless. As a boy, Chris was fearless and adventurous. While in college, he learned that his father was living a double life with his former wife. Following this revelation, Chris became increasingly distant from his family.

  • McCandless’s desire to seek out a transformative experience in the wild parallels author Jon Krakauer’s own solitary ascent up Devils Thumb. Krakauer takes McCandless’s parents to Alaska to show them the conditions their son lived in at the end of his life.

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Summary

Into the Wild tells the story of Chris McCandless, a young man who ventured into the wilderness in search of truth and understanding. The book begins with the story of Jim Gallien dropping McCandless off at the mouth of the Stampede Trail, where McCandless would spend the last few months of his life, and ends with reflections on McCandless’s final moments on earth. Between these, we follow many of the adventures that Chris experienced in his three-year trek. Jon Krakauer uses investigative journalism to collect interviews, journal entries, and pictures that weave together the story of McCandless’s journey from affluence to transcendental wilderness exploration.

The story of McCandless’s descent into the wilderness traces back to issues with his family. The summer before he left on his journey, he took a trip out to California. He met people from his past and learned that his father, Walt, had a second family that he had kept secret from McCandless and his siblings. This revelation created a change in McCandless, and after he graduated from Emory University in the spring of the next year, he donated his savings fund, canceled his lease agreement, and drove west.

McCandless would not have contact with his family for the next two years, and they would not know where he was until his body was discovered in Alaska. After leaving his family at his college graduation in Georgia, McCandless drove his car to Arizona. However, after McCandless camped for some time in a dry riverbed, his car was hit by a flash flood. It then refused to start because it was wet, and he abandoned it along with many of his possessions.

McCandless’s journey took him all over the American Southwest as he hitchhiked from place to place. We...

(The entire section is 554 words.)