Into The Wild Essay
Metaphor: The Elegant Mistake
Practically, one could say, as Miller and Paola point out, “it’s nearly impossible to tell ‘the whole truth’” in any one story. (42) Artistically, I think Krakauer realized what one critic gave him credit for, “that a dismissive off-the-rack psychoanalysis of the impulse to live dangerously in the wild can miss something important. That insight is not only good for the story itself but can encourage readers to confront issues we are inclined to sentimentalize.” (Sisk 52) In her essay “Various Parts of the Elephant: On Metaphor,” Beth Ann Fennely writes that “Anne Carson says metaphor ‘causes the mind to experience itself in the act of making a mistake.’ But these ‘mistakes’ can lead to enlightenment.” (98)
Krakauer’s use of metaphor comes naturally, from his long experience in alpine climbing. Thus, Into the Wild moves up the mountain of the facts. Chapters are set up like higher and higher protections jammed into the cracks of the argument. Belayed, the reasoning moves on, picking toe holds and jugs and smears that logically climb closer to the summit—or bivouacs to stop and tell other stories that obliquely fit the relevance of the climb, or just to rest. The final assault is a complex, technical wall that depends on everything that has come before, with Krakauer exhaustively speculating the best specific route.
Metaphorically, Into the Wild guides readers like a lead climber, discovering its own mistakes as it recreates Chris’s final, fatal route.