Into The Wild Essay
Starvation: The Hungry North
It’s hard to find comparative adventures to Chris McCandless’s Alaskan Odyssey. Krakauer’s choices are either outright suicides, or men who vanished and died of unknown causes. But we do know what killed Chris. Starvation. A few comparisons might be helpful to determine the likely patterns of his behavior and thoughts in semi-starvation and then under abject starvation.
In 1944 Leon Crane, a test pilot, crashed in Alaska three days before Christmas. He had two packs of matches and a Boy Scout knife to help him survive temperatures that bottomed out at -50 degrees. He had no gloves. He ate nothing but snow for nine days. After that he said “hunger disappeared.” He found a cabin and for a few days rationed himself raisins and cocoa. He tried an escape but returned to the cabin when he realized he was dangerously weak. He found things he had missed in the cabin, more food and a rifle. He stayed in the cabin and hunted until mid-February, then he packed up a supply of food and tried another escape. He got lucky. Two weeks later he found another cabin and people. (Biology 803-804)
Into the Wild makes mention of Sir John Franklin, a Canadian explorer who made three ill-begotten forays in search of the mythical Northwest Passage. He perished along with 128 of his men on the third trip. (Krakauer 180-181) Through the logs of his earlier trips Franklin’s exploits make the highlights of starvation literature.
Fathers and Sons
“How is it…that a kid with so much compassion could cause his parents so much pain?”
The tension that sometimes frustrates fathers as their sons ascend to tendentious independence became trenchant between Walt and Chris McCandless. In the years of his withdrawal, the boy’s personality turned igneous. That the two already had competing personalities was well known. Walt was a “stern” father (122), a controlling, intense person. Krakauer observes, “some very high voltage is crackling through his wires,” and “his moods can be dark and mercurial.” A “famous temper” is reported. “There is no mistaking whence Chris’s intensity came,” Krakauer concludes. (105) The “polarization” between the two filters through. Krakauer balances emotionally charged language to describe both father and son.
Walt is “stubborn,” “high strung,” an undeniable “authority” figure whose “conditional love” Chris saw as “tyranny.” Chris was a “stubborn,” “highstrung,” teenager, obviously of an “immoderate,” “independent nature,” who “brooded,” who “raged” behind his parent’s back that they were “so irrational, so oppressive, disrespectful and insulting.” Eventually Chris decided his father had unforgivable “moral shortcomings,” (64) and Chris became “incapable of extending lenity to his father.” (122) Chris went from “mad,” “withdrawn,” “smoldering anger,” (121) to a “choler of self-righteous indignation.” (122)
In most instances we might conclude the kid was just a spoiled brat. But Chris had it a little tougher than that. He had the dirt on his dad.