Into the Wild

By Jon Krakauer


🌲 Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer is a riveting non-fiction book that has captured the imaginations and hearts of readers around the globe. Published in 1996, this masterpiece delves into the adventurous and tragically short life of Christopher McCandless, a young man who, in the early 1990s, ventured into the Alaskan wilderness in search of a more authentic and meaningful existence. 🏞️

Jon Krakauer, a seasoned journalist and mountaineer, meticulously retraces McCandless’s steps, drawing from McCandless’s own diaries, interviews with those who knew him, and his personal understanding of the call of the wild. Krakauer presents a compelling narrative that explores the fine line between daring exploration and dangerous recklessness.

The genre of Into the Wild is best described as biographical non-fiction, infused with elements of adventure, and it thoroughly investigates the themes of solitude, self-discovery, and the powerful allure of nature. Through Krakauer’s vivid storytelling, readers are invited to ponder what it means to leave behind the comforts and conventions of society in pursuit of raw, unmediated experiences in the natural world. 🌟

Plot Summary

Into the Wild narrates the true story of Christopher McCandless, a young man from a well-to-do family, who, soon after graduating from Emory University, donates all his savings to charity, abandons his car, burns his cash, and adopts the name Alexander Supertramp. He embarks on a cross-country journey in search of a life of adventure and deeper meaning, ultimately aiming to live off the land in the Alaskan wilderness.

— Exposition: McCandless’s early life, family background, and the beginning of his journey are explored. His disillusionment with society and desire for a purer, more authentic existence set the stage for his great Alaskan adventure.

— Rising Action: As McCandless travels across North America, he encounters various people who shape his philosophy and views on life. His experiences on the road deepen his resolve to embrace the wilderness fully.

— Climax: McCandless finally reaches Alaska, where he finds an abandoned bus that he calls “The Magic Bus.” Here, he attempts to live entirely off the land, putting to test all his survival skills and ideals. This period represents the pinnacle of his quest but also the beginning of his struggles.

— Falling Action: After several months, McCandless decides to return to civilization, only to find his path blocked by a swollen river. Forced back to the bus, his situation deteriorates as he struggles with food scarcity and isolation.

— Resolution: McCandless’s death in the wilderness is the tragic resolution of the story. He dies of starvation, poisoned by eating the seeds of a plant that he misidentified. His body is found weeks later by moose hunters. The narrative concludes with Krakauer reflecting on McCandless’s legacy and the profound impact his story has had on others.

Through meticulous research and narrative empathy, Krakauer pieces together McCandless’s journey, offering readers not just a tale of adventure and survival, but a poignant exploration of the human spirit’s quest for meaning in the natural world.

Character Analysis

In “Into the Wild,” Jon Krakauer presents a cast of characters that are pivotal to understanding Christopher McCandless’s journey and the profound impacts of his choices. Here’s an in-depth look at the main characters:

— Christopher McCandless (Alexander Supertramp): A young, idealistic, and adventurous man who seeks to escape the materialism and corruption he perceives in society. He is driven by a powerful desire for freedom and self-reliance, traits that lead him on his fatal journey into the Alaskan wilderness. McCandless is introspective and principled, often influenced by the works of authors like Jack London, Leo Tolstoy, and Henry David Thoreau. Throughout his travels, he displays kindness, intelligence, and a deep love for nature, but his lack of preparation and understanding of the wild ultimately leads to his demise.

— Jon Krakauer: The author not only narrates McCandless’s story but also parallels his own experiences with those of McCandless. Krakauer provides insightful commentary on the allure of danger and the wilderness, adding depth to McCandless’s actions and motivations. His investigative journalism uncovers the nuances of McCandless’s character, making the story a personal exploration of youthful idealism and the search for meaning.

— Walt and Billie McCandless: Christopher’s parents, whose material success and troubled relationship with their son are highlighted as possible catalysts for his journey. Their struggles with understanding Christopher’s ideals and the subsequent grief they face over his death are poignant elements of the narrative.

— Jim Gallien: The last person to see McCandless alive, Gallien is an Alaskan truck driver who gives McCandless a ride to the edge of Denali National Park. He offers practical advice and even his boots to McCandless, symbolizing the kindness of strangers McCandless encounters on his journey.

Here’s a summary of their character development in table format:

Christopher McCandlessIdealistic, adventurous, principledEscape societal materialism, seek freedom and self-reliance in natureGains deeper understanding of life and relationships, though his realizations come too late
Jon KrakauerReflective, investigativeUnderstand and convey McCandless’s story, explore themes of adventure and riskDeepens his connection to McCandless’s story, offering personal and societal reflections
Walt and Billie McCandlessMaterially successful, troubledUnderstand their son, reconcile with his choicesTransition from confusion and grief to a more complex understanding of Christopher’s ideals
Jim GallienKind, practicalHelp McCandless survive in the wildernessRepresents the last connection to society and safety for McCandless

These characters provide a multi-faceted view of Christopher McCandless’s journey, illustrating the complexity of his character and the varied reactions to his radical choice. Each one contributes to the narrative’s exploration of themes such as freedom, nature, and the search for meaning.

Themes and Symbols

“Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer is rich with themes and symbols that contribute to its deep exploration of the human condition, the allure of the wilderness, and the quest for meaning. Here’s a look at the major themes and symbols within the book:

— The Allure of Solitude and Wilderness — The wilderness represents the ultimate test of survival and self-sufficiency, appealing to those like McCandless who seek to escape the constraints of society. It symbolizes purity and truth, offering a stark contrast to the materialism and corruption McCandless perceives in the human world.

— The Danger of Idealism — McCandless’s journey is driven by high ideals about nature and solitude. However, the book also presents the peril of such idealism when not tempered by practicality and respect for the natural world’s power, highlighting the thin line between seeking adventure and recklessness.

— The Search for Identity and Meaning — McCandless’s odyssey is not just a physical journey but also a quest for self-discovery and existential purpose. His rejection of societal norms and his embrace of solitude serve as a means to forge his identity and understand his place in the universe.

— The Complexity of Family Relationships — The book delves into McCandless’s troubled relationship with his parents, which serves as a catalyst for his journey. It underscores the impact of familial bonds and conflicts on individual choices and the pursuit of personal freedom.


— The Magic Bus (Bus 142) — This abandoned bus, where McCandless spends his final days, symbolizes both shelter and isolation. It represents the culmination of his quest for solitude but also becomes a prison from which he cannot escape, embodying the dual nature of his journey.

— Books and Literature — The works of Thoreau, London, and Tolstoy that McCandless carries symbolize his intellectual and philosophical companionship. They shape his ideals and provide comfort, yet also perhaps contribute to his uncompromising pursuit of his ideals.

— Alaska — Alaska itself is a symbol of ultimate freedom and unspoiled beauty, representing the ultimate challenge for McCandless. It stands for the purity and simplicity he seeks but also the unforgiving and indifferent force of nature.

These themes and symbols intertwine to create a complex narrative that questions the value of societal norms, the essence of personal freedom, and the costs of pursuing one’s ideals. “Into the Wild” challenges readers to ponder the balance between the pursuit of dreams and the grounding force of reality.

Style and Tone

Jon Krakauer’s writing style in “Into the Wild” is characterized by a blend of investigative journalism and narrative non-fiction, making the story not only compelling but also deeply informative. Here’s how his style and tone contribute to the book’s mood and atmosphere:

— Investigative and Analytical — Krakauer approaches Christopher McCandless’s story with the thoroughness of a journalist, gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and examining McCandless’s own journals. This meticulousness lends the book a tone of authenticity and credibility, as Krakauer seeks to understand McCandless’s motivations and actions from multiple perspectives.

— Reflective and Personal — Krakauer often interjects his personal experiences and reflections into the narrative, particularly his own adventures and the emotional and psychological challenges they presented. This creates a tone that is introspective and empathetic, bridging the gap between McCandless’s experiences and the reader’s understanding.

— Descriptive and Immersive — Krakauer’s vivid descriptions of the landscapes McCandless traversed, from the deserts of the Southwest to the Alaskan wilderness, transport readers into the settings. His ability to evoke the beauty and menace of the natural world plays a crucial role in conveying the allure that these places held for McCandless.

— Objective yet Compassionate — While Krakauer presents McCandless’s story with an objective lens, his tone is never judgmental. Instead, he strives to present a balanced view of McCandless, acknowledging his flaws and naiveté while also celebrating his ideals and courage. This balanced approach invites readers to form their own opinions about McCandless’s choices.

Bullet Points Highlighting Writing Style and Tone:

  • Krakauer employs narrative non-fiction to weave McCandless’s story into a compelling tale, blending factual reporting with storytelling.
  • Investigative journalism techniques are used to gather and present evidence, offering a detailed, multi-faceted view of McCandless’s journey.
  • The narrative is interspersed with personal anecdotes from Krakauer and others, adding depth and a variety of perspectives to the story.
  • Krakauer’s descriptive language immerses readers in the physical and emotional landscapes McCandless navigated, enhancing the book’s vividness and immediacy.
  • The tone is empathetic and reflective, encouraging readers to ponder deeper questions about life, freedom, and the pursuit of meaning.

Krakauer’s style and tone in “Into the Wild” not only serve to engage and inform the reader but also to evoke a deeper emotional and intellectual response to McCandless’s life and legacy.

Literary Devices used in Into the Wild

Jon Krakauer’s “Into the Wild” is enriched with various literary devices that enhance the storytelling and deepen the reader’s understanding of Christopher McCandless’s journey. Here are the top 10 literary devices Krakauer uses:

  1. Foreshadowing — Krakauer often hints at the tragic outcome of McCandless’s journey, creating a sense of impending doom that adds tension and poignancy to the narrative.
  2. Imagery — Vivid descriptions of the landscapes McCandless traverses evoke a strong sense of place, allowing readers to visualize the stunning yet harsh environments of the American West and Alaska.
  3. Symbolism — Objects and locations, such as the “Magic Bus” and Alaska itself, serve as symbols of McCandless’s ideals and the dual nature of his quest for freedom and solitude.
  4. Allusion — References to literary works and historical figures whom McCandless admired, like Jack London and Henry David Thoreau, create layers of meaning, connecting McCandless’s story to broader themes of adventure and self-reliance.
  5. Flashback — Krakauer uses flashbacks to delve into McCandless’s past, including his family life and college years, providing context and depth to his motivations and actions.
  6. Irony — There are moments of irony, such as McCandless’s quest for independence leading him into situations where he is dependent on the kindness of strangers, highlighting the complexities and unintended consequences of his journey.
  7. Juxtaposition — Krakauer juxtaposes McCandless’s idealistic views with the harsh realities of wilderness survival, emphasizing the gap between romanticism and reality.
  8. Anecdotes — Personal stories from those who met McCandless, as well as Krakauer’s own mountaineering experiences, are woven into the narrative, offering diverse perspectives on the allure and danger of pursuing extreme ideals.
  9. Metaphor — The journey itself becomes a metaphor for the search for meaning and identity, with McCandless’s travels reflecting his internal quest.
  10. Pathetic Fallacy — The use of weather and landscape to mirror McCandless’s emotional state, such as the challenge of crossing the Teklanika River, enhances the narrative’s mood and themes.

These literary devices not only add depth and richness to McCandless’s story but also invite readers to reflect on the themes of solitude, adventure, and the search for meaning. Krakauer masterfully employs these techniques to engage the reader’s senses and emotions, making “Into the Wild” a memorable and thought-provoking read.

Literary Devices Examples

To illustrate how Jon Krakauer employs literary devices in “Into the Wild,” let’s examine examples and explanations for each of the top 10 devices identified.


Krakauer’s early mention of McCandless’s demiseSets a somber tone, preparing the reader for the tragic outcome while building suspense throughout the narrative.
References to McCandless’s weakening conditionHint at the physical toll of his journey, subtly indicating the grave danger he is in before the final revelation of his death.


Descriptions of the Alaskan wildernessVividly bring to life the beauty and isolation of the landscape McCandless sought, emphasizing both its allure and its peril.
The portrayal of the “Magic Bus”Creates a strong visual symbol of McCandless’s journey, highlighting the bus as both a haven and a final resting place.


The “Magic Bus”Symbolizes McCandless’s ultimate quest for freedom and autonomy, as well as the isolation and danger of his idealistic pursuits.
McCandless’s burned moneyRepresents his rejection of material wealth and societal values, reinforcing his desire for a purer existence.


References to Thoreau’s “Walden”Align McCandless’s journey with Thoreau’s ideals of simplicity and self-sufficiency, enriching the reader’s understanding of his motivations.
Mentions of Jack London’s adventure talesHighlight the romanticized vision of the wilderness that inspired McCandless, while also foreshadowing the harsh realities he faces.


Krakauer’s recounting of McCandless’s college graduationProvides insight into his mindset and the beginnings of his journey, setting the stage for his break from societal expectations.
Flashbacks to McCandless’s childhoodOffer a deeper understanding of his complex relationship with his family, shedding light on his motivations.


McCandless’s death in his quest for life in the wildIllustrates the tragic irony of his pursuit of life and purity leading to his premature death.
His reliance on the kindness of strangersContrasts with his desire for total independence, highlighting the interdependence of human existence.


Krakauer’s depiction of McCandless’s idealism versus the reality of wilderness survivalEmphasizes the stark contrast between his romantic notions and the practical challenges of living in the wild.
The comparison between McCandless’s youthful enthusiasm and the seasoned perspectives of those he meetsHighlights the differences in understanding and approach to life and adventure.


Stories from those who met McCandless along his journeyProvide varied perspectives on his character and the impact of his choices, enriching the narrative with personal insights.
Krakauer’s own mountaineering experienceDraws parallels between his experiences and McCandless’s, offering a personal connection and deeper exploration of the themes.


McCandless’s journey as a metaphor for the search for meaningSuggests that his physical travels mirror an inner quest for purpose and identity.

Pathetic Fallacy

The harsh Alaskan winter mirroring McCandless’s isolation and struggleReflects his internal battle and the ultimate challenge of his journey, linking the environment to his emotional state.

These examples demonstrate Krakauer’s skillful use of literary devices to create a layered, multifaceted portrayal of Christopher McCandless’s story, inviting readers to engage with the narrative on multiple levels.

Into the Wild – FAQs

What inspired Christopher McCandless to go into the wild?
Christopher McCandless was inspired by a combination of his disillusionment with materialistic society, his admiration for the works of transcendental authors like Henry David Thoreau and Jack London, and a desire for self-discovery and adventure. His journey was fueled by a quest for authenticity and freedom from societal constraints.

How did Jon Krakauer come to write about McCandless?
Jon Krakauer first wrote about Christopher McCandless in a 1993 article for “Outside” magazine. Intrigued by McCandless’s story and identifying with his adventurous spirit and idealistic pursuits, Krakauer expanded his article into “Into the Wild,” conducting extensive research and interviews to provide a comprehensive account of McCandless’s journey.

What were the key factors that led to McCandless’s death?
McCandless died from starvation, exacerbated by poisoning from eating the seeds of the wild potato plant, which contained a toxic alkaloid. His isolation, lack of preparation for surviving the Alaskan wilderness, and inability to return to civilization due to the swollen Teklanika River were key factors in his demise.

Did McCandless regret his journey into the wild?
Based on notes found with his remains, McCandless did express some form of regret or reconsideration of his journey, particularly in a note that implied a newfound appreciation for human relationships, stating, “Happiness only real when shared.” However, his full range of feelings in his final days remains speculative.

How has McCandless’s story impacted readers and adventurers?
McCandless’s story has had a profound impact on readers and adventurers alike, inspiring some to seek their own paths of exploration and self-discovery, while serving as a cautionary tale about the dangers of unpreparedness and the power of nature. It has sparked debates on individualism, adventure, and the risks of idealizing wilderness escapism.

Why did McCandless choose the name Alexander Supertramp?
McCandless adopted the name Alexander Supertramp as a symbol of his new identity and break from his past life. The name reflects his desire for a nomadic life of adventure and his rejection of the conventional expectations placed upon him by society and his upbringing.

How does “Into the Wild” explore the theme of isolation?
“Into the Wild” explores isolation both physically and emotionally. Physically, through McCandless’s journey into remote areas seeking solitude, and emotionally, through his internal struggle with relationships and society. The book examines the consequences of extreme isolation and the human need for connection.


QuestionABCDCorrect Answer
What was the main reason Christopher McCandless ventured into the Alaskan wilderness?To escape legal troublesTo find goldTo seek adventure and self-discoveryTo conduct scientific researchC
Who was the last person to see McCandless alive?His sister, CarineA park rangerJon KrakauerJim GallienD
What did McCandless name the abandoned bus he lived in?The Freedom BusThe Wild BusThe Magic BusThe Adventure BusC
Which of the following authors did NOT influence McCandless?Henry David ThoreauJack LondonFyodor DostoevskyErnest HemingwayD
What ultimately led to McCandless’s death?Animal attackStarvation and accidental poisoningFreezing temperaturesFalling from a cliffB
What was McCandless’s alias during his travels?Chris SupertrampAlexander SupertrampJohn WildmanMichael AdventurerB
Which literary device is prominently used by Krakauer to hint at McCandless’s fate?MetaphorIronyForeshadowingSimileC
What symbolizes McCandless’s rejection of material wealth?Burning his Social Security cardGiving his savings to charityDestroying his map of AlaskaBurning his moneyD
How does Krakauer primarily connect with McCandless’s story?By interviewing McCandless’s familyThrough his own experiences of adventure and risk-takingBy retracing McCandless’s journey in AlaskaBy analyzing McCandless’s journal entriesB
What major theme does McCandless’s story explore?The importance of technology in natureThe pursuit of fame and fortuneThe dangers of isolation and the quest for self-discoveryThe impact of global warmingC

This quiz is designed to test your comprehension of Jon Krakauer’s “Into the Wild,” covering key aspects of the book’s plot, themes, and characters.


Identify the literary devices used in the following paragraph from “Into the Wild”:

“In April 1992, a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself.”


  1. Allusion: The mention of “Mt. McKinley” (now known as Denali) alludes to the real-life setting and challenges of the Alaskan wilderness, grounding McCandless’s story in a specific geographical and cultural context.
  2. Foreshadowing: The phrase “walked alone into the wilderness” foreshadows McCandless’s isolation and the challenges he will face, setting the tone for his journey’s dire outcomes.
  3. Metaphor: The act of burning all the cash in his wallet can be seen as a metaphor for McCandless’s rejection of materialistic society and his quest for purity and freedom, symbolizing a dramatic break from his past life.
  4. Irony: There is an ironic element in McCandless’s decision to “invent a new life for himself,” as his quest for authenticity leads him to adopt an alias and a lifestyle far removed from his upbringing, highlighting the complexities and contradictions of his search for identity.

This exercise aims to deepen your understanding of how literary devices enrich the narrative, adding layers of meaning to McCandless’s journey.