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Into the Wild

Into the Wild Summary


Here you will find a Into the Wild summary (Jon Krakauer's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.

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Last Updated: Monday 1 Jan, 2024

Into the Wild Summary Overview

The narrative intertwines two compelling narratives. The first one traces the adventurous odyssey of a young man named Christopher McCandless into the wilderness, while the second delves into his psychological profile and motivations. The story unfolds nonlinearly, with the two narratives often crossing paths through intricate details and varying scenarios. McCandless is initially introduced through his acquaintance Wayne Westerberg, who paints a compelling image of a smart, charming, and determined individual who rejects materialism and hails from a comfortable middle-class background in Virginia. The story then backtracks to the start of McCandless's journey west in his used yellow Datsun. McCandless initiates his journey post-college, driving to Lake Mead in Nevada, where a flash flood prompts him to abandon his car and some possessions. His adventurous spirit sees him buying a canoe on a whim and embarking on a five-month journey down the Colorado River to Mexico. Meanwhile, his family back home try to piece together his disappearance. McCandless later settles in Bullhead City, Arizona, where he briefly stays with an older man named Charlie before moving on. Along his journey, he forms a pseudo father-son bond with an individual named Ronald Franz, whose shared story offers insight into the potential harm McCandless's risky behavior could inflict on others. The narrative then revisits Westerberg, providing a look into McCandless's problematic relationship with his father and his final month in Carthage, South Dakota. It reveals that McCandless had discovered his father's bigamous past, which potentially fueled his drive to abandon his previous life. The story also explores the reactions to McCandless's journey, with some labeling him as a romantic fool, while others see similarities between McCandless and other wilderness fanatics such as Everett Ruess. The narrative concludes with the discovery and identification of McCandless's body in Alaska, leaving behind a trail of heartbreak and unanswered questions, and offering a cautionary tale of adventure and self-discovery gone awry.

chapter 1

Near Fairbanks, Alaska, electrician Jim Gallien picks up a young hitchhiker named Alex. Despite Alex asserting he's 24, Gallien fears he's ill-prepared for the lengthy stay he intends in Alaska's Denali National Park. Gallien questions Alex about his hunting license as he's carrying a rifle. Alex dismisses government regulations, assuring he'll manage. The author, Jon Krakauer, notes this is typical for Alex. Additionally, Gallien observes that Alex's firearm may not be potent enough to take down large wildlife. As a token of gratitude for the lift, Alex hands Gallien some spare items, including pocket change and a plastic comb. Gallien gives Alex a pair of his boots and extra food his wife prepared for his lunch. He leaves Alex at the park's periphery, the Stampede Trail, fully expecting Alex to return to civilization once he encounters genuine difficulties.

chapter 2

The story tells about a deserted school bus found in a secluded area of the Stampede Trail, inside Denali National Park. Originally, this bus served in Fairbanks, later it was transformed into a shelter for laborers, and finally, it was deserted due to monetary constraints, serving as a refuge for hunters and hikers. It was in this state when several groups visited it in 1992. One September, three hunters traversed the risky Teklanika River and came across two individuals who found the bus but chose not to enter due to a terrible odor. An S.O.S note was found on the bus antenna expressing the inhabitant, Christopher J. McCandless, was unwell and needed assistance. The note also mentioned he went to fetch berries and would return. Inside the bus, the hunters discovered a firearm, paperbacks, clothing, backpack, and more. They also found a small, shriveled corpse that took a while for them to recognize as human. The corpse is known to be McCandless, but the police were yet to identify it. The hunters coordinated the transportation of the body to Anchorage. State troopers arrived by helicopter the following day. Further investigation revealed rolls of film and McCandless's diary, with 113 entries written in a plant guidebook. A post-mortem examination was conducted at the Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory in Alaska, but the exact reason why the deceased couldn't leave his bed to find food was undetermined. Starvation was established as the cause of death, yet the identity of the body was still a mystery.

chapter 3

Wayne Westerberg, in Carthage, South Dakota, describes Chris McCandless to author Jon Krakauer. Westerberg picked up a hitchhiking McCandless during a barley harvest in Montana. He recalls McCandless as good-looking and restless, captivating both men and women with his charm. When it rained, Westerberg allowed him to sleep in his trailer. After a three-day stay, McCandless left, but Westerberg offered him a job in South Dakota if he ever needed one. A few weeks later, McCandless arrived, and Westerberg provided him with a place to live and work. Westerberg found out from a tax form that McCandless's real name was Christopher, but McCandless enjoyed his time there, cooking and socializing with others. After a few weeks, Westerberg had to serve a brief sentence for a crime, leaving McCandless unable to stay in Carthage. Before he left, McCandless gave Westerberg a copy of War and Peace, urging him to pay attention to Pierre, a character in the book. McCandless began to claim he was from South Dakota, although he was actually from an affluent family in Virginia. He was educated at Emory University in Georgia, where he edited the student newspaper and rejected academic honors. After graduation, he declined his parents' offers for financial help and donated his remaining college fund to charity. The story shifts to McCandless's graduation in 1990. The next day was Mother's Day, and he shocked his mother with gifts after lecturing her and his father about their materialistic tendencies. He told his parents he was planning to "disappear for a while" and sent them his graduation photos. By August, his parents discovered he was gone, receiving their letters to him in a forwarded mail package. He had emptied his Atlanta apartment and started his journey, now introducing himself as "Alexander Supertramp."

chapter 4

In the fall of 1990, a park ranger stumbles upon a deserted yellow Datsun in Lake Mead National Park. Inside, a note declares the car free to claim, along with a scattering of belongings including clothes, a musical instrument, and bags of rice. The car, once jumpstarted, is traced back to a Hertz rental company but no further. Krakauer discloses that the car belonged to Chris McCandless, who had reached Detrital Wash in July of that year, only to be trapped by a sudden flood. He buried his firearm and burned his cash, as confirmed by his journal entries. The author goes on to recount McCandless's trek around the lake and his subsequent journey to the Sierra Nevada. He found work on a farm in Northern California, where he met Jan Burres and her partner Bob, who offered him a lift. While McCandless embarked on his adventure, his parents were desperately trying to locate him. When a ticket for the Datsun is sent from California, they employ a detective who uncovers McCandless's charitable donation of all his savings. Meanwhile, McCandless hitchhikes to Needles, California, where he purchases a canoe. His goal: to paddle the Colorado River from California to Mexico. He survives on a diet of rice and locally caught fish. He travels through the desert and various national parks, sending a postcard to his friend Wayne Westerberg and expressing his dedication to a nomadic lifestyle. In December, he enters Mexico but abandons his canoe in January due to complications. After a brief detainment at the border, he heads to Los Angeles for an ID, but anxiety sends him back to retrieve his buried items, and he ends up living in the streets of Las Vegas from late February 1991. Krakauer conveys that McCandless believed he was experiencing life in its purest form.

chapter 5

McCandless's trail goes cold after arriving in Las Vegas, but around mid-1991, he surfaces in Bullhead City, Arizona. Employed at a McDonald's, he's remembered as diligent and solitary, with peculiar habits like not wearing socks and often smelling bad, which causes friction with a colleague. He conceals the fact that he's homeless and without access to a bath. During this time, he befriends Charlie, an eccentric old man who offers McCandless a place to stay in his trailer. In early December, McCandless invites his acquaintances, Jan Burres and her partner, Bob, to visit him. He later turns up unannounced at Burres's trailer and begins living with the couple at the Slabs, a transient community near Niland. McCandless enjoys helping Burres with her book-selling business, particularly arranging the classic literature. While living in the community, he socializes by playing the organ and watching football, inadvertently revealing his support for Washington, D.C. teams. A local girl, Tracy, becomes smitten with him, but he doesn't return her feelings. McCandless starts a rigorous exercise regime in preparation for a future wilderness adventure. Despite Burres's attempts to give him warm clothing when she drops him off in Salton City for supplies, he leaves the clothes behind.

chapter 6

The book's writer gets a letter from Ronald A. Franz, requesting a 1993 article regarding Christopher McCandless’s demise. The interaction spurs a meeting with Franz, a sober Vietnam veteran, who met McCandless while camping near the Salton Sea. In return for a ride, McCandless shows Franz his campsite at hot springs. The two form a bond. Franz, having lost his family while serving, treats McCandless like a son. He buys him meals and listens to his life stories and philosophies. Franz advises McCandless to find employment, but McCandless has a plan. He urges Franz to be less sedentary. Franz tutors McCandless in leatherworking, leading to a belt decorated with symbols of his vagrant life. Franz gives him a lift to San Diego for work, which proves challenging. McCandless later reports via letters that he hopped trains to Seattle. After a minor arrest for train hopping in a Californian town, Franz aids him again with food and supplies, helping him prepare for a job with Wayne Westerberg in Carthage. On a subsequent journey, Franz wishes to adopt McCandless as his grandson, but McCandless postpones the discussion until after his Alaskan adventure. The book's narrative diverts from tracking McCandless to share that Franz got a letter from him in early April, quoted verbatim. McCandless criticizes Franz for not embracing a traveler's lifestyle and not seeking the full joy the world offers. Franz takes his advice, buys a camper, and moves to McCandless’s former campsite. He remains there until the tragic news of McCandless’s death reaches him from hitchhikers. This triggers Franz to break his sobriety by drowning his sorrows in whiskey.

chapter 7

About two months post the unearthing of McCandless's body, the author catches up with Wayne Westerberg in South Dakota. They discuss McCandless's final stint at Westerberg's grain elevator, a job he took from March to April to fund his Alaska trip. The author also chats with Gail Borah, Westerberg's significant other, who shares about McCandless's stern demeanor, love for his sister Carine, and frequent family arguments. Westerberg's mother shares her fondness for McCandless, despite meeting him only once. The author details McCandless's view of his parents as domineering, deceptive, and unreasonable. It’s suggested that McCandless didn't engage in romantic relationships and may have been celibate even after puberty. McCandless took an interest in Leo Tolstoy’s “Kreutzer Sonata,” a tale advocating for sexual abstinence. Krakauer delves into McCandless's personality, concluding that his attraction to nature stemmed from his yearning for human connection that couldn't be fulfilled by humans. During his final evening with Westerberg and Borah, McCandless charms a local bar crowd with his piano playing. They drink plenty of Jack Daniels, a favorite of McCandless. The next day, his friends bid him farewell, with Borah noting his tearful goodbye. A week later, he sends a letter from Montana. By the end of April, 1992, Burres with her partner and Westerberg and Borah each receive postcards from McCandless, announcing his permanent departure into the wild.

chapter 8

Krakauer continues discussing the backlash to his 1993 Outdoor magazine piece on McCandless's fate, which he initiated in Chapter Six. He shares various letters from the magazine's audience, especially seasoned adventurers and Alaskans, who view McCandless's expedition as overly idealistic or even recklessly bold. Several correspondents label McCandless as a naive dreamer escaping his difficulties or a self-destructive nihilist. Supporting these assessments, Krakauer recounts stories of other men who turned into wanderers, drawing from his own Alaskan encounters and mountaineering background. Through demonstrating his knowledge of American outdoor enthusiasts and adrenaline junkies, he bolsters his credibility and prepares to challenge McCandless's critics. Krakauer delves into the lives of three men, Gene Rosellini, the mountaineer John Mallon Waterman, and the photographer Carl McCunn to enrich both his and the readers' comprehension of Christopher McCandless. Rosellini, a wealthy, educated man and fitness enthusiast, took his own life just before setting out on a plan to permanently live out of his backpack. Waterman, an accomplished climber who experienced several mental health crises, perished while scaling Denali, one of the toughest peaks globally. Krakauer draws connections between McCandless and McCunn. However, he differentiates McCandless from these three and introduces a fourth comparison, a young man named Everett Ruess.

chapter 9

Krakauer presents the Southwestern canyon, Davis Gulch, with its historical Anasazi petroglyphs and a 1993 carving by a young man, Everett Ruess. Like Christopher McCandless, Ruess vanished into the wilderness, prompting an exploration of his life and adventures that led him to Davis Gulch, where his name's final inscription was etched before he disappeared. Born to a middle-class Californian family in 1914, Ruess left college early to apprentice under photographer Edward Weston, building connections with California artists before setting off to live as a tramp. He adopted the alias “Nemo,” meaning “no one,” as he sought to embrace an ascetic or pilgrim's life. Krakauer shares excerpts of Ruess's letters that reveal his passion for solitude and wilderness. This indifferent attitude towards personal safety is seen as similar to McCandless's. Using Ruess’s letters, Krakauer traces his path from a California Mormon settlement to Davis Gulch. Ruess, however, didn't turn up at the expected location, Marble Canyon, Arizona, leading to a search initiated by his parents in March 1935. Despite not being found, the general belief is that Ruess either met his demise while canyon climbing or drowning. Still, some locals claim to have spotted or encountered him. Ken Sleight, a subject of Krakauer's interview, likens Ruess and McCandless's affinity for people and their distaste for societal norms. Krakauer draws parallels between Ruess and McCandless and the papar, ancient monks who set sail from Ireland to Iceland in the fourth century, uncertain of their destination.

chapter 10

Jim Gallien, who had previously given Christopher McCandless a lift into Alaska, spots a news article about McCandless's death. Convinced he knows the identity of the deceased, he contacts the Anchorage police. Despite initial difficulties in establishing his credibility, Gallien manages to convince the police about his encounter with McCandless on the Stampede Trail. Gallien, however, unintentionally misinforms the police that McCandless hailed from South Dakota, a lie McCandless had told him, setting the police off on a misguided family search. By a stroke of luck, a friend in South Dakota of Wayne Westerberg hears a radio show detailing McCandless's story. He informs Westerberg, who tunes into the show and contacts the Alaska State Troopers. The Troopers, skeptical, ask Westerberg to provide solid proof. Westerberg calls back, offering McCandless's social security number and real name, which McCandless used while working at a grain elevator. This leads a homicide detective to Sam McCandless, Chris's half-brother, since the rest of the McCandless family is away from Virginia. Sam flies to Alaska, positively identifies a picture of McCandless, and then returns home to break the tragic news to his parents.

chapter 11

The storyteller drops in on Samuel “Walt” McCandless at his Maryland residence. Walt, an aerospace engineer, expresses his mixed feelings of annoyance and love towards his son, Christopher. Krakauer gives us a glimpse of Walt's history. After university, Walt started working in the aerospace industry during the space-age boom. His first marriage ended in divorce due to financial issues. He then met and fell for Billie, Christopher's mother, who worked at the same science park. In his childhood, Christopher McCandless was raised in an environment of frugality and ambition as his parents sought to establish their satellite systems consulting business. Household disputes led to a strong bond between Christopher and his sister, Carine. Regular family camping trips possibly ignited Christopher's passion for nature. Carine and Christopher were both musically inclined and had a soft spot for their family pet. Christopher displayed extreme resolve in all his endeavors, including his participation in cross-country running. His school friends' anecdotes highlight his strained relationship with his parents contrasted by an apparent reluctance to voice complaints. Stories from his parents reveal Christopher's fierce independence and intensity. For instance, his defiance against a physics teacher resulted in him failing the class. He also once secretly sheltered a homeless person on their property. Despite all this, the McCandless family enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle, with their successful business allowing them to buy a sailboat for family cruises. The storyteller then outlines Christopher's impressive stint as a construction firm manager prior to college. Afterward, he bought a Datsun for his journey to the American West. At his college graduation, his parents proposed to buy him a new car using the money left in his college fund, but he rejected their offer, preaching to them about the futility of material possessions. He donated the money to Oxfam, a charitable organization, without informing his parents.

chapter 12

Krakauer shares various incidents to understand McCandless's journey into the wild. Post high school, McCandless embarks on a long trip across the U.S. West, giving his father an expensive telescope before leaving. His communication with home dwindles, eventually stopping altogether. He comes back thin and grizzled right before college commencement at Emory. His parents help him settle in the following week. He is employed by the student newspaper and excels in studies, but gradually becomes aloof. The author reveals McCandless's change of behavior was because he found out about his father's secret double life, where he was still involved with his first wife and their kids. Krakauer further explores the psychological reasons for McCandless's reaction to his father's hidden life. He suggests that McCandless was unable to forgive his father, although he could accommodate others' shortcomings. This led him to behave irrationally two years after the revelation, expressing unpredictable political views in the student newspaper, and living in a bare apartment without a phone during his senior year. In 1990, post-graduation, he donated his parents' law school fund, took his yellow Datsun, and left. The author recounts a moment in 1992, after McCandless had disappeared from Atlanta for two years. His mother, Billie McCandless, woke up in the middle of the night, convinced that her son was in peril.

chapter 13

The author meets Carine McCandless, Christopher McCandless's younger sister, to learn more about his mysterious disappearance and eventual death. She shares insights into their close bond and their differing views on materialism. Carine recounts how her pet, previously owned by her brother, ended up being with her. She also shares the heartwrenching moment when she was informed about Christopher's death. Carine then recalls her journey to Alaska to collect her brother’s cremated remains and belongings, which included his plant book, gun, and many undeveloped film rolls. Carine's overwhelming grief following her brother's tragic end is detailed next. Her profound sadness leads her to starve herself, prompting her friends to suspect she might be anorexic. Interestingly, their mother, Billie McCandless, also stops eating while their father, Walt McCandless, starts binge-eating. Towards the end of this section, Carine reviews photographs from Christopher's final days, developed from the film rolls she received. This triggers a deep emotional response and she begins to cry, leading the author to comment on Christopher's self-centeredness. Despite all this, Carine admits that she can't comprehend why her brother decided to leave.

chapter 14

To explore the notion that McCandless's journey into the wilderness wasn't a prolonged act of suicide, the narrator shares an episode from his own youth. Living in Boulder, Colorado and working as a carpenter, he was an enthusiastic climber who set his sights on climbing the formidable Devils Thumb in Alaska. He drove to Washington State, then sailed north on a salmon boat where he witnessed a caribou swimming in the Bay of Alaska a mile off shore. He landed in Petersberg, Alaska, and stayed with a woman he met near the town library. Krakauer hitched rides with strangers to the start of his climb at the Stikine Ice Pack. Three days into his journey, he reached the base of Devils Thumb. A snowstorm hit as he began to ascend, and he narrowly escaped falling into a crevasse. He set up camp on a glacial plateau, consumed by worry that his food supply, to be delivered by plane, won't arrive, leaving him to starve. The next morning, his food arrived as planned. He resumed his climb in optimal weather, scaling nearly 700 feet of vertical ice before running out of footholds, forcing him to retreat.

chapter 15

Krakauer is cooped up in his tent due to poor weather for several days. His restlessness leads him to smoke his lone marijuana joint, which leaves him famished. When he tries to cook oatmeal, he inadvertently sets his borrowed tent on fire. He shares his strained relationship with his father, who pushed him and his siblings towards academic excellence, aiming for Harvard Medical School. However, Krakauer chose to be a climber and carpenter, rejecting his father's ideals. As time passed, his relationship with his father deteriorated further. His father developed dementia, relapsed polio symptoms and became hooked on medications. After a suicide attempt witnessed by Krakauer, his father was institutionalized. Amidst this turmoil, Krakauer decides to make another try at climbing the Devils Thumb. The heavy mark of his father's push for success still shadows him. He makes an attempt at the climb, but a storm makes him turn back. He goes into a spiral of self-pity and fear for his life, but a change in wind helps him find his base camp. Back at base camp, Krakauer formulates a new plan. He leaves most of his gear and ascends the northeast face of the Devils Thumb and successfully reaches the summit. He captures his triumph in photographs before descending. He finds his way back to town, where he spends time alone at a bar. Back in Boulder, he slips back into his normal routine. Reflecting on his experiences, Krakauer contemplates that survival in Alaska was merely luck in his case, and unfortunately not for Christopher McCandless. He argues that McCandless didn't have a death wish, but was simply lured by the allure of danger and the unknown, as many young adventurers are.

chapter 16

In mid-April 1992, Christopher McCandless departs from Carthage, South Dakota en route to Denali National Park. Along the way, he meets a man named Gaylord Stuckey who offers him a lift from a hot spring near the Yukon border all the way to Fairbanks, Alaska. McCandless impresses Stuckey with his intellect and shares stories about his family, particularly his sister, Carine, and his father's infidelity. In Fairbanks, Stuckey advises McCandless to reconnect with his family, but McCandless gently declines. Here, he also purchases a book on edible plants and a firearm. Stuckey later attempts to locate McCandless but fails. As McCandless ventures out of Fairbanks, he crosses paths with a satellite his father had designed. By April 28, 1992, McCandless is dropped off near Denali National Park by a man named Jim Gallien. McCandless proceeds into the park via a former snowmobile trail. He crosses the Teklanika River and, despite falling through ice at one point, he remains unscathed. On May 1, 1992, he stumbles upon an abandoned bus and labels the day as "Magic Bus Day" in his journal. He also notes his exhilaration towards his newfound freedom and disdain towards civilization on a plywood inside the bus. The bus serves as a shelter, providing him time to adjust to his new lifestyle. McCandless faces hardships of snowstorms and decreased wildlife during spring but thrives in the summer. However, the damp terrain makes hunting difficult, forcing him to return to the bus. McCandless persists living in the bus, hunting small animals to survive. His joy in killing a moose soon turns into regret as he struggles to butcher and preserve the meat. This experience leads him to question the morality of consuming animals after reading Thoreau's Walden. His diary entries hint at a revelation about his existence and a desire to return to society. In early July 1992, he tries to leave the bus but is hindered by the uncrossable Teklanika River. Despite the possibility of crossing the river at a chest-high point, there's no incentive for him to risk swimming. McCandless ultimately retreats to the bus.

chapter 17

Traveling to the bus where McCandless died exactly one year later, Krakauer and three friends spot a large basket hung across the Teklanika River. Left by a survey team, this basket would have allowed McCandless to safely cross the river. However, McCandless had no map to know that this easier crossing point existed. The group crosses the river using the basket, with Krakauer experiencing a fleeting moment of terror and thrill. The foursome continue their trek and reach the bus by 9 PM. The sight of animal bones littered around the bus, leftover from McCandless's hunting, shocks them. Before going inside, Krakauer observes a moose skeleton nearby. Initially, people mistook it for a caribou skeleton, suggesting McCandless's lack of wilderness knowledge. Yet, photos by McCandless himself later confirmed the animal was indeed a moose. Inside the bus, Krakauer notes numerous personal items that once belonged to McCandless. He takes note of gifts from other people, like Jim Gallien’s boots or a custom machete scabbard made by Ronald Franz. Krakauer also reads graffiti left by McCandless and other visitors. The eerie scene fills him with unease, and he exits the bus. They cook and eat moose meat, discussing McCandless's death over dinner. Krakauer then compares McCandless to ill-fated Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin. Like Franklin, McCandless was criticized for his perceived arrogance and lack of preparation. But Krakauer, citing nature writings by John Muir and Henry David Thoreau, emphasizes McCandless's different philosophy. Unlike Franklin, McCandless wasn't there to conquer but to find a synthesis of self-sacrifice and self-made joy. Krakauer and his companions stay up late, trying to understand McCandless better, before eventually falling asleep.

chapter 18

Unable to traverse the Teklanika River, Christopher McCandless returns to his makeshift home in the wilderness: an abandoned bus. He spends his time hunting and reflecting on writings from Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago, highlighting passages that encapsulate the essence of his own increasingly modest and service-oriented life. He leaves a note expressing his newfound realization: "happiness is only real when shared." This shift in his perspective, as analyzed by Krakauer, seems to indicate a transformative epiphany which may have led to McCandless's decision to reintegrate into society. However, McCandless’ diary reveals he fell ill, possibly from the ingestion of wild potato seeds, prompting further questions by Krakauer. Krakauer investigates the possibility that McCandless mistakenly ingested wild sweet pea instead of wild potato, a mistake which could have resulted in his illness. He draws parallels to Scottish adventurer Sir John Richardson's records of natives falling ill from a similar confusion of plants. In his initial research, Krakauer felt confident that wild sweet pea was the culprit, but later began to question this theory. Despite further scientific analysis of wild sweet pea samples, no toxins were found. It is only after years of reading scientific literature that Krakauer uncovers an article about a mold that produces a toxic alkaloid. Convinced that the toxic mold in wild potato seeds was McCandless’ undoing, Krakauer paints a grim picture of his final days. His diary entries grew shorter and on his hundredth day of isolation, he acknowledges his impending death. Krakauer hypothesizes further struggles McCandless faced – he was near a cluster of cabins just a few hours north, yet without a map, he remained oblivious to this potential salvation. Although evidence of vandalism at these cabins led some to suspect McCandless, Krakauer dismisses the idea due to lack of mention in his diary. By August 1992, McCandless continues his struggle for survival, hunting and foraging for sustenance. Krakauer ponders why McCandless didn’t signal for help with a fire, concluding that he likely knew planes wouldn't fly over his location and that a fire would damage the wilderness he had come to cherish. Krakauer then details the grim reality of death by starvation and explores McCandless's final moments through his last possessions. Among them, a torn page from a book, Education of a Wandering Man, featuring a poem by Robinson Jeffers discussing death and stoicism, with a farewell message from McCandless expressing his contentment with life. In the concluding lines of Into the Wild, Krakauer reflects on the tranquility seen in McCandless's eyes in his last self-portrait, likening him to a monk.


The author, along with Billie and Walt McCandless, travels back to Alaska via helicopter. They explore the deserted bus where their son, Christopher, perished. Billie McCandless goes in first, examining her son's belongings, and emotionally connects with a pair of his jeans. She even spots silverware from their Virginia home amongst his things. They honor his memory by leaving a plaque and a suitcase containing necessities and Christopher's childhood bible. The note they leave urges runaways to reach out to their loved ones. Both parents confess that the visit was worthwhile. Despite the tragedy, Billie admits she might have respected Christopher's choice to brave the wilderness, if it hadn't cost him his life. As they leave, they watch the bus shrink in the distance until it disappears.

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