“Into the Wild” Raises the Bar for Required Reading

into the wild

by Fiona Higgins – Staff Reporter

Many students have heard of Into the Wild, a novel by John Krakauer, but in this school, only those in AP English Language and Composition will likely ever read it. Like many required reading books, it is judged to be bland and uninteresting before the cover is even Krak-auered open. However, this book presents such an interesting dilemma that, even if you dislike the people this nonfiction book focuses on, it will always give an opportunity for discussion about the morality of humans as a whole.
Into the Wild is an account of short stories and interviews that string together the life of Chris McCandless, a 24 year old man who decided to go on a cross country adventure ending in a permanent stay in Alaska that resulted in his early death. Jon Krakauer started the book as an article for a magazine which grew to something much longer. From Arizona to South Dakota, McCandless travelled all over the United States. However, it is not his death and his journey that are such a topic for discussion, no, it is instead Chris’ reasons for doing so.
Due to the fact that Chris was going on this journey to explore the “inner country of his soul”, many people regard him as a skewed genius, a man on a journey more important than material needs and attachments. At the same time, his extreme lack of preparation and alienation of his entire family have led others to view McCandless as an arrogant idiot, someone who went into the bush of Alaska with little gear and a bag of rice and hoped to survive on his own. These two ideas are absolute polar opposites, which certainly gives us a lot to talk about in class discussions, but also gives way to a lot of debate about human motivation. Is leaving on a journey to find yourself worth it if you end up cutting off all close relationships in your life? Is successfully surviving in the wilderness for a time acceptable if you end up dying, or mishandling the wildlife around you? It is hard to say.
For many, the answer is clear in their heads, but nobody seems to be able to come to a universal conclusion. Native Alaskans especially see McCandless as a dime-a-dozen moron who wandered into a situation he did not know how to deal with, but there are an equal amount of people from around the country that see Chris McCandless as an inspiration.
When I first started reading this, my reaction was immediately sour; Chris McCandless, to me, represented every character trait that I disliked in other people, except it was all in one single person. He was foolhardy, arrogant, rude to his family, and even though he didn’t have the slightest idea of how to actually survive in the wild, he assumed he would be able to anyway. In his journey, he survived for as long as he did by pure luck, some of which involved shooting and killing game that he was not able to prepare because of his lack of research. Given all of what I perceived, it shocked me that other people could feel differently. However, many people in my class thought that Chris was impressive, or that he was incredibly enlightened in the journey he had. It proved to me that there was much more to this book than met the eye.
Whether you enjoy the book or not due to what you think of Chris McCandless, it is still definitely worth a read. If more people join the conversation, perhaps a conclusion can finally be reached.

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