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Into the Wild summary

Jon Krakauer

An unflinching account of the extraordinary life and death of Christopher McCandless

4.3 (58 ratings)
21 mins

Brief summary

Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer is a gripping true story of a young man's journey into the Alaskan wilderness, exploring themes of adventure, self-discovery, and the power of nature.
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    Into the Wild
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    Chris seemed calm on the surface, but underneath he was roiling.

    Christopher McCandless grew up in Annandale, Virginia, an affluent suburb of Washington, DC. His father, Walt, was a prominent aerospace engineer. He’d moved his family from California to take a job at NASA, earning enough to set up a trust fund for Chris and his sister. 

    Chris had always had itchy feet. At age two, he snuck out of his parents’ house in the dead of night, crept down the street, and broke into a neighbor’s house to steal candy. After his son’s remains were discovered, Walt summed up his son’s adventurousness: “Chris was fearless even when he was little. We were always trying to pull him back from the edge.”

    Chris would have hated to admit it, but he and his father were very much alike – willful, intense, and stubborn. Their inevitable clash – and one key discovery about his family’s past – is what set Chris on his fateful course.

    The key message here is: Chris seemed calm on the surface, but underneath he was roiling.

    In high school and college, Chris appeared to acquiesce to Walt’s strict control. But, inwardly, he brooded, plotting his escape – even as he made plans to attend college in Atlanta. 

    The summer after graduating high school, he drove off in his secondhand yellow Datsun. It was supposed to be the adventure of a lifetime. But while visiting his parents’ old neighborhood in southern California, he made a shocking discovery. Apparently, his father had lived a double life for years, father to two families and husband to two wives. Worst of all, two years after Chris’s birth, Walt had fathered another son. But his mother wasn’t Chris’s mother. She was the other woman – Walt’s first wife. The discovery shook Chris to the core.

    His parents had made their peace. But Chris couldn’t let it go. Over the next few years, he became reclusive, turning away from his family. By his final year in college, he was living in an austere, cell-like room with little more than a mattress on the floor. 

    He told his parents he would be staying on in Atlanta after graduation. But after not hearing from him for a few months, they drove down for a visit. When they arrived, they were greeted with a “for rent” sign outside his apartment. 

    Five weeks earlier, Chris had donated his trust fund to charity and once again lit out west in his yellow Datsun. His plan? To cut himself off from bourgeois privilege and live an unfiltered life of raw existence out on the road. He gave himself a new identity to symbolize his transformation: Alexander Supertramp.

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    What is Into the Wild about?

    Into the Wild (1996) is an unflinching account of the extraordinary life and death of Christopher McCandless. McCandless gave up a life of privilege to roam the American West. He lived rough, made friends, and took risks – and for the thrill of adventure, he paid the ultimate price.

    Into the Wild Review

    Into The Wild (1996) uncovers the compelling story of Chris McCandless's adventure into the Alaskan wilderness. Here's why you should read this book:

    • It delves deep into the human desire for freedom and self-discovery, making it a thought-provoking read.
    • The book provides an in-depth analysis of McCandless's journey, offering insights into his motivations and actions.
    • Its intense portrayal of nature's beauty and danger keeps readers captivated throughout.

    Embark on an unforgettable journey by reading Into The Wild.

    Who should read Into the Wild?

    • People fascinated by the thrill of outdoor adventure
    • Anyone bored by their humdrum life
    • Those looking to understand why some people take risks others find unthinkable

    About the Author

    Jon Krakauer, a mountaineer and writer, expanded a nine-thousand-word article for Outside magazine into his first book: Into the Wild. It spent two years on the New York Times best-seller list and was adapted into a movie directed by Sean Penn. Krakauer has since written several other best sellers, including Into Thin Air and Under The Banner of Heaven.

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    Into the Wild FAQs 

    What is the main message of Into The Wild?

    Into The Wild explores the themes of adventure, self-discovery, and the power of nature through the true story of Chris McCandless's journey.

    How long does it take to read Into The Wild?

    Reading Into The Wild typically takes around 6 hours, while the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Into The Wild a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Into The Wild is a captivating and thought-provoking read, making it well worth the time invested.

    Who is the author of Into The Wild?

    The author of Into The Wild is Jon Krakauer.

    How many chapters are in Into The Wild?

    Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer has 18 chapters. The chapters are

    1. The Alaska Interior
    2. The Stampede Trail
    3. Carthage
    4. Detrital Wash
    5. Bullhead City
    6. Anza-Borrego
    7. Carthage
    8. Alaska
    9. Davis Gulch
    10. Fairbanks
    11. Chesapeake Beach
    12. Annandale
    13. Virginia Beach
    14. The Stikine Ice Cap
    15. The Colorado Plateau
    16. The Mojave Desert
    17. Glen Canyon, and
    18. The Alaska Interior.

    How many pages are in Into The Wild?

    Into The Wild has 224 pages.

    When was Into The Wild published?

    Into The Wild was published in 1996.

    What to read after Into the Wild?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Into the Wild, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Walden by Henry David Thoreau
    • Forest Bathing by Qing Li
    • Endurance by Alfred Lansing
    • A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
    • Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
    • The Eight Master Lessons of Nature by Gary Ferguson
    • Mastery by George Leonard
    • A Passage to India by E. M. Forster
    • From Strength to Strength by Arthur C. Brooks
    • Read People Like a Book by Patrick King