Here you can discuss anything related to Christopher McCandless.
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Postby americaneon » Sun May 27, 2012 2:32 am

i hope i don't offend anyone, but, after reading the book, and having a relative with high functioning asperger's who is also very intelligent, well, Chris reminded me so much of my relative. has anyone thought that maybe he had asperger's? his story and his life is very touching, like someone searching for their own world, to make it a better world and to live in a better world. a true searcher and sojourner in this world.

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Re: asperger's

Postby Anewanddifferentsun » Sat Jun 09, 2012 7:32 pm

An article by Chip Brown offers some interesting observations from people who knew Chris, people Krakauer either didn't interview or chose not to include in his book. Here are a couple of excerpts...

“A couple of times, he said he didn’t think he’d make it to thirty,” Joshua Marshall, a college friend, says. “I think it was based on his desire to stay away from convention. He had put himself in tenuous positions. He used to talk about how he’d slept in his car, and how he would just show up in towns and try to find a job. Most of us figured once he’d get the desire to do that out of his system he’d take one or two steps back to the conventional life.”

He enrolled in Emory University, in Atlanta, but even during his last year at Woodson he seemed to know that his future lay elsewhere. “Chris told me he thought he was going to be alone in his life,” recalls his friend and fellow-runner Don Springer, who now lives in Switzerland. “He had been drinking a bit, and he got very emotional. It wasn’t a cry for help. I think he just wanted to tell somebody.

It was between his sophomore and junior years that his friends and parents noticed a marked change in him. “I was talking about parties, but he didn’t care,” his high-school friend Gordy Cucullu says, recalling a time when he ran into Chris in Annandale. “He didn’t drink anymore – he’d settled into the pursuit of knowledge. It was strange. He was like someone who was seeing things in a totally new way, almost like a born-again Christian.”

When you combine these observations with those included in ITW, in which other high school friends who saw Chris during college said he had grown distant, even cold, and others who described sudden shifts in moods and monomaniacal rants (one described Chris has having "complexes... had'em real bad."), a picture emerges. His moralistic myopia in high school (fighting Apartheid) and in college demonstrate his thought processes differed drastically from those prevalent in the materialistic 1980s. But was it Asperger's or high-functioning autism? It's difficult to say. Perhaps it was depression stemming from a childhood some allege was abusive, but when, if ever, did Chris mention this to others? Notes in his journals and the famous declaration on plywood found in the bus clearly show he knew what he had done and was doing. But the inclusion of terms such as "final battle to kill the false being within" to "conclude the spiritual revolution" also clearly show an intent to end something. When he left South Dakota for Alaska, he was described as fighting back tears or crying. Did he know his time was at hand? (remember what he said to Marshall, a college friend).
To me, Chris was an incredibly complex individual who held many admirable beliefs that he actually lived out. How many people live in such a way? Not many. In fact, many of those who do stray from the beaten path are at least considered eccentric. It's possible that some kind of mental impairment or illness was at play (some have suggested Chris was schizophrenic), but it hardly diminishes his life and the way he lived it, no matter how troubled or tormented he might have been, although not everything he did was aesthetic voyager material.
Nonetheless, I find all this far more fascinating than the singular trek to the bus, which seems to consume so many who have contributed to this forum. I find it odd that many race to the bus and then immediately depart. Why go at all if there is no pause to reflect? It should be more than just a garden-variety backpacking trip.

To read the entire Chip Brown article go to

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Re: asperger's

Postby pezar » Thu Jun 14, 2012 7:24 pm

I really think that Chris KNEW he was different, different from the mindless materialistic zombies who decades after his journey would be crying over slashed credit limits which hampered their ability to buy "stuff". When "science" gets such a person, the first thing they do is to label them "crazy" "schizo" "autistic" and a million other things. So many people thus labeled then proceed to pound a square peg (themselves) into a round hole. When it doesn't work, they become suicidal. Chris had enough chutzpah to say "you know what, that's a round hole, and I'm a square peg, and this won't work, so fuck this". It's sort of like the little boy who said that the king's "new clothes" didn't exist.

Chris may have been moody because he wanted desperately to roam, and his folks insisted he finish college. When he came to the realization that the "false being within", whatever that meant to him, would not "die" without some major surgery to the "patient", he headed for Alaska. I don't think he would have wanted us to dwell on the Bus, but to find our OWN Alaskas, wherever they may be.

I think trying to "label" Chris is ultimately pointless. At another point in history, in another culture, he may have been regarded as a soothsayer, a prophet, a seeker of truth, a man with a special connection to God. Even today, in orthodox kibbutzes in Israel, the residents treat autistics very differently than we do in America. You can see this throughout the Bible, with "wild men" having visions, and to top it all off, a man from a wealthy family who quits his day job to wander Judea, and ultimately gains the seal of approval from God. That man was Jesus.

Northern Europeans seem to default to the idea that such people are "witches" or "possessed by the devil". IMO we've simply replaced exorcisms with pills. My dad, who is a diagnosed schizophrenic, became obsessed around 1997 with the idea that mental illness was demon possession-he'd picked up some crazy book on it somewhere and become enthralled. He went to a Catholic priest, who was unimpressed, and who told him to see a doctor. He finally found some evangelical preacher somewhere who did several "exorcisms". He tried to get me to go, but I refused. The preacher said I had to "accept Jesus" (meaning his version of Pauline Christianity) before the exorcism would work, and I told him to get lost. The fact that preachers out there are still doing exorcisms, praying away homosexuality or anorexia or whatever, indicates that the old English meme is still strong.

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Re: asperger's

Postby Anewanddifferentsun » Sat Jun 16, 2012 7:16 am

As our understanding improves of how the brain works, the so-called labels have more meaning. Technology and science have helped mankind realize that what was once deemed demon possession is something quite different and often quite treatable without exorcisms. To dismiss science's role in understanding behavior as just applying labels is without merit. As for your "Jesus" reference, he did not come from a wealthy family. He came from the poorest of the poor in Judea. It was this status that helped produce his resentment of Jewish upper classes' collaboration with the Roman oppressors. The "carpenter" tag applied to Joseph, Jesus's father, stems from a Greek word that more accurately translates as "hand laborer." Unfortunately, many Christians today, buying into mistranslations, mistakenly confuse this with "carpenters" of our own time.

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Re: asperger's

Postby EagleEye » Fri Jul 20, 2012 1:34 am

It would, in all likelihood, be impossible to diagnose Chris McCandless with any sort of mental disorder. It could only really have been done when he was alive and the information available won't provide much of an insight. It's still an interesting debate as McCandless really would be a fascinating person to psychoanalyse.

After discovering the story through the film Into the Wild and then reading the book I did wonder about whether Chris had some sort of mental illness and Asperger's was one that came to mind, along with Bi-polar disorder. I have a friend with Asperger's and there are some striking similarities but nothing that couldn't be dismissed as a coincidence. It's quite possible for someone to have many traits associated with Asperger's yet not have the condition, the same goes for several other mental illnesses and there are also obviously different degrees of severity. I myself have many of the characteristics of Aperger's (and score a 35 on the AQ test) without having the condition.

I've read the theory that Chris was schizophrenic but it seems like a tenuous link between what's known of him and possible symptoms of the condition. There just doesn't seem to be much compelling evidence to suggest that Alexander Supertramp was anything other than a pseudonym. Even if there was some sort of internal struggle between two differing sides of his personality that's no indication that he was schizophrenic. A prolonged period in the wilderness would also be likely to cause such a condition to worsen considerably but there isn't any real evidence for that either.

His personality certainly appears fascinating, regardless of whether he had any sort of mental illness or not, and in some ways it's just as fascinating as his journey itself. Certainly if he did have a mental illness it shouldn't necessarily detract from his beliefs, his spirit or what he was trying to achieve. Just because someone has a mental illness doesn't mean they are somehow less valid in what they think or do or say.

However it's possible that I stick with the possibility of Chris having a mental illness as a way to explain away some of the mistakes he made. When I came across the story I was inspired by what he did but the more I heard about the likely mistakes and misjudgements he made along the way and which possibly contributed to his death the more it disappointed me. I'm convinced he didn't go there to die and so the fact that he did so rather unnecessarily is something of a failing in my eyes.
He was competent enough to last for a reasonably long time alone in the wild but that seems at odds with the lack of adequate preparation (he went in there with some supplies, yet not necessarily the right ones) and accumulation of the right knowledge.

The possibility of a mental illness may in some way excuse some of his more basic mistakes or help to explain some of his choices. Or it could be that as someone with a mental illness myself I'm more likely to be drawn to that idea.

Either way I think it's a good thing that this is a question that isn't likely to be answered and is so open to interpretation. Chris' journey can be interpreted differently by every individual; whether it's as a warning about not being prepared or an inspiration to go out and live a different way of life, there's definitely something compelling about what he did.

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Re: asperger's

Postby 18neimana » Tue Dec 06, 2016 7:41 pm

he was obviously quite complex. it is possible. however I have asbergers myself and I did not think that he did. I think he may have been mentally ill. he shared some traits with aspies such as the independence and being antisocial though.

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