Into the Wild (2007)

Brief Intro

“Into the Wild,” directed by Sean Penn, is a 2007 film adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s 1996 non-fiction book. It chronicles the true story of Christopher McCandless, a young man who abandons his possessions, gives his entire savings to charity, and hitchhikes to Alaska to live in the wilderness. The film explores themes of freedom, isolation, and the search for meaning, using a rich tapestry of literary and cinematic techniques.

Literary Devices Used in Into the Wild

Movie SceneDevice Example
Chris burning his moneySymbolism: Represents his rejection of materialism
The recurring shots of wild animalsSymbolism: Reflects Chris’s longing for freedom and primal life
Movie SceneDevice Example
Chris quoting Thoreau in his journalAllusion: Connects his journey to transcendentalist ideas
The use of “Society” by Eddie VedderAllusion: Lyrics reference societal constraints
Movie SceneDevice Example
Chris’s letters and diary entriesEpistolary: Provides personal insight into his thoughts
Letters from his familyEpistolary: Reveals family dynamics and their concerns
Movie SceneDevice Example
Chris’s narration throughout the filmInternal Monologue: Offers deep introspection into his mindset
Carine’s voice-over narrationsInternal Monologue: Adds perspective on Chris’s actions
Movie SceneDevice Example
The bus in the Alaskan wildernessMotif: Recurring symbol of his ultimate quest and isolation
The backpack he carries everywhereMotif: Symbolizes his journey and burden
Movie SceneDevice Example
Flashbacks to Chris’s childhoodFlashbacks: Provide context and background to his decisions
Flashback to graduation speechFlashbacks: Highlights his initial discontent with society
Movie SceneDevice Example
Chris’s tragic end in the busIrony: Seeks freedom but finds entrapment and death
Encounter with Ron FranzIrony: Rejects emotional connections despite seeking purpose
Movie SceneDevice Example
Meeting with Wayne WesterbergForeshadowing: Hints at the hardships Chris will face
The postcard sent to WayneForeshadowing: Implies Chris’s dire situation in Alaska
Movie SceneDevice Example
Chris’s isolation in AlaskaImagery: Vivid descriptions of the wilderness
The scenes of the bustling city lifeImagery: Stark contrast to the serenity of nature
Movie SceneDevice Example
Chris reflecting by the riverMetaphor: River as a symbol of life’s journey and obstacles
Describing the road as a “path to freedom”Metaphor: Roads symbolize choices and directions in life

Character Analysis Through Literary Devices

Character Studies

Christopher McCandless (Alexander Supertramp)

SymbolismChris’s rejection of materialism through burning money
Internal MonologueDeep introspection shown through his narrations

Carine McCandless

Internal MonologueVoice-over provides insight into Chris’s family dynamics
FlashbacksHer memories help build the background of Chris’s motivations

Ron Franz

IronyDespite seeking connection, Chris leaves Ron to continue his quest
ForeshadowingTheir bond hints at the potential paths Chris could take

Wayne Westerberg

ForeshadowingConversations hint at the risks and hardships of Chris’s journey
EpistolaryLetters exchanged provide personal views on Chris’s character

Character Dynamics

The relationships between Chris and other characters like Ron Franz, Wayne Westerberg, and his family drive the narrative, showcasing his internal conflicts and quest for identity. These interactions highlight themes of freedom vs. responsibility, connection vs. isolation, and the pursuit of true happiness.

Thematic Analysis

Freedom and Independence

SymbolismChris burning his money symbolizes his quest for true freedom
MotifThe bus represents both freedom and entrapment

Isolation and Society

ImageryContrasting visuals of bustling cities and serene wilderness
IronyChris seeks isolation but realizes the need for human connection

Search for Meaning

AllusionReferences to Thoreau and other philosophers emphasize his quest
MetaphorThe river as life’s journey reflects Chris’s search for purpose

Cinematic Techniques That Enhance Literary Devices

Literary DeviceTechniqueExplanation
SymbolismVisual SymbolismUse of the bus as a recurring visual symbol of his journey
ImageryCinematographyVivid landscape shots contrast with city scenes
Internal MonologueVoice-Over NarrationProvides direct insight into Chris’s thoughts and feelings
FlashbacksEditingSeamless transitions between past and present
IronyJuxtapositionVisual contrasts highlight the ironies in Chris’s journey

Key Scene Analysis

Scene Selection: Chris’s Journey to Alaska

  • Link to Scene: Chris’s Journey
  • Breakdown:
    • Literary Devices: Symbolism (the journey as a quest), Imagery (stunning landscapes)
    • Cinematic Techniques: Sweeping camera shots, use of natural light
    • Contribution: Establishes the film’s central theme of seeking freedom in nature

Scene Selection: Meeting Ron Franz

  • Link to Scene: Meeting Ron
  • Breakdown:
    • Literary Devices: Irony (Ron’s offer of family and stability)
    • Cinematic Techniques: Close-ups, dialogue-heavy scenes
    • Contribution: Highlights the tension between Chris’s desire for isolation and human connection

Scene Selection: Chris’s Final Moments

  • Link to Scene: Final Moments
  • Breakdown:
    • Literary Devices: Irony (freedom leading to entrapment), Flashbacks
    • Cinematic Techniques: Low lighting, somber music
    • Contribution: Emphasizes the tragic end of Chris’s quest and the ultimate realization of the need for human connections


To wrap up this in-depth exploration of literary devices in “Into the Wild,” here’s a fun interactive quiz to test your knowledge!

Multiple Choice Quiz

  1. What literary device is used when Chris burns his money?
  2. Which character’s voice-over provides insights into Chris’s family dynamics?
    • A) Wayne Westerberg
    • B) Ron Franz
    • C) Carine McCandless
  3. How is irony depicted in Chris’s journey?
    • A) Through his isolation in nature
    • B) Through his flashbacks to childhood
    • C) Through his tragic end in the bus
  4. Which technique is used to emphasize the theme of freedom in the film?
    • A) Close-ups of Chris’s face
    • B) Sweeping landscape shots
    • C) Flashbacks to family scenes
  5. What motif recurs throughout the film to symbolize Chris’s quest?
    • A) The river
    • B) The bus
    • C) His backpack

Answers: 1) B, 2) C, 3) C, 4) B, 5) B