“It is easy, when you are young, to believe that what you desire is no less than what you deserve, to assume that if you want something badly enough, it’s your god-given right to have it.” – from Into The Wild
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer is the story of Chris McCandless, a young man who gave up all his possessions and connections to society to disappear into the great white wilderness for a few months. His body was discovered a short while later. His few possessions revealed that he had intended to return to civilization eventually, but that something went wrong.
“In April 1992, McCandless hitchhiked to the Stampede Trail in Alaska. There, McCandless headed down the snow-covered trail to begin an odyssey with only 10 pounds of rice, a .22 caliber rifle, several boxes of rifle rounds, a camera, and a small selection of reading material.” (wikipedia summary)
He lasted 100 days before perishing.
In my opinion, McCandless was crazy.
Some dictionary definitions of crazy:
unusual; bizarre; singular
senseless; impractical; totally unsound
intensely enthusiastic; passionately excited
very enamored or infatuated
intensely anxious or eager; impatient
All of these apply to him.
Krakauer does a brilliant job of highlighting all these different definitions of “crazy”. He allows that McCandless was an enthusiastic and possibly misguided young man. He admires McCandless’s tenacity and his ability to survive (he had some crazy travel experiences that would have defeated most people).
Krakauer ponders what drives people (mostly young men) to seek the refuge of the wilderness. He writes in a compelling way about McCandless; as though he knew him personally, and certainly as though he relates to what motivated him.
He explores the different ideals McCandless might have been infatuated with, the things that exited him and that made him tick. He rejoices in McCandless’s intellectual pursuits and erratic genius. He mourns the idiocy of a boy who made some easily avoidable errors that ended up costing him his life.
Krakauer does an excellent job of invoking all these feelings throughout his writing – there is nothing conclusive here. He does not tell you that you must accept McCandless as any particular type of person. He crafts a story that grants you a peek at a very unusual and mysterious young man, and lets you forge your own ideas. He does not condemn you for thinking McCandless might be crazy – to me, the most he seems to be asking the readers, and all the people McCandless knew and affected, including his family, is to forgive the boy.
Woo! A book review! Finally!