Into the Wild

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Devil’s Thumb Symbol Icon
A merciless glacier and peak of sheer ice that Krakauer attempts to scale alone as a young man, Devil’s Thumb represents the allure of risky activities and the unrealistic goals that young men set for themselves because of their hubris, eagerness for a challenge, and sense of invincibility.

Devil’s Thumb Quotes in Into the Wild

The Into the Wild quotes below all refer to the symbol of Devil’s Thumb. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The American Wilderness Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Anchor Books edition of Into the Wild published in 1997.
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.

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Devil’s Thumb Symbol Timeline in Into the Wild

The timeline below shows where the symbol Devil’s Thumb appears in Into the Wild. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 14 - The Stikine Ice Cap
Risk and Self-Reinvention Theme Icon
...age 23, Krakauer, lured by the challenge of climbing a dangerous mount, decides to climb Devils Thumb alone. He is convinced that the experience will change his life. (full context)
The American Wilderness Theme Icon
Luck, Chance, and Circumstance Theme Icon
Nearly out of food, Krakauer anxiously waits for days at the base of Devils Thumb for a plane to drop off supplies. But heavy snow delays it. At first sight... (full context)