Into the Wild

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Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Anchor Books edition of Into the Wild published in 1997.
Author’s Note Quotes

In trying to understand McCandless, I inevitably came to reflect on…the grip wilderness has on the American imagination, the allure high-risk activities hold for young men of a certain mind, [and] the complicated, highly charged bond that exists between fathers and sons.

Related Characters: Jon Krakauer (speaker), Chris McCandless
Page Number: x
Explanation and Analysis:

As Krakauer introduces the subject of his book, he is straightforward with the reader about the major themes that will characterize his treatment of Chris McCandless. This passage also gives us an understanding of Krakauer's own interest in the story. Having been assigned to write about it for Outside magazine, he finds himself drawn to pursue the tale in greater detail, not only because of his interest in the protagonist, but also because of what Chris's story reveals about larger themes in American culture.

Krakauer will insist throughout the book that the story only makes sense within a larger trajectory of literary representations of wilderness. Chris McCandless is one of many young men in American history drawn to nature because of the excitement it can inspire, the enticement of both personal challenge and ideological "purity" involved in leaving civilization behind, and also because of the broader context and history of high-risk involvement in the wilderness. Finally, Krakauer suggests that Chris McCandless's relationship with his father – as well as with the various other male characters he develops relationships with along the way – are also indicative of a broader trend that can be instructive for learning something about American society in general.


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Some readers admired the boy [Chris] immensely for his courage and noble ideals; other fulminated that he was a reckless idiot, a wacko, a narcissist who perished out of arrogance and stupidity—and was undeserving of the considerable media attention he received.

Related Characters: Jon Krakauer (speaker), Chris McCandless
Page Number: xi
Explanation and Analysis:

Krakauer has already made clear that he has a personal investment in the story, and that although he is a journalist, he wants to stress that he will not be an impartial observer. Indeed, here he notes that the nature of Chris's tale prompts a host of various and even contradictory responses. This very diversity suggests that the story is deeply powerful to people in a number of ways – indeed, that it strikes at the heart of competing values that we hold.

Despite all of Krakauer's research, he suggests that this book will not provide the definitive account on whose version of the story is correct. Even with all the facts at hand, he suggests, one can still interpret certain actions as arrogant or innocent, naive or willfully obtuse. It is not, Krakauer implies, that one of these narratives is more "correct" than the other. Rather, even while noting where he lies on the spectrum of opinions, he leaves it to the reader to draw his or her own conclusions – claiming all the while that these conclusions will depend on the reader's own deeply held beliefs about character and society.

Chapter 1 Quotes

This is the last you shall hear from me Wayne…If this adventure proves fatal and you don’t ever hear from me again I want you to know you’re a great man. I now walk into the wild.

Related Characters: Chris McCandless (speaker), Wayne Westerberg
Related Symbols: Postcards, Notes and Letters
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

Knowing from the start that Chris McCandless's journey will, in fact, "prove fatal," this postcard strikes an eerie, even prophetic note. We don't yet know who exactly Wayne is, or what his relationship to Chris was like, but the postcard does suggest a powerful bond, given that Chris's last communication with another human being was with Wayne Westerberg.

Chris's words suggest that he is giving himself up to his circumstances, putting his faith in the forces of nature outside his control. As Krakauer has intimated int the author's note, this move could be considered as either arrogant or appealingly innocent, depending on one's point of view. But in either case, Chris's decision to "walk into the wild" is indicative of his entire world view, put into his own simple words – perhaps the reason why Krakauer took the title for his book from this postcard.

Chapter 3 Quotes

The trip was to be an odyssey in the fullest sense of the word, an epic journey that would change everything. [McCandless] had spent the previous four years, as he saw it, preparing to fulfill an absurd and onerous duty: to graduate from college. At long last he was unencumbered, emancipated from the stifling world of his parents and peers, a world of abstraction and security and material excess, a world in which he felt grievously cut off from the raw throb of existence.

Related Characters: Jon Krakauer (speaker), Chris McCandless, Walt McCandless, Billie McCandless
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:

In describing Chris's decision to leave his family and expectations and begin his journey, Krakauer does his best to enter into his subject's consciousness, to "get into his head," in order to try to understand what Chris was thinking. In large part, we learn that Chris is running away from everything that he grew up with – security, comfort, material possessions – that is, everything that many people strive to achieve for much of their lives. For Chris, though, these things suggest not what life can offer but the opposite of life itself.

Chris doesn't think that he can simply choose to live less materialistically than his family, for instance. Instead, he considers it necessary to cut off all connections to his prior life and to entirely reinvent himself. This idealism, Krakauer suggests, is at the root of both his greatest experiences and of his ultimately fatal end.

…[McCandless] intended to invent an utterly new life for himself, one in which he would be free to wallow in unfiltered experience. To symbolize the complete severance from his previous life, he even adopted a new name. No longer would he answer to Chris McCandless; he was now Alexander Supertramp, master of his own destiny.

Related Characters: Jon Krakauer (speaker), Chris McCandless
Page Number: 22-23
Explanation and Analysis:

In addition to leaving behind his family and his material possessions (apart from his beloved Datsun), Chris feels that he needs to assume an entirely new identity. It's not enough for him to make certain small changes – to choose to live several degrees more simply, for instance. Instead, he must reinvent himself in order to be open to such "unfiltered experience."

Chris's self-invention becomes literally evident in his assumption of a new name. "Alexander Supertramp" will leave no traces of the old Chris McCandless behind, with that old name's connection to his parents and to choices that have been made for him, rather than choices he wants to make himself.

Chapter 4 Quotes

Chris was very much of the school that you should own nothing except what you could carry on your back at a dead run.

Related Characters: Billie McCandless (speaker), Chris McCandless
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:

Chris's parents, who have hired a private investigator, have learned that Chris donated the rest of his college fund – $24,000 – to charity. Although they are worried about Chris, here his mother, Billie McCandless, shows that his actions are not altogether shocking. Billie seems to know Chris's character well, at least well enough to note his disdain for material possessions and desire to remain simple and self-sufficient.

This passage suggests that Chris's idealism and lack of materialism were not new, hastily adopted values, but instead went back a long time. In a way, Billie's description of her son suggests that his escape is a logical continuation, if an extreme one, of values that he held for long before.

Can this be the same Alex that set out in July 1990? Malnutrition and the road have taken their toll on his body. Over 25 pounds lost. But his spirit is soaring.

Related Characters: Chris McCandless (speaker)
Related Symbols: Hunger and Starvation
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:

By this time, Chris has lost or abandoned almost all of his worldly possessions, and he is wandering from place to place even more than before. Here, he writes in the third person in his own journal, as if he is viewing his own path from a distanced perspective. Chris refers to himself as "Alex," the new identity that he has taken on – this new identity, along with the way Chris describes his feelings, suggests that he is delighted that he has, in fact, been able to start anew by running away from his life and from his past.

Another quite physical manifestation of Chris's new identity can be seen in the changes in his body. "Malnutrition and the road" are, specifically, the source of these changes. But instead of complaining about his physical weakness, Chris takes it as just another sign of how much he has succeeded in reinventing himself. The way he describes this process is idealistic in the philosophical, not just pedestrian, sense: he embraces "spirit" over matter, as if his physical losses have allowed him to reach what is true. Chris has left behind the comfort of his former life, and he finds the struggle that he now must face to be uplifting, an indication of his closer and more authentic interaction with the world.

It is the experiences, the memories, the great triumphant joy of living to the fullest extent in which real meaning is found.

Related Characters: Chris McCandless (speaker)
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

Writing in his journal, Chris continues to express his feelings of happiness, indeed of euphoria, that characterize his increasingly nomadic, transitory life. Here he provides an alternative way of extracting meaning in life, one that has nothing to do with the goods or possessions that one accumulates. Indeed, rather than accumulating possessions, Chris suggests that one must accumulate experiences and memories in order to truly understand what is important and what isn't. According to this perspective, even the greatest trials and hardships that Chris has experienced and will experience become important and even positive in the development of his character.

Chapter 5 Quotes

[Chris] was so enthralled by [Jack London’s] tales, however, that he seemed to forget they were works of fiction, constructions of the imagination that had more to do with London’s romantic sensibilities than with the actualities of life in the subarctic wilderness.

Related Characters: Jon Krakauer (speaker), Chris McCandless
Related Symbols: Alaska, Chris’s Books
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

Krakauer is describing how Chris helps Jan sell secondhand books by recommending the works of Jack London to the visitors. Jack London set a number of his works in the Klondike area of Canada and Alaska. Here, Krakauer suggests that Chris let himself be carried away by the romantic vision of the wilderness as described in London's literary works.

Although Krakauer is very sympathetic towards Chris, he doesn't shy away from attempting to explain his actions based on his own mistakes. In particular, Krakauer identifies a potentially dangerous strain of Chris's idealism, in that it can blind Chris to seeing reality – in particular, the potentially treacherous realities of life in the wilderness.

‘I’d thought he’d be fine in the end…he was smart. He’d figured out how to paddle a canoe down to Mexico, how to hope freight trains, how to score a bed at inner-city missions. He figured all of that out on his own, and I felt sure he’d figure out Alaska, too.’

Related Characters: Jan Burres and Bob (speaker), Chris McCandless
Related Symbols: Alaska
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:

When Krakauer interviews Jan Burres, she relates how she tried to give Chris some supplies for his time in Alaska, but he refused everything. Still, here she suggests that even though she was hurt by his refusal to accept help and by his pride in wanting to remain self-sufficient, she didn't think he'd really get into danger. Jan seems to have been impressed by all the wild and potentially dangerous situations into which Chris had wandered before, from Mexico to the American West.

However, Jan implies that she believed it was Chris's own intelligence and planning that had allowed him to successfully navigate his way through such situations. What Krakauer attempts to show, instead, is how much of Chris's safety up until this point was due to mere luck and chance. Still, Jan's belief underlines just how much Chris succeeded in developing his independent persona, one in which he too came to believe.

Chapter 6 Quotes

McCandless…relieved that he had again evaded the impending threat of human intimacy, of friendship, and all the messy emotional baggage that comes with it. He had fled the claustrophobic confines of his family. He’d successfully kept Jan Burres and Wayne Westerberg at arm’s length, flitting out of their lives before anything was expected of him. And now he’d slipped painlessly out of Ron Franz’s life as well.

Related Characters: Jon Krakauer (speaker), Chris McCandless, Jan Burres and Bob, Ronald Franz, Walt McCandless, Billie McCandless
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:

We have just learned that Ron Franz had developed such a fondness for Chris that he offered to adopt him. Instead, Chris not only refused such an offer, but also took it as a sign that he had grown too close to Ron, and needed to sever any bonds with him. Here, Krakauer uses this occurrence to make a broader point about Chris's aversion to any kind of intimacy. Such an unwillingness to develop deep, close bonds with others had become a pattern for Chris, from his relationship to his family as well as to those he met on the road.

The paradox, of course, is that the fact that these later relationships existed at all speaks to Chris's charm and ability to draw people to him – a closeness that he then would grow uncomfortable with and try to escape. In some ways, it seems like Chris considered human relationships like he did material possessions, as if he risked losing his connection to what was important, or his own sense of individual sense, if he spent too much time with other people.

Chapter 7 Quotes

Both father and son were stubborn and high-strung. Given Walt’s need to exert control and Chris’s extravagantly independent nature, polarization was inevitable. Chris submitted to Walt’s authority…but the boy raged inwardly all the while. He brooded at length over what he perceived to be his father’s moral shortcomings, the hypocrisy of his parents’ lifestyle, the tyranny of their conditional love. Eventually, Chris rebelled—and when he finally did, it was with characteristic immoderation.

Related Characters: Jon Krakauer (speaker), Chris McCandless, Walt McCandless
Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, Krakauer returns to Chris's past in order to explore his relationship with his father, a relationship which Krakauer believes helps to explain a number of Chris's later motivations and actions. Krakauer argues that similarities as much as differences caused discord between Walt and Chris, who yearned to break out not only of his father's control but also of his father's identity, which didn't allow him to develop his own.

Some of Chris's problems with his father, as characterized by Krakauer, are not all that different from the frustrations that many children develop regarding their parents. What distinguishes Chris, Krakauer suggests, is the intensity with which he reacts, and the stubbornness that ensures that he'll follow through in his radical rejection of his family. But even this "immoderation," Krakauer suggests, can be traced to Chris's father, who's more similar to Chris than he would like.

No, I want to hitch north. Flying would be cheating. It would wreck the whole trip.

Related Characters: Chris McCandless (speaker)
Related Symbols: Hitchhiking
Page Number: 68
Explanation and Analysis:

Wayne Westerberg has offered to fly Chris out to Alaska, but Chris refuses. Here, as elsewhere, he shows an unwillingness to accept the way most others move throughout the world, choosing instead to think long and hard about every decision he makes. For Chris, hitchhiking is preferable to flying for several reasons: it's cheaper, more sustainable for the environment, and doesn't require even the basic kind of involvement in society that one would need (including, for instance, an ID) in order to fly.

But here, Chris seems concerned not only for the social implications of his choices but also for what these choices say about him and his own journey. Characterizing flying as "cheating" suggests that Chris sets high, pure standards for himself, standards that almost become a kind of game for him to win. The book does portray Chris's decisions as authentic and sincere, as idealistic, even if at the same time it is possible to argue that he sets such high standards for little apparent reason other than his own stubbornness.

[Chris] was hungry to learn about things. Unlike most of us, he was the sort of person who insisted on living out his beliefs.

Related Characters: Gail Borah (speaker), Chris McCandless
Page Number: 68
Explanation and Analysis:

In describing Chris, to whom she grew close during the time he spent with her and Westerberg, Gail Borah, like many others, depicts him as an idealist. But unlike those who express suspicion about Chris's reckless choices, Gail paints an admiring portrait here. For her, Chris's hunger for learning was sincere and intense.

While many of us claim that we believe in certain things, she suggests, few of us actually take those beliefs to their logical conclusions. In this, Chris was different. Trying to figure out how to live in a way most consistent with his professed beliefs was always going to be risky, but for Chris, according to Gail, these risks were worth it – something that she portrays as a lesson for others.

Chapter 8 Quotes

Such willful ignorance [on the part of McCandless]…amounts to disrespect for the land, and paradoxically demonstrates the same sort of arrogance that resulted in the Exxon Valdez Spill—just another case of underprepared, over-confident men bumbling around out there and screwing up because they lacked requisite humility…McCandless’s contrived asceticism and a pseudoliterary stance compound rather than reduce the fault.

Related Characters: Nick Jans (speaker), Chris McCandless
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:

Nick Jans, the author of a long letter addressed to Krakauer after his reporting on Chris's death, expresses a deep-seated antagonism to Chris's self-avowed idealism and desire to live more purely and authentically. By comparing Chris's "arrogance" to that resulting in the Exxon Valdez Spill, Jans makes clear that to him there is nothing sweet or innocent about the young man's explorations. Instead, he argues that what some call "innocence" is in fact dangerous and harmful to precisely the pristine environments that Chris claimed to admire.

Krakauer has made clear to his readers that he holds a more sympathetic viewpoint towards Chris's actions, choosing to regard his blunders as innocent and naive more than actively malicious. But by quoting at length from a letter such as Nick Jans's, he shows a willingness to admit the possibility of various interpretations of this story. Krakauer acknowledges that one could well consider Chris as arrogant, more interested in pursuing his own romantic view of the wild than in actually choosing practices that would be sustainable for the environment. But in addition, here as elsewhere, Krakauer leaves the ultimate choice up to the reader, in deciding how to interpret Chris's various choices and actions.

McCandless didn’t conform…well to the bush-casualty stereotype. Although he was rash, untutored in the ways of the backcountry, and incautious to the point of foolhardiness, he wasn’t incompetent—he wouldn’t have lasted 113 days if he were. And he wasn’t a nutcase, he wasn’t a sociopath, he wasn’t an outcast. McCandless was something else…. A pilgrim, perhaps.

Related Characters: Jon Krakauer (speaker), Chris McCandless
Page Number: 85
Explanation and Analysis:

In attempting to determine his own conclusions about Chris's character and responsibility, Krakauer takes a more nuanced approach than a critic like Nick Jans, for instance. To Krakauer, there are some parallels between Chris's saga and that of other "bush-casualty" tales, but also ways in which Chris's particularly stubbornness and independence make him break away from the norm. Krakauer dismisses various simple explanations for Chris's death – but he is unable to confidently replace such characterizations (that of a sociopath or an outcast, for instance) with another, instead adding a tentative "perhaps" to "pilgrim."

Krakauer prefers to situate Chris's experience at the confluence of various individual, social, and even national trends. Chris can be described as "rash," according to Krakauer, but he's also competent, and his desire to go out into the wilderness is bolstered by a long, rich tradition of similar activities in American history and literature. Only by delving into all these trends, according to Krakauer, can one hope to fully understand what happened to Chris, and what it means for some of the values that others like and unlike him continue to hold.

Chapter 11 Quotes

Chris was fearless…He didn’t think the odds applied to him. We were always trying to pull him back from the edge.

Related Characters: Walt McCandless (speaker), Chris McCandless
Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:

Walt has described a family camping trip when Chris was twelve, and how even then he was always eager to take risks. As Walt recollects events from his and Chris's past for Krakauer, he, like others, characterizes Chris as "fearless" but also reckless. In a sense, Walt implies, Chris thought of himself as invincible, unwilling or unable to think that he could be harmed even despite his dangerous behavior.

This passage, like several other instances of testimony from Chris's family, suggests that Chris's character remained largely consistent over time. Rather than being an impetuous, even random act of asserting his independence, then, Chris's odyssey might be better understood as the logical extension of the kind of person he always was. In that interpretation, his self-reinvention is in some ways the fullest expression of his original self.

Chapter 13 Quotes

More even than most teens, he tended to see things in black and white. He measured himself and those around him by an impossibly rigorous moral code.

Related Characters: Jon Krakauer (speaker), Chris McCandless
Page Number: 122
Explanation and Analysis:

As Krakauer spends time interviewing Chris's family, he continues to try to understand the dynamics based on both what the family members say and how Krakauer himself can fit their perspectives into a fuller picture. Here, Krakauer attempts to balance his sympathy towards Chris with a sympathy towards those that Chris judged, perhaps overly harshly.

Chris's idealism, in this framework, is something to be admired, but also as something that could make him morally righteous and make it difficult, or impossible, for others to live up to his expectations. Such unattainable expectations could only, Krakauer suggest, lead Chris to disappointment – helping to explain, perhaps, Chris's aversion to intimacy with others even once he left his family behind.

Chapter 14 Quotes

As a youth, I am told, I was willful, self-absorbed, intermittently reckless, moody. I disappointed my father in the usual ways. Like McCandless, figures of male authority aroused in me a confusing medley of corked fury and hunger to please. If something captured my undisciplined imagination, I pursued it with a zeal bordering on obsession, and from the age of seventeen until my late twenties that something was mountain climbing….Climbing mattered.

Related Characters: Jon Krakauer (speaker)
Page Number: 134
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, Krakauer moves to a first-person account of his own experience with a risky adventure in the wilderness. Until now, he has only alluded to several points of comparison between Chris McCandless and himself. Now, he makes explicit connections between Chris's life and his own, particularly regarding both their complex, difficult relationships to their fathers. Stubbornness, too, is something that he and Chris also share, as evinced by Krakauer's relationship to mountain climbing.

By linking his own narrative to that of Chris, Krakauer suggests once again that there is something broader to be learned in Chris's story, something shared by many people as a result of both individual and social circumstances. Krakauer's choice also helps to humanize Chris's character even while acknowledging his weaknesses. By admitting that he too can be stubborn, impetuous, and overly inclined to take risks – even while also being capable of impressive research and narrative skill – Krakauer helps us see that Chris too is more than the arrogance of his choices. At the same time, Krakauer makes it clear also that he himself, in different circumstances, could well have been as unlucky as Chris.

Chapter 15 Quotes

…like McCandless, I was a raw youth who mistook passion for insight and acted according to an obscure, gap-ridden logic. I thought climbing the Devils Thumb would fix all that was wrong with my life. In the end, of course it changed almost nothing. But I came to appreciate that mountains make poor receptacles for dreams. And I lived to tell the tale.

Related Characters: Jon Krakauer (speaker), Chris McCandless
Related Symbols: Devil’s Thumb
Page Number: 154
Explanation and Analysis:

After relating the story of his near-death experience on the Devils Thumb, Krakauer draws further connections to the story of Chris McCandless. Once again, Krakauer acknowledges how his own mistakes and hubris prompted him to act the way he did. He suggests that certain young men in particular may be especially inclined to take risks and push themselves, even if all that they learn as a result is that there is not much to learn from such adventures.

However, in order to learn that lesson one must, of course, survive. And by putting his own experience in parallel with Chris's, Krakauer suggests that chance alone is what distinguishes their trajectories, rather than any advantage in intelligence or logic that he held over Chris. Krakauer doesn't excuse either his or Chris's mistakes, but he does attempt to give us a broader, more sympathetic viewpoint on how similar choices, combined with different circumstances, can lead to radically different consequences.

Chapter 16 Quotes

Two years he walks the earth…an aesthetic voyager whose home is the road….After two rambling years comes the final and greatest adventures. The climactic battle to kill the false being within and victoriously conclude the spiritual revolution….Ten days bring…him to the great white north. No longer poisoned by civilization he flees, and walks alone upon the land to become lost in the wild.

Related Characters: Chris McCandless (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Bus
Page Number: 162
Explanation and Analysis:

As Chris settles into his new life in the wilderness, he scrawls graffiti in several places on the bus where he has made his home. The quote included here is described by Krakauer as the most eloquent, even if it is also among the most rambling and bombastic, example of that graffiti.

As he does elsewhere, here Chris speaks of himself in the third person, as if he is imagining the journey he has taken from a distanced perspective. His language and imagery are almost apocalyptic, a dramatic narrative of escape and salvation in a new, pure land, where Chris is finally free to reinvent himself. Civilization is portrayed as dangerous, even poisonous, as contrasted to the powerful and indeed spiritual healing to be found alone in nature.

Of course, with the benefit of hindsight this language also sounds ominous. While Chris most likely meant his "final" adventure to mean his last, most extreme experiment before finding a middle ground in or near society, this time in Alaska would indeed turn out to be Chris's final adventure. Nature indeed will turn out to be just as mighty and powerful as Chris suggests it to be here, but its power is uncaring, and will be unleashed against him rather than for his benefit.

Chapter 18 Quotes


Related Characters: Chris McCandless (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Stampede Trail, Chris’s Books
Page Number: 188
Explanation and Analysis:

This handwritten phrase is scrawled in the margins of one of Chris's books, Doctor Zhivago, which he reads in Alaska as he grows weaker and thinner, though still continuing his hunting and gathering. In a way, the phrase is consistent with Chris's general idealism: here, his conviction that truth and meaning are to be found in literature, and can be applied to real life as well. But in addition, the passage tragically suggests that Chris went through a belated epiphany, one that it was too late to act upon.

Throughout the book, Chris has been unwilling to grow too close to other people, wary of intimacy and instead embracing isolation and solitude as ensuring real happiness. Now – perhaps thanks to his reading, perhaps as a result of other thoughts during his time alone – Chris has come to realize that he must be open to sharing experiences with other people in order to achieve real happiness. Of course, it is impossible to know whether this was a complete epiphany, or whether it was simply a passing thought scrawled in a book, but we know that it at least occurred to Chris at some point during his time in the Alaska wilderness before he died, alone.


Related Characters: Chris McCandless (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Stampede Trail, Chris’s Journal, Potato Seeds
Page Number: 188
Explanation and Analysis:

Thanks to Chris's journal, Krakauer is able to piece together, little by little, what Chris's last weeks and days were like – and perhaps to find a key to what caused his death. Here, a passage in Chris's journal provides a clue, as the tone suddenly shifts to one of desperation. We see quite clearly here how one small choice, one minor circumstance, can turn out to be a wild risk when alone and far from civilization. By citing Chris's journal verbatim, Krakauer makes it evident to us just how easily one can slip from safety into danger – and just how easily an idealistic journey can be compromised by lack of knowledge or expertise.

Epilogue Quotes

Many people have told me that they admire Chris for what he was trying to do. If he’d lived, I would agree with them. But he didn’t, and there’s no way to bring him back. You can’t fix it. Most things you can fix, but not that. I don’t know that you ever get over this kind of loss. The fact that Chris is gone is a sharp hurt I feel every single day. It’s really hard. Some days are better than others, but it’s going to be hard every day for the rest of my life.

Related Characters: Walt McCandless (speaker), Chris McCandless
Page Number: 202
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, Walt shares his thoughts with Krakauer, after the two of them, with Billie McCandless, traveled to the site of Chris's final adventure and death in Alaska. Walt is clearly struggling to come to terms with what Chris's death means, if anything. He is also evidently thinking of how many people have been affected by the story, which has reached a national audience.

Ultimately, Walt refuses to accept that Chris's story is positive and redemptive, even if some people found things to admire about his journey. What prevents Chris's odyssey of reinvention and isolation from ultimately being a powerful, inspiring tale, of course, is the fact that Chris did not live to learn from it himself. Walt's pain is a daily reminder of the lasting effects of Chris's risky decisions, not only for Chris himself, but for those close to him.

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