Into the Wild

by: Jon Krakauer

Key Facts

Main ideas Key Facts

full title · Into the Wild

author ·  Jon Krakauer

type of work ·  Nonfiction

Genre Biography; adventure writing; nature writing; investigative reportage; essay; personal essay

language ·  English

time and place written ·  1996, USA

date of first publication ·  1997

publisher ·  Anchor Books

narrator ·  Jon Krakauer

point of view ·  First person reportage

tone ·  Objective, reportorial

tense ·  Past tense

setting (time) ·  The early 90s

setting (place) ·  The American West, especially the Pacific Northwest and Alaska

protagonist ·  Christopher McCandless

major conflict ·  Christopher McCandless’s struggle to survive in the Alaskan wilderness and the narrator’s attempt to piece together his motivations.

rising action ·  Christopher McCandless’s decision to leave the wilderness.

climax ·  Christopher McCandless makes a final attempt to cross the Teklanika River and leave Alaska, though he is turned back by summer flooding. A secondary climax takes place when the narrator, Jon Krakauer, reflects on his own near-death experience climbing a mountain in winter.

falling action ·  The removal of Christopher McCandless from the site of his death in an abandoned bus in Denali National Park. The falling action also includes Jon Krakauer’s explanation of the partial results of an ongoing investigation into the exact medical causes of Christopher McCandless’s death and his visit with McCandless’s parents to the bus where their son died. These conclude Krakauer’s attempt to deliver emotional closure by satisfactorily depicting the richness and complexity of McCandless’s character.

themes  · The impossibility of total self-reliance; Nature confounding human intentions; The difficulty of escaping familial influence

motifs  · Musical instruments; sublime nature; books; ascetics, artists and holy figures

symbols ·  The bus; Alex’s belt; books

foreshadowing ·  In many of his encounters with other people, Christopher McCandless eats enormous meals and attracts comment because of his obvious hunger. This foreshadows his death by starvation. McCandless often loses his way or makes relatively harmless blunders before he enters the Alaska wilderness. These blunders reflect the larger mistakes he will make that end with his death. Krakauer often goes into thorough detail describing botanical species, particularly at the openings of chapters. This foreshadows his research into the various plants and finally the mold that likely led to McCandless’s death. Mentions of mountain climbing and risk-taking in several chapters lead as foreshadowing in the chapters that detail Krakauer’s own near-death experience attempting to summit an Alaskan glacier.