Settings and Themes of Into the Wild, by John Karkauer


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Into the wild is a non-fiction autobiographical book written by Jon Krakauer. The book, Into the wild, a controversial foray into the eccentric life of Christopher McCandless, is a true story based on the life of a young man. Many readers view Chris’ journey as an attempt to get away from his family and his old life. The setting of a book often has a significant impact on the story itself. Different settings in the book contribute to the main Characters’ actions and to the theme as a whole. This can be proven by these points: Theme of Young manhood; Theme of Survival in the wilderness and independent happiness.
The settings in the story have different impacts on the theme of Young manhood. Chris leaves his family and decides to go on a journey to find a new life depending on the setting. John McCandless felt affected in his family presence so he sends his final school report to his family “QUOTE”. He believed that this was a way to find his inner soul and peace of mind, which he thought could be achieved by fleeing into the wild. Chris seemed to have a bad relationship with his parents, especially with his father because Chris found out that Walt McCandless had a child with his first wife when Chris was born. This fact was revealed by his dad’s old neighbourhood. “Walt’s split from his first wife, Marcia, was not a clean or amicable parting. Long after falling in love with Billie, long after she gave birth to Chris, Walt continued his relationship with Marcia in secret” (Krakauer121). Chris knew about his father’s affair with another woman and this made easier for Chris to not care about what his family has to say about him going into the wilderness. This event in his life strongly forced his decision to depart for Alaska. Thirdly, Chris works at his parents’ firm and develops a computer program and when his dad asks him about the program Chris refuses to tell his dad who it works: “We still use it today and have sold copies of the program to many clients. But when I asked Chris to show me how he wrote it, to explain why it worked the way it did, he refused” (Krakauer120). This shows his knowledge in computers. Since Chris was intellectual in youth he thought by reading the books and with a little bit of knowledge about the lands and wild, he thought he could apply the knowledge in the wild and survive.

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The setting in the story has different impacts on the theme of survival in the wilderness. Chris is in the wild so he has to find food in order to live. Chris experiences the dangerous consequences which include starvation and death lead by eating toxic potatoes. On July 30th McCandless wrote on his journal “Extremely weak. Fault of pot[ato] seed. Much trouble just to stand up. Starving. Great jeopardy”. After three months of diet of porcupines, squirrels, mushrooms, small birds, berries and roots. He would run up a huge caloric deficit. Secondly, some of Chris’ actions were life threatening. For example when Chris was camped at the edge of a wash, a flash flood occurs but he barely makes it out. “FLASHFLOOD QUOTE”. Being in the edge of dying due to the wildlife setting emphasizes the theme Survival in the wilderness. This theme shows that he almost died by a flash flood and it shows the people that Chris is trying to survive in the wilderness. Thirdly, Chris’ lack of knowledge of the land and not having proper equipments to being in the wilderness lead Chris to a painful death. Chris did not have a map. If he did he would’ve found out that he was not too far from a safe route out of the wild and he could’ve saved his life. “By design McCandless came into the country with insufficient provisions, and he lacked certain pieces of equipment deemed essential by many Alaskans: a large-caliber rifle, map and compass an ax” (Krakauer 180). Chris should’ve planned out his Alaskans journey more prepared. Therefore, the settings of this book have an impact on the theme of Survival in the wilderness.

The book into the wild is about pursuit of independent happiness. This theme is about Chris McCandless trying to reach the point where he is happy and nothing else can satisfy him knowing the fact that he achieved the happiness he wanted. This has been proven by Chris when he wrote: “I have lived through much, and I think I have found what is needed for happiness”(Krakauer127). This quotation prove the point that Chris achieved what he was looking for which is happiness. Unfortunately, Chris struggled for moments of happiness to the point in which it cost him his life. Chris met new different people along his journey and realized that true happiness can only be shared with others: “A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people to whom it is easy to do good…then work which one hopes may be of use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one’s neighbor-such is my idea of happiness”(Krakauer112). This quotation is can prove my theme as well as the setting of the story because it involves the life he lived in “New life” and the experiences and the happiness he gained. This is the lifestyle what Chris liked and made him happy. Furthermore, Chris’ new life was filled with happiness, freedom, meaningful and: “the raw throb of existence”(Krakauer22). This new life Chris was living meant more than anything in the world and his happiness was all that matters for him.


All in all it is interesting how the trials of life can lead a person into an awakening that inspires millions. Many people believe that walking “into the wild” to live off the land and find himself alone in nature was arrogant, foolish and irresponsible. Chris lack of knowledge about the wild was a major factor in his death.





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