Into the Wild: Chapter 9 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 9 of Jon Krakauer's 'Into the Wild'. In this chapter, Krakauer tries again to help us better understand Chris McCandless through the stories of other people who had similar ideas and experiences.

Everett Ruess

Just as in the previous chapter, Jon Krakauer spends Chapter 9 of Into the Wild telling us about other people who went off in search of adventure like Chris McCandless. Most of Chapter 9 is spent on Everett Ruess, who Krakauer describes as having been always ''on the move, living out of a backpack on very little money, sleeping in the dirt, cheerfully going hungry for days at a time'' in the 1930s.

Ruess's chosen venue was the remote regions of Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. Ruess was very happy to be out in the wild alone--despite his father's disappointment over the unfinished college degree, Everett's happiness was not in conventional society, just like Chris's.

Also like Chris, the wilderness eventually claimed Everett's life, though there is much mystery surrounding the particulars of his death. Some think he had a fatal fall in a crevasse, others think he was murdered, some think he drowned, and still others think he might have disappeared intentionally and started a new life elsewhere.

Alone but Not Lonely

Everett and Chris both had various romantic and aesthetic ideals about the beauty of nature and solitude. They also shared a disdain for conventional society and all its expectations and restraints. Everett once wrote, ''I have been thinking more and more that I shall always be a lone wanderer,'' and, ''I have always been unsatisfied with life as most people live it. Always I want to live more intensely and richly.''

These words bare a striking resemblance to those in one of Chris McCandless's letters: ''I've decided that I'm going to live this life for some time to come. The freedom and simple beauty of it is just too good to pass up.'' We see echoes of Everett Ruess also when Chris encourages his friend Ron to ''have the courage to turn against our habitual lifestyle and engage in unconventional living.''

Recklessness

Both Chris and Everett lived with a certain disregard for their own safety. Chris wandered into the Alaskan wilderness without proper gear, carrying only 10 pounds of rice for food. The pictures he took of himself on that trip show an alarmingly gaunt figure. He existed in various degrees of starvation, and it seems not to have bothered him at all.

Everett, likewise, lived on the brink of death on many occasions. He was once overcome with bee stings; his eyes swelled shut and his hands were inflamed until he couldn't move them. ''A few more stings might have been too much for me,'' he wrote.

Similarly, he frequently succumbed to serious poison ivy reactions that lasted a week or longer. His eyes would again swell shut. He wrote, ''I writhed and twisted in the heat, with swarms of ants and flies crawling over me while the poison oozed and crusted.'' But still, he insisted, with stubbornness just like Chris's, 'I refuse to be driven out of the woods.''

New Identities

Just as Chris McCandless referred to himself as Alex while on the road, Everett used various aliases as well--first, he called himself 'Lan Rameau', then 'Evert Rulan', finally settling on 'Nemo', which means 'nobody' in Latin and makes reference to the character by that name in Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

Both Chris and Everett wished to break away from their past and their former lives. They sought to forge their own paths--literally and figuratively--and their new names were symbolic of that endeavor. Each was a man of his own making, regardless of what the past, families, or society would have either of them be.

Krakauer clearly celebrates them both for this, as he quotes the words of Ken Sleight: ''at least they tried to follow their dream. That's what was great about them. They tried. Not many do.''

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