Topics for Discussion
1. Why did McCandless reject his parents' lifestyle?
2. What do you think of McCandless's decision to discard his identity and past life without a backward look? Would you do the same thing if you were in his place, or do you think it would be important to discuss your decision with your family first, even if you were certain that they would try to dissuade you?
3. Pretend that you could speak for McCandless. What would you have to say to Krakauer, his biographer. To his parents?
4. What do you think you would want to say to McCandless if you were his father? If you were his mother?
5. The author believes that McCandless was deeply embittered by his discoveries about his father's past. How do you think he should have handled his discovery?
6. Do you think that Krakauer's empathy for McCandless may have influenced his critical judgement in examining Chris' actions and decisions? Do you think the sympathetic way that Krakauer tells the story may influence your own opinion of McCandless?
7. Krakauer insists that he "won't claim to be an impartial biographer." What kind of book do you think an "impartial biographer" might write? How do you think such a biography would be different than the book Krakauer has written? Would it be better, worse, or just too different to properly judge? What conditions would a biography have to meet in order for its author to be able to claim impartiality? Do you think this is a realistic or a reasonable expectation?
8. What do you think of the many people in this story who seem to be living as transients or squatters? Does the freedom of their lifestyle appeal to you? Do you think they should attempt to establish stable homes and livelihoods?
9. The public response to McCandless's story has been deeply divided. Is this story an example of tragic foolhardiness or heroic idealism?