Chapter 1

  • The book starts with a postcard to Wayne Westerberg from Chris saying he might not hear from him again because he is going to ‘walk into the wild’
  • Jim Gallien is taking him to the edge of the forest to live off the land
  • Chris lacks the necessary equipment but seems self confident
  • Calls himself Alex but is a really nice guy
  • Gallien gives him some food and work boots
  • Thinks when Chris gets hungry he will just come out of the woods

Chapter 2

  • Six people in three different parties find this city bus off the Stampede Trail in Denali National Park
  • A couple is standing there one one group comes in horrified at a sos note on the side of the bus
  • A camera with five rolls of exposed film, the SOS note, and a diary, written on the pages of a field guide to edible plants
  • Chris’s body is so thin they believe starvation killed him

Chapter 3

  • Grain elevator operator Wayne Westerberg picks up Chris on his way to Carthage, South Dakota
  • Chris works for Wayne for a bit
  • Wayne finds on Chris’s tax records that his name is Chris and not Alex which which is what he was told
  • Wayne gets thrown in jail
  • Gives Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace
  • Krakauer reveals that Chris is not southern born as he tells everyone, but is a son of a aerospace engineer, Walt, and his business partner wife who raised their family in Virginia
  • Chris, refused to take his parents offer of them paying for law school and took his car “to disappear for a while”
  • After Walt and Billy don’t see chris for a while, they go down to where they think he is and see his apartment for rent and when they go back, all their letters to him returned in a bundle
    • Chris instructed the post-office to hold his mail for a month

Chapter 4

  • Chris drives off road and when a thunderstorm makes the engine wet, he thinks the car is broken and abandons it
    • Burns all his money
    • Abandons the car because he feels like he needs to break the rules instead of telling authority
  • He walks through the desert without water and almost dies from heat stroke
  • Hitchhikes from Lake Tahoe to Oregon
  • Works on a ranch for a bit for “Crazy Ernie” but leaves when he realizes he was not going to be paid
  • On the highway, Jan Burres and her boyfriend Bob take Chris.
    • Jan is reminded of her son
  • Meanwhile, Chris’ family is getting worried and hired a private investigator
    • What causes this is Chris breaking his hidden identity, gave his parents address when he gets ticketed for hitchhiking
    • Peter Kalitka, the investigator doesn’t find chris but notices he donated his college fund $24,000—to OXFAM
  • Chris buys a canoe on impulse in arizona and goes down the Colorado river
  • Sneaks through the mexico border
    • Gets lost in canals but is found by Mexican hunters which Chris says was a “miracle”
  • He lives off 5 pounds of rice
  • When he goes back he gets detained byt but tells a story to get out
  • He goes to Los Angeles and gets a id but leaves feeling “uncomfortable in society”
  • He returns to the desert to get his stuff he burry but his camera was broken from being buried

Chapter 5

  • Stays in Bullhead City, Arizona working at McDonald for 2 months
    • Just across a very rich city
    • McDonald’s employs make fun of him for not washing himself and not wanting to wear socks
    • But is a reliable employee
  • Lives with Charlie in a abandoned trailer
  • Goes to meet Jan Burres at Slab city
    • Helps her sell secondhand books at the Slab’s flea market
    • Talks about his plans to go on a great Alaskan odyssey
  • A seventeen year-old girl named Tracy develops a crush on Chris but he doesn’t take her seriously
  • He leaves, Jan tries to give him stuff but finds he didn’t take it

Chapter 6

  • Krakauer receives a letter from Franz saying he knew Chris
  • Ronald Franz a eighty-one-year-old man, gives him a ride to Oh-My-God Hot Springs
  • Ron enjoys Chris’s company and makes a leather belt with all of Chris’s adventures
  • Ron takes him to San Diego but Chris leaves after he couldn’t find any work
  • Chris sends postcards to Jan and Ron, talking about how he learned to jump trains now
  • Ron takes him to Colorado to work for a man named Westerberg
    • Ron enjoys Chris’s company so much that he wants to adopt Chris so that his family line can continue
    • Chris says they will talk about it later
  • Chris sends a letter to ron telling him to leave and see the world
  • Ron finds out about Chris’s death from 2 hitchhikers
    • He denounces God and takes up drinking

Chapter 7

  • Chris works for Westerburg until he gets enough money for his trip to alaska
    • He works dirty and tedious jobs that nobody wanted to do
    • Chris shows signs of incompetence like leaving the grease from warming his chicken in the microwave
    • Talks to Westerburg’s wife Gail Borah a lot
      • She suspects that McCandless has fallen out with his father
    • Krakauer describes Chris’ “sexual innocence,” noting that Chris showed interest in girls, but likely lived a chaste and celibate life, much like his hero Thoreau
    • Westerburg offers to take Chris to Alaska when he keeps talking about it but wants to do it without cheating
  • Chris gives Wayne his journal, photo album and leather belt for safekeeping
  • From alaska, he sends a farewell postard to Wayne, Jan Burres and Bob saying he is going into the wild

Chapter 8

  • Krakauer keeps getting letters criticizing his protrayal of Chris.
    • Nick Jans’ rails against Chris’ ill preparedness, ignorance of the land, and aesthetic values
  • To explore Chris’s motivations, the next few chapters are dedicated to researching other people like Chris
  • The first person he looks into is Gene Rossellini
    • Roseellini was the son of a weather family
    • He experimented with living like a caveman of the shors of Prince William Sound
    • His experiment was to deside if it was possible to independent of modern technology
      • Convinced humans had devolved into inferior beings
    • This experiment kept going for more than a decade
    • He decided it was infact possible for a human to live without technology
    • Because of this he declared he would walk around the world and live of his backpack
    • But never got the chance to do that because he killed himself later
      • Very different to Chris in that Chris wanted to live but Rossellini did
      • Both both wanted to test the limits of the human body
  • Second person is John Waterman
    • Waterman was a incredibly good mountain climber who scaled Mt. McKinley at the age of sixteen
    • Like Chris, he was raised in Washington D.C.
    • But after his parents divorce and the death of friends and family, his life spiraled out of control
    • He climbed Mt. Hunter alone
      • He spent 145 days alone on the mountain
      • Endurance very similar to Chris’s 113 says in the wild
    • He then ran for school board promoting unrestricted sex for students and legalization of hallucinogenic drugs
    • Then he ran for US Presendency with the goal that nobody died of hunger
      • He climbed Denali to publicize this campaign during the winter with very little food and supplies
        • Wanted to show how Americans eat to much and you can do with eating much less
        • Fell and died in a ice crevasse
  • Next person is Carl McCunn
    • McCunn planned a expedition into a remote region of Alaska
    • He had a plane drop him off there but with “astounding oversight,” he never planned for anyone to pick him back up
    • As the winter approaches, a plane flys over head and sees him
      • He punches his fist in the air and goes to pack his stuff
      • But when the plane leaves, he relizes holding one arm up is a signal for all right, holding two arms up is a signal for danger
      • That and the fact that he walked away made the pilot think he was some crazy guy (he wasn’t wrong)
    • McCunn fantasizes the girls he tried to convince to join him on the trip will come and rescue him
    • As he is dying of starvation and shoots himself
    • He is different to Chris in that Chris took charge in getting himself in and out of the woods, turning down Wayne’s plane ticket to fly him there
    • But both’s death arise from one simple mistake

Chapter 9

  • Krakauer keeps going with people similar to Chris with Everett Ruess
    • Like Chris, Ruess changes his name but unlike Chris, he tries to remove his identity completely, naming himself “nobody”
    • He wanted to see the beauty of the American Southwest
    • He goes to Davis Gulch and inscribes his new name, the Latin word for “nobody” into sandstone and completely disappears
    • It is though he fell into a canyon but his body was never found
    • Just like for Chris, there is so many reasons for his death

Chapter 10

  • Jim Gallien and Wayne Westerberg hear about the death of a hiker in Alaska from the local news
  • They each call Alaska State Troopers but they have so many people claiming to know him, disregard them
  • Westerberg remembers Chris gave him is social security number when Chris was working for him
  • Authorities use that to contact Chris’s half brother Sam McCandless
    • Chris confirms his identity and now must tell Walt and Billie

Chapter 11

  • Krakauer reveals Chris’s upbringing story:
  • When Chris is 6 they move to Washington D.C. suburbs where Walt works for NASA and starts a consulting firm with Billie
  • Money is thigh and Walt and Billie work long hours
    • Lots of arguments (husband wife businesses rarely work!)
    • From Carine: “We learned to count on each other when Mom and Dad weren’t getting along”
  • Walt takes them on a hiking trip with Chris liked
    • Chris wanted to climb the whole slope but Walt stopped him because it was dangerous
    • Continues Walts theme of limiting Chris’s adventurous spirit (for his own good but Chris doesn’t believe it)
    • Chris sells construction services for a local contractor to get money to buy his yellow Datsun
      • Contrator likes Chris so much he offers to hire him but Chris’s no commitments attitude, declines and drives across the country on his first road trip

Chapter 12

  • Chris’s family dynamics
    • Finds out from Carine
  • Interested in law school until:
    • He isolates himself
      • This is because his dad was married to Marcia and was building a family with Billie at the same time
      • He feels his whole childhood was a lie
      • Leaves college during his sophomore year
  • Carine was forgiving
  • Chris visited fairbanks during the summer; vows to go back
  • Two years after Chris disappeared, Billie wakes up to Chris’s voice shouting for help

Chapter 13

  • Carine finds out about Chris’s death
    • Believes if Buck, the family dog that Chris cared for a lot, had been with him on the trip, he would have taken less risks
  • The whole McCandless family grieves in different ways
    • Carine and Billie lose weight
    • Walt gains weight

Chapter 14

  • Krakauer explains his personal experiences that caused him to be so interested in Chris’s story
  • Devil’s Thumb
    • Tries three times to go up
    • He arranges for a plane to drop of supplies but because of heavy snow, he is scared it wouldn’t ever come
      • Timing is a very important uncertain factor of nature
    • On his first attempt he wants to quit but he doesn’t want the people at Boulder to see that he quit
      • Then a blizzard hit him
      • Torched his tent
      • Then he went around and tried the north face
  • Chris vs Krakauer
    • Chris: isolation
    • Risky Behaviors, fulfilled
  • Chris’s father - liar/hypocrite
  • London and Tolstoy:
    • Also liar and hypocrites
    • Both writers are very bad people but Chris still liked them
      • Thinks of the father figure different
      • Only one father; everything you know was wrong
      • Starts doubting everything

Chapter 15

  • Goes around back
    • Climbed to the top and then right down
  • Feels lonely without companionship
    • Foreshadowing Chris’s feelings in Alaska
  • Concludes Chris was not suicidal but just wanted to test his limits like Krakauer did

Chapter 16

  • Chris leaves Carthage for Alaska driven by Gaylord Stuckey
    • Stuckey is reluctant to let Chris go on this ‘ill-considered adventure’
    • Charmed by Chris and drives him all the way to Fairbank unlike what he said
    • Warns Chris there is still snow and few plants and berries to eat
  • Picks up a guide to edible plants (no not those) and buys a rifle
  • Gets a ride from Jim Gallien, and enters the Alaskan bush alone carring nothing but rifle, his backpack filled with rice, and a small collection of books
  • On the Stampede Trail, Chris crosses the low Teklanika River waters to discover a bus (Bus 142) where he sets up camp
  • After struggling to shoot animals, when the summer comes he starts to thrive in the harsh conditions
    • Tries to continue walking but because of the meting snow, he goes back to the bus
  • Chris gets very exited when he shoots a moose
    • But he drys it ineffectively and ends up making most of it spoil
    • Very disappointed himself for killing a animal (which he doesn’t like doing) and not even using the meet
  • At the climax of the story, he comes to terms with his errors deciding to learn from them and tries to return to civilization in July
    • But because of the melting snow, the Teklanika River has become much more active and he, correctly, realizes he can’t cross it

Chapter 17

  • Krakauer goes to Chris’s camp himself to search for clues
  • Because he had one thing Chris didn’t have, a topographical map, he was able to find a zip line that goes across the river
    • If Chris had not insisted on total isolation and brought he map, he proabably could have surived
  • Krakauer goes to his campsite and identifies moose bones
    • This goes against the overall sentiment that Chris had actually killed a caribou which was told by the hunters that found Chris’ body
    • This was used by people as evidence he was incompetent, but it was found untrue
  • Reminded of British explorer, Sir John Franklin who thought his power could overcome nature itself
    • This arrogance caused the death of 140 people
    • But unlike Franklin’s believe that he could control the land, Chris wanted to live in harmony with the land
  • They make camp near the bus and sleep

Chapter 18

  • Chris continues his routine of hunting and gathering but is still pretty thin
  • In the margins of Doctor Zhivago he writes “happiness [is] only real when shared”
  • At the end of July he scribbles in his journal that he is weak and in grave danger, mentioning potato seeds
  • After exploring other reasons, Krakauer decides Chris died, not because of incompetence of eating poisonous seeds, but because of luck
    • The edible potato seeds were laced with a very toxic mold
  • If Chris had carried a map he would have also realized that there were four cabins
  • After posting a SOS note on his bus, he spends his last days reading books
  • In his journal he writes a goodbye, thanking god

Epilogue

  • Krakauer accompanies Walt and Billie on a helicopter to see the site
  • They make a memorial to Chris with flowers a plaque, a survival kit and a note urging whoever comes here to call their parents
  • They create a sanctuary for Chris but also to warn others of natures power and the wild ways of youth

References

Lichtenstein, Jesse. “Oedipus Rex.” LitCharts. LitCharts LLC, 22 Jul 2013. Web. 3 Mar 2024.