This chapter introduces one of the primary motifs of Into the Wild, that of documents. Because the book's subject, Christopher McCandless, has died before author Jon Krakauer can meet him, Krakauer must rely on the testimony of the people McCandless encountered in order to stitch together the story of the young man's journey — and especially on the documents McCandless left behind. The first of these documents is McCandless's S.O.S. note. Others will include his journals, the notes he made in the books he read, graffiti he scratched into various surfaces, and photos he took of himself. To these Krakauer will add maps of the places McCandless visited, relevant quotations from a wide variety of authors, and even a brief memoir…show more content…
It is important to understand that McCandless fled society not because he couldn't get along with others, but because he chose to be alone.
The fact that McCandless achieved this effect by means of a letter speaks to the power of the written word. Remember that he was inspired to head "into the wild" by books he read (Tolstoy's, Jack London's, and others) — and that it is a magazine article which informs the hitchhiker Franz picks up at chapter's end that McCandless has died, thus inspiring the old man to give up on life.
Regarding McCandless's character, it is interesting — and of course believable — that he can be intelligent, hardworking, and resilient, yet lack mechanical dexterity and perhaps even common sense. While the former characteristic, his awkwardness with machines, is consequential in ways that he manages to recover from (as in the abandonment of his car), the latter, his difficulty being just plain sensible, will have a greater impact.
McCandless's rage toward his parents, and particularly his father, is something that many of those who meet him pick up on. It seems to be their lifestyle more than anything else that McCandless is rejecting when he flees the conventional middle-class American way of life, though why it so repels him is never made completely clear by Into the Wild. It is not uncommon for men and women of Christopher McCandless's age to flee