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Into the Wild: Chapter 16 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 16 in Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild. In this chapter, we finally get a look at the journal entries Chris McCandless made while wandering in the wilds of Alaska.

Crinkly Chronology

In Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer does not present the story chronologically. Instead, he writes in a series of loops--each one overlapping the others in at least a place or two.

In Chapter 16, Krakauer loops back to the point in time where he began Chapter 1--with Chris walking cheerfully off into the wilderness, not knowing he'll never walk out again. We get more information this time which allows us to put a few more pieces in their proper places.

Gaylord Stuckey

After hitchhiking all the way to the brink of the Yukon Territory, Chris finds himself stalled for a few days with no ride until Gaylord Stuckey arrives. Initially, Stuckey is reluctant to give Chris a ride. He is driving a new RV to a dealer in Fairbanks and his employer forbids picking up hitchhikers. As he often does, though, Chris wins Stuckey over and he ends up scoring a ride. The two hit it off famously and enjoyed their thousand mile drive together.

Stuckey became quite fond of Chris, as many people did. He helped Chris gather the provisions he wanted for his trip (rice and some books about edible plants) and admonished the boy to call his parents. ''Maybe I will,'' said Chris evasively, ''and maybe I won't.'' (He didn't)

Beginning his Trek

After his ride with Gaylord Stuckey, the chapter overlaps with the events in chapter 1 where Chris rides to the Stampede Trail with Jim Gallien. This time, however, we don't just leave Chris walking down the trail with a smile, we get to read about his time in the wilderness. After a few days of walking (which involved falling through the ice at least once) Chris comes upon the abandoned bus we read about previously in the book.

Chris next to the bus he took refuge in
bus

''He was elated to be there,'' Krakauer tells us. Chris finds an old piece of plywood in the van on which he writes things like, ''No longer to be poisoned by civilization he flees, and walks alone upon the land to become lost in the wild'', signing the missive, ''Alexander Supertramp.''

Reality Checks

Despite this initial elation, however, Chris soon has a rough go of things. He has a hard time finding food and difficulty in hunting game. His journal entries include such cryptic phrases as, ''Weakness'', ''disaster'', and ''4th day famine.'' After leaving the bus, Chris discovers that navigating the rugged and soggy terrain is actually quite difficult. He realizes also that he has to spend a significant amount of time hunting each day if he wants to stay alive, so his going is slow and difficult.

Face to face with reality, Chris seems to make a shift in his plans--instead of following through on his intent to explore the wilderness thoroughly, Chris returns to the bus and prepares to establish himself in that area.

Krakauer is piecing together a narrative from very sparse journal entries--sometimes Chris would write only a word or two--so it is difficult to know for sure exactly what he was up to or why. Judging, however, from a list Krakauer found in the bus which Chris had labeled ''Long Term'' (which included things like make clothes from skins and feathers, build a bridge, and map the area), it seems pretty clear Chris planned to stay in the bus for a while.

Hunting

After an initial rough start with hunting, Chris's journal entries reveal increased success. He bags a lot of small game, including a few porcupines.

At one point, he even shoots a young moose, which at first seems to be a great boon, but eventually turns into something of a disaster. Chris was not an expert hunter or an expert survivalist. He had asked a few friends about how to preserve meat, but had not done extensive research on the subject.

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