Into the Wild: Epilogue Summary

Instructor: Kimberly Myers

Kimberly has taught college writing and rhetoric and has a master's degree in Comparative Literature.

This lesson is a summary of the epilogue of Jon Krakauer's 'Into the Wild.' The epilogue describes Chris McCandless's parents' visit to the bus where he died. They enter the bus, look at some of Chris's remaining belongings, and install a plaque dedicated to Chris.

Epilogue

An epilogue is a section that appears at the end of a book after the main chapters. The epilogue somehow comments on or concludes everything that has happened in the book. In Into the Wild, the chapters trace Chris McCandless's life as he traveled across America and died in Alaska. The epilogue, on the other hand, describes Chris's parents' visit to the bus where he died and considers what is left behind after Chris's death.

The Teklanika River flows near the Stampede Trail.
The Teklanika River flows near the Stampede Trail.

A Chopper Touches Down

The epilogue opens with Krakauer describing the helicopter ride to the Stampede Trail and Chris's 'magic bus'. He is riding with Billie and Walt McCandless--Chris's mother and father. 'It is time, they have decided, to visit the place where their son met his end, to see it with their own eyes.' Krakauer notes that it took the helicopter fifteen minutes to travel a distance that took Chris four days to travel on foot.

Chris's parents are headed to the same place, but Krakauer notes that they seem to be in different places mentally. His mother is calm and has been looking forward to the trip, but his father is agitated and edgy. When the helicopter touches down, Billie is struck by the beauty of the area; she says, 'What a pretty place. I can't believe how much this reminds me of where I grew up. Oh, Walt, it looks just like the Upper Peninsula! Chris must have loved being here.' Walt responds that he has reasons for not liking Alaska, but he can see why it spoke to Chris.

Things Left Behind

The bus where Chris McCandless died.
The bus where Chris McCandless died

Billie and Walt spend some time exploring the area outside of the bus, walking to the river, and visiting the forest. Billie is the first to enter the bus. Walt finds her sitting on the mattress inside, in the same spot where Chris died. Chris's parents look around the space where Chris lived and died and at the things that he left behind. His boots are there under the bed, his handwriting is on the walls, and his toothbrush and a fork from their family home is on the counter. Chris is gone, but these objects remain as evidence of his presence for parents who wondered for a long time about the whereabouts of their son, only to finally get a tragic answer.

'At the front of the bus, Billie picks up a pair of Chris's patched, ragged jeans and, closing her eyes, presses them to her face. 'Smell,' she urges her husband with a painful smile. 'They still smell like Chris.' After a long beat she declares, to herself more than to anyone else, 'He must have been very brave and very strong, at the end, not to do himself in.''

A Plaque for Chris

After his death, Chris's parents take comfort in knowing that they are standing on ground that he stood on. They put up a plaque inside the bus to commemorate Chris's life and serve as a marker for future travelers. It reads:

''Christopher Johnson McCandless

'Alex'

2/68-8/92

Chris, our beloved son and brother, died here during his adventurous travels in search of how he could best realize God's great gift of life. With his final message, 'I have had a happy life and thank the Lord. Goodbye and may God bless all,' we commend his soul to the world.'

-The McCandless Family''

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