Into the Wild: Chapter 5 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 5 of Jon Krakauer's nonfiction book ''Into the Wild.'' This chapter covers Chris McCandless's movements from May 1991 through December of that same year.

Bullhead City

Krakauer opens Chapter 5 of Into the Wild with a gap in time--after Chris's camera stopped working, he failed to keep a journal for a while, so there is a blank space in his history. He left Las Vegas in May of 1991, and spent at least a couple of months in Oregon that summer, but very little else is known. Krakauer picks up the scent again in October of 1991, when Chris arrives in Bullhead City, Arizona. For some reason, Chris uses his real name and social security number to get a job at a McDonald's in Bullhead City instead of sticking to the pseudonym 'Alex' he had been using.

Awash in commercialism and very close to Las Vegas, Bullhead City ''doesn't seem like the kind of place that would appeal to an adherent of Thoreau and Tolstoy,'' but Chris stayed here for more than two months. He even went so far as to write in a letter to his friend Westerberg, ''I might finally settle down and abandon my tramping life, for good.''

Flipping Burgers

Chris got a job in Bullhead City--working at McDonald's, of all places. He worked full time, flipping burgers in the back. He showed up every day on time, which, by McDonald's standards, is pretty good. He was fairly well liked while working there. One of his assistant managers remembered he hated to wear socks. McDonald's requires its employees to wear both shoes AND socks, so Chris complied ''but as soon as his shift was over, bang!--The first thing he'd do is peel those socks off. ... Kind of like a statement, to let us know we didn't own him.'' Another assistant manager remembers that Chris had an unfortunate odor. Apparently he smelled bad enough that she had to tell him he really needed to shower more often. Chris didn't like that at all and three weeks later, he quit.

Neighborly Disputes

When Chris first arrived in Bullhead City, he was living outdoors in the desert. One day, a man named Charlie found him shaving in a restroom. Charlie asked if Chris was ''sleeping out'' and offered to let him stay in an abandoned house trailer he knew of. Charlie lived in another trailer nearby. Chris was clearly grateful for the accommodations; as he wrote to his friend Jan Burres, ''it's really quite a good deal.'' It seems, however, that Chris and Charlie did not always get along. Chris wrote to Jan that Charlie ''is something of a lunatic and it's rather difficult to get along with him sometimes.'' Charlie, in turn, told Krakauer in an interview that Chris was ''temperamental. He meant good, but I think he had a lot of complexes--know what I'm saying?'' This, together with the dispute at McDonald's over Chris's smell, probably contributed to Chris's decision to move on from Bullhead in December of 1991.

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