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Into the Wild

Chapter 17

Summary Chapter 17

On his visit to the bus, Krakauer sees exactly what McCandless had seen, which heightens the chapter’s elegiac tone despite the fact that it is still a detective story that has not yet reached its conclusion. Knowing that McCandless is long dead and having experienced the frustration and pain he caused others gives the reader a sense of the emotional complexity of the scene, both as Krakauer has written it and as his character experiences it. McCandless’s many belongings are still strewn about the bus, too, inducing an intimate and macabre atmosphere in Krakauer’s prose.

The presence of other people at the bus allows the narrator to discuss McCandless’s probable mindset with others, a small and careful allusion to the story of McCandless’s fate as it is captured in Into the Wild itself. Inside and outside the book, McCandless’s life and death lead to varying opinions that all rely on various forms of confirmed and unconfirmed evidence. Krakauer relates, for example, that he wrongly reported that McCandless had shot a caribou, not a moose, and had assumed he’d shot a moose out of ignorance. Studying the bones himself, at the bus, Krakauer confirms that it was a moose. The narrator thus implicitly invites the reader to ask what will become of McCandless’s character in their own mind, what judgments and theories will continue to intrigue them after completing the book.