Thursday, January 21, 2010

Into the Wild

Into the Wild
© 1997 Jon Krakauer
207 pages


Well over a year ago, perhaps closer to two, a friend of mine asked me if I had heard the story of Christopher McCandless, a young man who left society to live off the land in the Alaskan wilderness, perishing in the course of finding whatever it was that pulled him out there. At first his story had no interest for me, but a year later -- after reading Walden -- I was very much interested in reading the accounts of people who lived lives free from society, either on the road or in the wild. Into the Wild and Jake Kerouac's On the Road are the only books I know of (presently) that are themed in such a way.

Krakauer presents McCandless' story well, not only going into Christopher's background but recounting the lives of people who have perished in similar ways. Krakauer attempts to find their motivations, drawing from accounts of the lives of these men and others like himself who felt a similar call but survived. McCandles himself seems to be possessed by a need to throw himself into the wildness of life and prove that he is worthy of it.  He views taking on the wilderness - as he does for many months before hitch-hiking into Alaska --  as a spiritual challenge.  Krakauer lavishly describes the natural background McCandless and others journeyed through and and died in.  He relates strongly to McCandless, seeing him as a kindred spirit - and for him, to understand McCandless' life and death is to better understand himself. He thus treats his subject sympathetically, but is quick to reproach him for being unprepared.

 Into the Wild proved to be a stirring read. While I have no interest in "living off the land", I'm sympathteic to his desire to be immersed in the glorious beauty of nature. His story gripped me, and the effect he had on the lives he encountered often shocked me. Whatever your opinion of his life and death, this is a story worth contemplating at the very least.


  1. I liked Krakauer's "Under the Banner of Heaven". Although I've never been a mormon or ever felt any attraction, I have been involved in fairly fundamentalist religion and recognized the commonality of thought. It was one of the books that helped me shed religion, although the ghosts of religion still haunt me occassionally.

  2. Do you ever feel religious in a Stoic sense?


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