The journalist who narrates McCandless’s adventures, interviews Chris’s friends, family, and the people he met on his journey, and investigates the young man’s death. He shares his experience of a harrowing climb on Devil’s Thumb to offer insight into McCandless’s life and death.
A grain elevator operator who befriends McCandless on the road in Montana. He offers Chris a ride, food, shelter, and later a job working at his grain elevator in Carthage, South Dakota. Wayne receives Chris’s last postcard.
Jan Burres and Bob
A “rubber tramp” couple who pick up McCandless off Highway 101 in Northern California. Jan develops a motherly attachment to Chris. Chris sends her postcards every few months.
An eighty-year-old man who drives McCandless from Salton City, California to Grand Junction, Colorado. He develops a fatherly fondness for Chris. After McCandless dies, Franz follows the young man’s advice to lead a nomadic life on the road. Chris writes to him often.
Drives McCandless to The Stampede Trail. He gives Chris his boots and some food. He is the last person to see McCandless alive.
A twenty-year old Californian who walks into the Utah desert in 1934 and never returns.
A man who experiments with living without the help of modern conveniences for more than a decade. He eventually grows disillusioned with his caveman existence and kills himself.
A gifted alpinist who successfully scales Mt. Hunter, but after several attempts to climb Denali becomes psychologically unhinged and recklessly walks out onto the glacier, allowing himself to fall into its giant crevices.
An absented-minded Texan who spends a summer camping in the Alaskan bush, but forgets to arrange for a pilot to pick him up at the end of the season. He ends up perishing because he fails to properly flag down a passing plane.
Chris’s father. A NASA engineer and entrepreneur, he establishes an aerospace consultancy firm with his second wife Billie, Chris’s mother. Chris’s discovery of his father’s philandering between his first and second wife causes tension between Walt and Chris.
Chris’s mother and Walt’s second wife. She helps Walt run their joint consulting business. While Chris is missing, she wakes up in the middle of the night, claiming to hear her son’s voice.
Chris’s younger sister and confidant. She offers intimate insight into her brother’s teenage years and personality.
Chris’ older half-brother, who confirms Chris’ identity with the authorities.
Walt’s ex-wife. Walt has an affair with her after moving in and having children with Billie.
A crazy old man who allows McCandless stay in a trailer on the outskirts of Bullhead City, Arizona.
The park ranger who discovers Chris’ abandoned yellow Datsun in Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
Ken Thompson, Gordon Samuel, and Ferdie Swanson
Moose hunters who happen upon the Anchorage couple and the bus where Chris McCandless perished.
An ATV driver who radios Alaskan State Troopers to retrieve Chris McCandless’s body.
The rancher McCandless works for briefly in Northern California, but Chris leaves the ranch when he realizes that Crazy Ernie won’t pay him.
The private investigator Chris’ parents hire to find their son.
A pair of hikers who are horrified to discover Chris’s S.O.S. note posted to the bus and the rotting smell emanating from its insides
Westerberg’s girlfriend, who develops a motherly affection for McCandless.
A teenage girl at the Slabs who develops a crush on McCandless.
A writer and schoolteacher from an Inupiat village, who sends a long letter to Krakauer, criticizing McCandless’ ignorance, arrogance and naiveté.
An RV driver who drives McCandless to Fairbanks, Alaska.