Into The Wild Essay
“How is it…that a kid with so much compassion could cause his parents so much pain?”
The brutal psychological answer to Walt McCandless’s question chops at the ragged flesh of Chris’s McClandless’s emotional wounds. Upon the break with his family, he became the BASE-jumper who missed. At the juncture that he declared himself without a family, he seemed to realize that if he was going to have a hero he would have to be his own hero—Alexander Supertramp. If his life—blazoned with a strong, glaringly discordant (if not disordered) personality; mixed with counter-logical (if not dysfunctional) psychology; immersed in transcendental and increasingly nihilistic philosophy; and layer with self-abusive, suicidal tendencies—was to amount to anything, it was up to him.
All the pain and beauty of life was in his hands. He determined he would rise above the irrational, oppressive, disrespectful, insulting, hypocritical lifestyle of his parents, or he would fall. Walt McCandless’s grasp for motive was a reckoning for signs, and the signs that his son would fall are compelling.
Although Krakauer would prefer to discount Chris’s obsession with death as “melodramatic declaration,” there is no doubt the narrative he carefully jig-sawed together alludes to suicide often enough that thoughts of it are never far from an attentive reader’s mind. From a persuasive standpoint, he had to allow “considerable speculation that the boy had been bent on suicide from the beginning, that when Chris walked into the bush, he had no intention of walking out again.”
Krakauer: Climbing Matters
Krakauer says he really enjoys researching. (Capitola) If so, why was a psychological analysis of Chris omitted from Into the Wild? Wouldn’t a psychological profile, or even a bone fide dismissal of the possibilities of suicide requir all the requisite mystery, lead-chasing, academic background, expert testimony, organization, and visualization of a good researcher? It would have. And wouldn’t it have rendered Chris’s story closer to the whole truth? It would have. Was Krakauer sloppy? Did deadlines prevent him from pursuing the psychological leads?
Was the omission simply a matter of logistics, an additional project involving experts, time and study that simply would have made the entire undertaking nearly insurmountable? Maybe. Was the decision editorial? Maybe. In 1996, Krakauer was not the writer of clout he has become, and maybe 207 pages was all an editor could push, and all a publisher would risk. Or maybe Krakauer himself exercised his own editorial economy, doing what any climber seeking the most efficient and well-designed route through a complex problem would do—drop the excess weight, rely on sound protection, and attack the crux.
Or was he too involved and too loyal to the McCandless family to dig further? Maybe.
It is hard to reason for the omission.
Brain chemistry. Danger. Endorphins. Addiction. Euphoria.