Into the Wild: Chapter 14 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 chapter 14 of Jon Krakauer's 'Into the Wild.' In this chapter, Krakauer talks about himself and gives us greater insight into his sympathy for Chris McCandless.

Krakauer's Own Story

In Chapter 14 of Into the Wild, the book becomes autobiographical as writer Krakauer tells us about himself and his own personal affinity for protagonist Chris McCandless. We learn that Krakauer had issues with his own father similar to those McCandless had. Krakauer also possessed the same kind of philosophically-driven desire to break out, to explore.

This portion from ''Letter from a Man'' by John Menlove Edwards is found at the beginning of Chapter 14: ''I grew up exuberant in body but with a nervy, craving mind. It was wanting something more, something tangible. It sought for reality intensely, always as if it were not there...'' These words sum up succinctly Krakauer's youthful mindset, which he believes to be quite similar to that of Chris McCandless.

The Devils Thumb

Chris McCandless's big adventure was hiking into the Alaskan wilderness. For Krakauer, it was climbing a mountain called the Devils Thumb. Not only was he going to climb this formidable peak, he decided, but he was going to scale its north side--which had never been done--and he was going to do it alone.

''I was dimly aware that I might be getting in over my head,'' Krakauer tells us, ''But that only added to the scheme's appeal.'' His ''reasoning, if one can call it that, was inflamed by the scattershot passions of youth and a literary diet overly rich in the works of Nietzsche, Kerouac, and John Menlove Edwards.'' With all the thirst for adventure and the literary and philosophical underpinnings of that thirst, Krakauer sees a reflection of his youthful self in Chris McCandless's story. Perhaps this is why Krakauer defends McCandless so vehemently.

Krakauer's Journey

Krakauer didn't take long to execute his plans--he quit his job in Colorado (where he was working for $3.50 per hour as a carpenter) and, just like that, he was off for Alaska. ''I was surprised, as always, by how easy the act of leaving was,'' Krakauer writes, ''and how good it felt.'' This sounds quite a bit like Chris, too!

Krakaur drives as far north as he can, finally abandoning his car and hitching the rest of the way on a salmon fishing boat. Arriving in Petersburg, Krakauer is invited home for dinner by a kind stranger named Kai Sandburn. As he enjoys her company that evening, Krakauer realizes that his belief that he didn't really need the company of other people was really just ''self deceit.'' This realization leaves him ''hollow and aching.''

The Ascent

Despite his hollowness, Krakauer sets out for the Devils Thumb according to plan. He uses a couple of sturdy curtain rods to fashion a kind of cross on his back--in hopes that this device would help to keep him from plummeting to the bottom of a crevasse as he trekked across the field of glaciers. It does, indeed, save him on at least one occasion. The ground he covers is treacherous--he often breaks through snow bridges, leaving legs or half his body dangling into crevasses that could kill him. Once he reaches the Thumb, things are no less life-threatening. He makes it about 300 feet up using the front points of his crampons and the picks of his axes on a sturdy flow of frozen meltwater. Crampons are spiky metal things you wear on your boots while ice climbing. They look like this:


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