Author's Note and Chapter 1
1. What is the personal history of Chris McCandless?
He grew up in a suburb of Washington, D.C. with a good education and was active in athletics. In college, McCandless began to aspire to the works of Leo Tolstoy to the point that it concerned his family and friends. After graduation, Christopher disappeared from the lives of all the people he knew and embarked on a journey that lead him around North America, culminating in his death in Alaska.
2. What themes does Jon Krakauer introduce in the “Author’s Note”?
Themes introduced include the grip the wild has on youthful imagination, the allure of risk taking, and the complicated and powerful bonds between father and son.
3. What is the purpose of the quoted material at the start of Chapter One?
The purpose seems to be to give a theme to the chapter. In essence, a summary of the mood or context of what is to come. This also has the ability to relate Chris to the reader.
4. Who is Alex?
Alex is shorthand for Alexander Supertramp, McCandless’ new, self-imposed identity.
5. Who is Jim Gallien, and how did he meet McCandless?
Jim is a union electrician in Alaska who met McCandless as he drove to work. McCandless was trying to hitchhike to Stampede Trail, and Gallien gave him a ride.
6. What was Gallien’s assessment of McCandless?
Gallien concluded McCandless was a kid who wanted to test himself against the wild without good knowledge or advice, and would easily give up and go home. Basically someone who read about Alaska in a magazine and believed the fantasy-like depiction of Alaska presented there, and therefore thought they would just go out and test themselves.
7. What kind of advice did Gallien give McCandless?
Gallien tried to scare McCandless into avoiding Alaska with bear stories and when that didn't work, he tried to talk to him.
8. What was McCandless’s response to Gallien’s offer? Also, what gift did Gallien give to McDandless?
He ignored Gallien's advice and refuted an offer to buy him food and supplies. Gallien did manage to persuade McCandless to take his lunch and boots.
9. Why did Gallien decide not to alert the authorities about McCandless?
Because he assumed McCandless would give up and return to society quickly, with little actual harm to himself.
10. Gallien’s statement that McCandless would “probably get hungry pretty quick and just walk out to the highway. That’s what any normal person would do,” is an example of the literary device of irony of situation. What is ironic about the statement?
The fact that McCandless was not a normal person and had already encountered hunger previously so would not give up easily. Christopher was looking for a challenge and had faced similar situations quite recently, so he most definitely would not have taken the advice nor does Galliens statement come close to defining him.
1. Why would Krakauer include a quote from another author such as Jack London as the heading for this chapter?
It shows that nature is ruler and sets the mood for the chapter, as well as the topic. Also to be considered is the fact that Jack London was one of the writers that inspired Chris to go on his journey.
2. What is the purpose of the detailed descriptions of Mt. McKinley, Denali, and the Stampede Trail?
They are the site of Chris’ death and were the last things around him when he died. Giving a detailed acount of these places helps us to better put ourselves in Chris's place.
3. What was considered to be the cause of Chris McCandless’s death?
It was determined that McCandless had died of starvation.
1. Who is Wayne Westerberg and how do Wayne and Chris get along?
Wayne is a hyperkinetic who owns two grain elevators and a combine crew. When Wayne met McCandless, he felt as if he had to take Alex under his wing. He also had a whole range of talents including farming, welding, buisiness, mechanics, piloting, computer programming, and electronics repair. Chris and Wayne became very close friends during their short time together.
2. Local color is introduced when a writer uses regional or colorful terms to present an image of a distinct area or culture. The terms “leather tramp” and “rubber tramp” qualify as examples of local color. What culture do they describe, and what is the difference between rubber tramps and leather tramps?
They describe a life of living on the edge, basically vagabonds. Rubber tramps are wanderers who have vehicles; leather tramps are wanderers who do not.
3. Why did the author say that McCandless found a “surrogate family in Westerberg and his employees”?
Chris’ original family didn’t fit him, so he left it. The people who worked for Westerberg and Westerberg were more to his taste and were the ones who Chris would have preferred as a family, so he sort of "adopted" them.
4. Why did McCandless leave Carthage?
Because Westerberg was charged with a felony and his buissness was temporarily stopped, and since Chris needed money to live, he left.
5. How does the reader know that War and Peace was important to McCandless?
Because the author wrote that Chris had transferred it to Wayne with notes on the inside stating as much.
6. Describe McCandless’s early years and family life.
He grew up in a middle class society where his mom and dad owned a small company. His schooling was very thorough and he was very smart. He was not close to his parents but close to one sister: Clarice. He saw college as the final four years of his imprisonment to his parents and his parents’ society’s strict rules.
7. What clues did McCandless give that he was out of step with the commercialism of contemporary society?
He refused to buy or receive gifts and he argued with his parents over the commercialism of society today. Chris also found titles and honors to be irrelevant. He lived off campus in bad conditions.
8. What change did McCandless make that symbolized the new life he expected to build after he left Athens?
He changed his name as an official way of showing himself and others that he was no longer Chris McCandless, just a small entity in a commercialized world, but now Alex Supertramp, master of his own destiny, free to do what his will demand.
Chapter 4 + 5
1. The head note to this chapter concludes that people go to the desert “not to escape but to find reality.” How does this statement apply to Chris?
Chris believed society had a way of trapping people inside their minds behind illusions of what was right and wrong and all their rules. Chris believed if he got away, he would lift the veil and see the world in his own way, his own reality.
2. Who is Jan Burres, and how did she figure into Chris’s travels?
She is a rubber tramp who gave Chris a lift and tried to talk sense into him.
3. Describe the trip that Chris took in the old metal canoe that Chris bought in Topock, Arizona.
He canoed across a lake and down several rivers to the Mexican border. He used it to illegally pass the border and then move through the marsh and rivers on the other side. He got lost a couple times and finally got a lift to the ocean. After his tiny craft nearly submerged, Chris dumped it on the sand and moved on.
4. This chapter contains numerous excepts from the journal Chris kept. What is noticeable about the writing in his account of his Mexican adventure?
He writes in third person and he adds the people are much nicer. Yet the section also seems very brief.
5. Existentialism is a philosophy that emphasizes the individual’s responsibility and free will to direct the course of his/her life. What existential conclusion does Chris reach when leaving Las Vegas? (Look at end of chapter 4 for ideas.)
He believed that pictures are not important – it’s the experiences, memories, and the joy of living life to the fullest.
6. What kind of life did Chris lead in Bullhead City?
He led a supposedly “normal” life.
7. Describe the conditions and the residents of the Slab. Note some of the local color that makes this community memorable.
The Slabs is a group of concrete slabs that are what is left of an abandoned air field. It is populated by people who have either been outcast from society or remove themselves from it. Apparently, hey have an open mind and are very accepting.
8. What character traits and skills does Jan Burres recount about Chris in chapter 5?
He worked hard and liked selling books, showing a love for the classics.
9. What was Jan Burres’s assessment of Chris’s ability to survive in Alaska? (end of chapter 5)
She thought he would have made it through. She said that she thought he would figure out how to survive.
Chapters 6 + 7
Chapters 6 + 7
1. Who was Ron Franz, and how did he enter the story? What does Krakauer think about the relationship between Franz and McCandless?
Ron Franz was an old man who lived in Colorado who “adopted” kids off the street and sent them to school or get the kids jobs. He picked up McCandless and since he had been alone for a while, he tried to “adopt” him. Krakauer thought that McCandless affected a lot of people but the outcome was not always necessarily for the better.
2. What is Anza-Borrego?
It is a desert wild life preserve in Colorado.
3. What was the tragedy of Ron Franz’s life?
His wife and kid had died in a drunken driving car accident. His son had been about to graduate from medical school.
4. How did he feel about Chris and what request did he make of Chris?
He felt for Chris as a father would a son, and he requested Chris carry on his name since his line would end otherwise.
5. What role did leather making take in their relationship?
It let McCandless express his story and allowed Ron to drive Chris to San Diego.
6. The author gives a brief character analysis of McCandless after recounting that Franz dropped him off in Colorado. What does the author say about McCandless?
McCandless had, in Krakauer’s opinion, evaded the intimacy of human friendship. He slipped out of everyone’s life, Chris thought.
7. When Chris sent Franz a letter from Carthage, what advice did Chris give to Franz and how did Franz respond to this letter?
He states that Franz should go out and live on the edge. Franz took it to heart and did everything Chris said in the letter.
8. How did Ron Franz learn that McCandless had died and how did this death change Franz’s life?
He learned it from passing hitchhikers and Chris’ death made him go out and drink, hoping the alcohol would kill him.
9. Why was Wayne Westerberg annoyed at the beginning of chapter Seven?
Mostly because Chris had said he would be there to help with the harvest, and he was late. He did not realize he was dead.
10. What is the author’s analysis of the relationship between McCandless and his father? How did Chris feel about his sister Carine?
Chris and his father did not get along at all, but Chris and his sister were very close.
Chapter 8 + 9
Chapter 8 + 9
1. What is the purpose of including the full story of Gene Rossellini?
Including his story helps to give an idea of why Alaskans have such a negative view of adventurers like McCandless. The full story helps us better understand McCandless and his actions.
2. What motivated Krakauer to include the story of John Waterman?
He was motivated to include this story because it showed the Alaskans that Waterman was the one they described (who had been mentally ill), and not the more complicated life and reasons of McCandless.
3. Finally, what is the purpose of including the story of Chris McCunn in the narrative?
McCunn’s story helped put a period on Krakauer’s statement. It showed how different McCandless was from the others who had taken the same adventure.
4. Summarize the story of Everett Ruess and his fascination with the American West and natural beauty.
Everett had a love of the wild, which he felt could not be filled by anything else, and so he set out to live in the wild, taking risks often for the pleasure. He disappeared a while into his quest and his body was never found. No definite cause of death although it was guessed he drowned.
5. What Ken Sleight’s conclusion about Ruess and McCandless?
He thought that those people like companionship but can’t stand to be around people for too long. So they leave, come back, then leave again.