Into the Wild

Chris McCandless Character Analysis

a.ka. Alex /Alexander McCandless/ Alexander Supertramp, McCandless is an idealistic young man from a well-to-do D.C. family, who gives away all his worldly possessions, hitchhikes his way through the U.S. between 1990 and 1992, and eventually makes it to Alaska, where he treks into Denali National Park and spends a summer living in the wilderness, before he dies from eating poisonous seeds and his body is discovered in an abandoned bus.

Chris McCandless Quotes in Into the Wild

The Into the Wild quotes below are all either spoken by Chris McCandless or refer to Chris McCandless. 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.
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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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…[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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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‘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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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[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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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Chapter 18 Quotes

HAPPINESS ONLY REAL WHEN SHARED.

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

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EXTREMELY WEAK, FAULT OF POT. SEED. MUCH TROUBLE JUST TO STAND UP. STARVING. GREAT JEOPARDY.

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

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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:

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Chris McCandless Character Timeline in Into the Wild

The timeline below shows where the character Chris McCandless appears in Into the Wild. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Author’s Note
The American Wilderness Theme Icon
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...narrator Jon Krakauer, introduces Into the Wild by presenting the circumstances surrounding the death of Christopher McCandless: “In April 1992, a young man from a well-to-do East Coast family hitchhiked to... (full context)
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Asked by Outside magazine to cover the story, Jon Krakauer investigates McCandless’ life and death. Krakauer gives a brief account of McCandless, reporting that he grew up... (full context)
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Krakauer describes McCandless as an “extremely intense young man,” whose “streak of stubborn idealism…did not readily mesh with... (full context)
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Krakauer claims that McCandless ventured into the Alaskan bush not pursuing illusions of a land filled with “milk and... (full context)
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Noting the great number of mail correspondences and opinions McCandless’ story has generated—some readers believe he was noble and courageous, others assert that he was... (full context)
Chapter 1 - The Alaska Interior
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Krakauer opens the chapter with a postcard, dated April 27th, 1992, that McCandless, (going by the name Alex), wrote in Fairbanks, Alaska and sent to Wayne Westerberg in... (full context)
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...him up. Though carrying a rifle, the young man is friendly and introduces himself as “Alex.” He requests a ride to the edge of Denali National Forest, where he intends “to... (full context)
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Though Gallien suspects “Alex” of being a Jack London fanatic, bent on living out his “ill considered fantasies” in... (full context)
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On the drive, “Alex” appears to be a charming, well- educated, and adventurous young man because he boasts about... (full context)
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Sensing that “Alex” is unprepared, Gallien attempts to dissuade him from hiking alone into the forest. But Chris... (full context)
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Gallien drops “Alex” off on the edge of The Stampede Trail. Chris attempts to give Gallien his watch... (full context)
Chapter 2 - The Stampede Trail
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...Horrified by a rotting smell emanating from the bus and a disturbing SOS note from Chris McCandless attached to its door, they refuse to enter, but Samel ventures in, uncovering McCandless’s... (full context)
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McCandless’s body is taken to a crime lab in Anchorage. From the body’s badly decomposed remains,... (full context)
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Though Chris signed the SOS note with his full name and took many self-portraits with the camera... (full context)
Chapter 3 – Carthage
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Grain elevator operator Wayne Westerberg picks up Chris McCandless, (going by “Alex”), in September of 1990, while driving back to Carthage, South Dakota.... (full context)
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McCandless stays with Westerberg and works on his crew for three days. Wayne is so impressed... (full context)
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During his second stay, McCandless develops a “lasting bond” with the town and Wayne, becoming a part of a “surrogate... (full context)
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Two weeks after McCandless arrives in Carthage, Westerberg is arrested for stealing satellite TV codes. With Wayne in jail,... (full context)
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In spite of McCandless’ claim to South Dakotan heritage, Krakauer reveals that Chris is actually the son of a... (full context)
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Upon his graduation from Emory University, Chris refuses his parents’ offer to pay for law school and to buy him a new... (full context)
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After graduation, McCandless mails his final transcript to his parents. After not hearing from him again, Walt and... (full context)
Chapter 4 - Detrital Wash
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In October 1990, a team of park rangers, led by Bud Walsh, discovers McCandless’s yellow Datsun abandoned in the Detrital Wash, near Lake Mead. Some loose change and twenty-five... (full context)
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Using notes from Chris’ journal, Krakauer reports that on July 6, McCandless, ignoring posted warnings, drove off-road into the... (full context)
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...stroke and realizing the folly of hiking into the desert without water or proper supplies, Chris flags down some boaters on the edge of Lake Mead. “Allowing his life to be... (full context)
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On U.S. Highway 101, drifters Jan Burres and her boyfriend Bob meet McCandless. Reminded of her estranged son, Jan takes Chris under her wing, teaching him the ways... (full context)
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Later, in Arizona, Chris buys a canoe “on impulse,” deciding to boat down the Colorado River and across the... (full context)
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In his canoe, McCandless sneaks through the Mexican border. He becomes lost in a labyrinth of canals for days,... (full context)
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McCandless paddles south and camps along the coast, subsisting upon five pounds of rice and the... (full context)
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While crossing the border without ID, Chris is detained by immigration authorities. He concocts a story to get out of jail, but... (full context)
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Hitchhiking throughout the Southwest, Chris goes to Los Angeles to get a job and ID, but returns to the road,... (full context)
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After abandoning another job in Las Vegas, Chris returns to the desert to retrieve his backpack, but finds that his camera has been... (full context)
Chapter 5 - Bullhead City
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Krakauer picks up McCandless’ trail at Bullhead City, Arizona where Chris stays for two months, flipping burgers at McDonald’s.... (full context)
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McCandless takes a liking for Bullhead City and makes an arrangement with an old man named... (full context)
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Chris helps Jan sell secondhand books at the Slab’s flea market by recommending books and stories... (full context)
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A seventeen year-old girl named Tracy develops a crush on Chris, but he doesn’t take her seriously. Instead he bonds with Jan, revealing to her that... (full context)
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After a week, McCandless decides to leave the Slabs. Jan drives him to Salton City, California so that he... (full context)
Chapter 6 - Anza-Borrego
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...Ronald Franz, requesting a copy of the article Krakauer published in Outside magazine. Ron knew “Alex” and wants to confirm what became of him. (full context)
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After leaving Jan Burres in Salton City, California, McCandless hikes into the desert, setting up camp in Anza-Borrego, Calif. On one of his day... (full context)
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Ron, having lost his son in a car accident many years earlier, enjoys McCandless’ youthful company. Chris urges Ron to abandon his sedentary life, sell his belongings and live... (full context)
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In February, McCandless decides to go to San Diego to find a job. He reluctantly accepts a ride... (full context)
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Restless, McCandless rides the rails up north to Seattle, where he sends postcards to Jan and Ron,... (full context)
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Stranded in Coachella, California, McCandless calls Ron to ask for a ride to Salton City. Ron offers to drive McCandless... (full context)
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In April, Ron receives a long letter from Chris, exhorting him to turn to the road to find life’s great joys and meaning. Ron... (full context)
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...Outside magazine about a hiker who froze to death in Alaska. Ron realizes it is “Alex.” Grief-stricken, he denounces God and takes up drinking (full context)
Chapter 7 – Carthage
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On a cold March day, McCandless arrives at Westerberg’s grain elevator in Carthage, ready to work. He plans to raise enough... (full context)
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In an interview with Krakauer, Westerberg comments on Chris’ absentminded behavior, recounting an instance when the usually tidy McCandless failed to notice an odorous... (full context)
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During his stay in Carthage, McCandless engages in deep conversations with Westerberg’s girlfriend Gail Borah, a mother of two, who becomes... (full context)
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Krakauer describes Chris’ “sexual innocence,” noting that Chris showed interest in girls, but likely lived a chaste and... (full context)
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Meanwhile, in Carthage, McCandless takes every opportunity to talk about his Alaskan voyage by seeking out the advice of... (full context)
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Upon leaving, Chris gives Wayne his journal, photo album and leather belt for safekeeping, and tearfully says goodbye... (full context)
Chapter 8 – Alaska
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In the months following McCandless’ death, Krakauer receives mounds of mail criticizing his portrayal of McCandless in Outside magazine. In... (full context)
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To explore Chris’ personality and his motivations for venturing into the wild, Krakauer relates the story of Gene... (full context)
Chapter 9 - Davis Gulch
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Ruess and McCandless’ lives, deaths and “hunger of the spirit,” remind Krakauer of the papar, ancient Irish monks... (full context)
Chapter 10 – Fairbanks
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...discovery of a young hiker’s body in the Alaskan wilderness. Believing the body to be “Alex’s,” they each call Alaska State Troopers separately in an attempt to help authorities identify the... (full context)
Chapter 11 - Chesapeake Bay
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When Chris is six, the family moves to the D.C. suburbs, where Walt works for NASA, then... (full context)
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On one family vacation, Walt takes twelve-year-old Chris and his siblings on a hiking trip, which inspires Chris to keep climbing higher, but... (full context)
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To earn money to buy his yellow Datsun, Chris canvasses neighborhoods, selling construction services for a local contractor. So successful at his job, Chris... (full context)
Chapter 12 – Annandale
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Before heading off on his road trip, Chris gives Walt an expensive telescope for his birthday, to show his thanks, and promises to... (full context)
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After Chris returns from his cross-country trip he is withdrawn and cold towards his family because of... (full context)
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In July 1992, two years after Chris disappeared on his post-college ramblings, Billie awakens in the middle of the night to the... (full context)
Chapter 13 - Virginia Beach
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Now a successful and ambitious businesswoman, Carine remembers how Chris used to tease her for her capitalistic zeal, yet remained her closest confidant. (full context)
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As Chris’ family continue to mourn his death, Carine and Billie lose weight suddenly, while Walt overeats,... (full context)
Chapter 16 - The Alaska Interior
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On April 15, 1992, McCandless leaves Carthage for Alaska, hitching a ride with RV driver Gaylord Stuckey along the way.... (full context)
Preparing to head into the forest, McCandless picks up a guide to edible plants and purchases a rifle. He hitches a ride... (full context)
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On the Stampede Trail, McCandless crosses the unseasonably low Teklanika River waters and discovers the bus, where he makes camp. (full context)
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Struggling to shoot game in the wintry weather, McCandless finally starts to thrive when the summer days turn warmer and longer, allowing him to... (full context)
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In June, Chris proudly shoots down a moose. Yet butchering it traumatizes Chris, making him regret killing the... (full context)
Chapter 17 - The Stampede Trail
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In search of clues at Chris’ bus, Krakauer and two friends zip line across the Teklanika River. Had Chris known about... (full context)
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Krakauer uncovers Chris’ campsite, scattered with moose bones, refuting critics’ claims that McCandless actually shot a caribou, not... (full context)
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Examining McCandless’ possessions in the bus, Krakauer notices that Chris lacked some essential equipment for surviving in... (full context)
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Making camp near the bus site, Krakauer and his friends talk about McCandless late into the night, but refuse to sleep inside the bus. (full context)
Chapter 18 - The Stampede Trail
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Back at the bus, where nature flourishes in the summer heat, McCandless continues with his routine of hunting and gathering, though he grows very thin. In the... (full context)
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Near the end of July, McCandless frantically writes in his journal that he is very weak and in grave danger, also... (full context)
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Going off this lead, Krakauer popularizes the theory in Outside magazine that a starving McCandless ate wild potato seeds at the recommendation of his edible plant guide, but mistook the... (full context)
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Yet unsatisfied with his own theory and still suspecting potato seeds to be involved with McCandless’ death, Krakauer takes some seeds from Chris’ campsite to scientists for testing. The results show... (full context)
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Krakauer further observes that had Chris carried a map, he would have known that four cabins circled the bus site. Chris... (full context)
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Unable to walk, McCandless spends his last days reading books and pens a goodbye in his journal, thanking God... (full context)
Epilogue
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Krakauer accompanies Walt and Billie in a helicopter to the site of Chris’ death. They originally intend to travel overland on The Stampede Trail, but the Teklanika’s waters... (full context)
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At the site, Walt and Billie inspect the bus and assemble a memorial to Chris inside the its door with flowers, a plaque, a survival kit and a note urging... (full context)