Into the Wild: Chapter 1 Summary

Instructor: Lauren Boivin

Lauren has taught English at the university level and has a master's degree in literature.

This lesson provides an overview of the first chapter of Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild, which tells the story of Christopher Johnson McCandless, who left a comfortable life and a wealthy family to wander through the Alaskan wilderness.

Last Words

Chris McCandless

Because Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild is a non-fiction story, we know how it will end before we begin reading it. Krakauer tells the story of Christopher McCandless, who died while wandering in the wilderness of Alaska after leaving behind a promising life. Chapter 1 starts with the last words Chris wrote to his friend Wayne Westerberg. The words are from a postcard, mailed on April 27th, 1992: ''If this adventure proves fatal,'' Chris writes prophetically, ''I want you to know you're a great man. I now walk into the wild.'' And so do we also walk into the wild as we plunge into his story.

Getting There

Next, we meet Jim Gallien, who gave Chris a ride. Chris had traveled many miles as a hitchhiker, but this was to be his last ride. Gallien found Chris on the side of the road on the outskirts of Fairbanks. Chris introduced himself as Alex when Gallien pulled over to give him a ride. As they drove for hours, Gallien tried to learn some more about 'Alex', but when Gallien fished for a last name, Chris replied with ''Just Alex.'' He only wanted to talk about where he was going and what he was about to do. He wanted to go to Denali National Park, ''where he intended to walk deep into the bush and live off the land for a few months.''

Young and Ill Prepared

Jim Gallien was an experienced hunter and outdoorsman, and he could tell just by looking at Chris that he was under prepared. The only food he had with him was a bag of rice, his hiking boots were not waterproof, and his gun was too small to kill any game large enough to really keep him alive. ''He had no ax, no bug dope, no snowshoes, no compass.'' Gallien tried to dissuade Chris from his plans. First he tried to explain how difficult hunting would be. ''When that didn't work,'' Gallien tells us, ''I tried to scare him with bear stories.'' None of this made any difference to Chris. He was still just as determined as ever. Gallien even offered to get him some better gear, but Chris just said, ''I'll be fine with what I've got.''

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