full title Into the Wild
author Jon Krakauer
type of work NonfictionGenre Biography; adventure writing; nature writing; investigative reportage; essay; personal essay
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.