In Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild, Chris McCandless is portrayed as a reckless and foolish person who perishes out of arrogance, stupidity and self-centeredness. He knows what he would encounter out in the wild, but he doesn’t prepare for it and it costs him his life.
Chris McCandless is an adventurous and reckless person. Chris loves the outdoors. After graduating from college, Chris buys himself a car and travels west in search of a new life. “…he intended to invent an utterly new life, one in which he would be free to wallow in unfiltered experience.” (pg. 22-23) During the time Chris is out west, he makes some reckless decisions such as when he is traveling alone in the desert and he almost dies of dehydration. Chris also almost dies when he paddles his canoe through gale force winds and whitecaps and he breaks his oar because he beats the canoe with it (luckily he has a spare). “He screams and beats canoe with oar. The oar breaks. Alex has one spare oar. He calms himself. If loses second oar is dead.”(pg. 36) Chris could have been killed not only by capsizing, but also by breaking his oar. Chris’ recklessness in Alaska is one of the contributing factors of his death. He knows what the conditions of his escapade are but he doesn’t prepare for it. “Alex admitted that the only food in his pack was a ten-pound bag of rice. His gear seemed exceedingly minimal for the harsh conditions of the interior, which in April still lay buried under the winter snow pack. Alex’s cheap leather hiking boots were neither waterproof nor well insulated. His rifle was only .22 caliber, a bore too small to rely on if he expected to kill large animals like moose and caribou, which he would have to eat if he hoped to remain very long in the country. He had no ax, no bug dope, no snowshoes, and no compass. The only navigational aid in his possession was a tattered state road map he’d scrounged at a gas station.” (pg. 5)
Chris McCandless’ arrogance is another contributing factor of his death. Chris shows his arrogance to anyone who tries to offer advice and/or supplies to him. “Gallien offered to drive Alex all the way to Anchorage, buy him some decent gear, and then drive him back to wherever he wanted to go.” “No, thanks anyway, I’ll be fine with what I’ve got.” (pg.6) Ronald Franz tries to “Convince him to get an education and a job and make something of his life.” (pg. 51) Chris doesn’t want any advice on how to make his life better and replies, “Look Mr. Franz. You don’t need to worry about me. I have a college education. I’m not destitute. I’m living like this by choice.” (pg. 51) Chris’ arrogance also shows to Wayne Westerberg. Wayne offers to buy Chris a plane ticket to Fairbanks so Chris can stay and work for another 10 days. Chris rejects the offer, saying, “No, I want to hitch north. Flying would be cheating. It would wreck the whole trip.” (pg. 67) Because of Chris’ arrogance he walked into the wild ill-supported and he paid the ultimate price.
Chris’ self-centeredness is his hubris or fatal flaw. He keeps all the people he meets at arms length. Chris is able to make many friends during his escapade. Wayne Westerberg gives Chris a job and lodgings, Jan and Bob Burres give Chris a place to stay, as does Ronald Franz. Chris had a bad relationship with his family except for his sister Carine. “Since they won’t ever take me seriously, for a few months after graduation I’m going to let them think they are right, I’m going to let them think the I’m “coming around to see their side of things” and that our relationship is stabilizing. And then, once the time is right, with one abrupt, swift action I’m going to completely knock them out of my life. I’m going to divorce them as my parents once and for all and never speak to either of those idiots again as long as I live. I’ll be through with them once and for all, forever.” (pg. 64) Chris disliked his parents so much that when he goes away for the last time, he tells no one where he is going. Chris cares only about himself, not about the feelings of others. Chris’ self-centeredness is another contributing factor to his death.
Three things contributed to Chris’ death, his arrogance, recklessness and self-centeredness. His hatred and non-caring of his parents and family, the way he put down advice and supplies from others who try to help him and the way he goes into the wild unprepared are part of his hubris. Hubris will eventually lead to a tragic downfall. Just as in Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, Brutus and the other conspirators, along with Julius Caesar, himself, have their tragic downfalls; Chris succumbs to the same end