Into the Wild
Jon Krakauer
Contributed by Sherie Debus
Chapters 6-7

Summary: Chapter 6

The narrator and author of Into the Wild gets a letter from Ronald A. Franz, a recovered alcoholic and Vietnam veteran, who seeks a copy of a 1993 magazine article about Christopher McCandless’s death. Franz visits Krakauer and tells him that he and McCandless met while camping at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park near the Salton Sea. McCandless shows Franz the hot springs where he camps in exchange for a ride and soon the two become friends. Franz lost his wife and child while he was overseas, so he treats McCandless as his own son. Franz buys McCandless food and shows keen interest in his stories and theories about life and society. Franz tries to persuade McCandless to take up a job but McCandless says that he has a plan. McCandless lectures Franz about his sedentary lifestyle. The old man teaches McCandless leatherwork skill and McCandless makes a monogrammed belt with symbols from his life as a tramp. Eventually, Franz takes McCandless to San Diego where he attempts to get work.

Later, McCandless writes letters to him saying that work is hard to come by in San Diego. By late February, McCandless informs Burres and Franz that he has jumped trains to Seattle. His next letter to Franz comes after his arrest and release for jumping a train to a small California town called Colton. Franz goes to Colton, picks McCandless, gives him supplies, and helps him depart for Carthage where McCandless says he will work for Wayne Westerberg again. Franz, during one of their drives, asks McCandless if he can adopt him as his grandson, but McCandless defers the conversation till his return from Alaska. Here, Krakauer pauses tracking McCandless' journey and informs the reader that Franz received a letter, narrating it in its entirety, from McCandless in early April. In the letter, McCandless urges Franz to embark on a traveler’s life, and scolds him for enjoying the world lesser than it has to offer to him. Krakauer informs the reader that Franz followed McCandless’s advice and bought a camper, moved to McCandless’s old campsite in the Salton Sea. He stayed there until he got the news of McCandless’s death from a pair of hitchhikers while in town to receive his mails. In grief, Franz drank a bottle of whiskey and broke his hard-won sobriety.

Summary: Chapter 7

Two months after McCandless’s dead body was found the narrator visits Wayne Westerberg in Carthage, South Dakota, to know about his last days at Westerberg’s grain elevator. He learns that McCandless wanted to stay there till April to earn money for his trip to Alaska. The narrator also meets Gail Borah, Westerberg’s girlfriend, who reveals McCandless’s affection for his sister Carine and his disagreements with his family. Westerberg’s mother also tells the narrator that she found McCandless very loving even though she had met him once.

The narrator describes McCandless’s feelings about his parents who were oppressive, secretive, and irrational. Krakauer also finds out that McCandless never had a girlfriend and may have remained celibate throughout. Apparently, McCandless had marked up passages of Leo Tolstoy’s 'Kreutzer Sonata', a story about the renunciation of sex. Krakauer then studies McCandless’s character minutely, concluding that he was attracted to nature because of a desire for human contact which was too strong to be satisfied by other people. On his last night with Westerberg and Borah, McCandless plays piano in a bar full of Carthage locals. The trio drinks a lot of Jack Daniels, one of McCandless’s favorite whiskeys. In the morning, McCandless’s friends bid him goodbye. Borah realises hat he is crying as he says goodbye to her. A week later, he writes a letter to them from Montana. At the end of April 1992, Burres and her boyfriend as well as Westerberg and Borah get postcards bidding them goodbye forever and realising that McCandless is gone forever in the wild.


Chapters 6 and 7 rely on a similar narrative structure: McCandless displays some warmth or sociability and then retreats. Here, Krakauer also raises questions of morality and selfishness. He whips up emotional tension as McCandless gets ready to say to leave his friends and commit himself to a life in the wild. In Chapters 6 and 7, Christopher hurts people by accepting their assistance but not paying heed to their warnings. While the first section of the book described McCandless’s happiness, exhilaration and commitment to his new identity as a tramp, these chapters go beyond McCandless’s point of view to suggest selfishness in his motivations. The chapters also suggest that the lonely people Krakauer meets during his investigation into McCandless’s life have become recluse after undergoing a significant trauma in their lives. McCandless, on the other hand, had no such experience in his life. McCandless’s selfish streak by hurting others is most evident in his meeting with the veteran and recovered alcoholic Ronald A. Franz. McCandless friendship causes a lot of emotional hurt to old man. When Franz comes to know off McCandless' death, he is shattered and drowns himself in grief by drinking too much liquor. Krakauer’s narration of this episode shows McCandless not just as impetuous but also as deeply irresponsible person. The reader learns of Franz’ whiskey binge at the end of chapter, undercutting the description of their close friendship earlier. It is important to note here that Krakauer’s tone suddenly turns solemn as he discusses the depth of Franz’s grief. McCandless’s poignant relationship with Franz also reinforces the motif of Christopher hurting the parental figures in his life. On a whole, McCandless hurting Franz only complicates and lessens the sympathy the narrator seems to feel for McCandless.
Chapter 7 reinforces Christopher McCandless’s image as somewhat insensitive and irresponsible youth who does not values relationships. Contrary to his image in Chapter 4 where Krakauer describes McCandless’s contributions for Jan Burres’s community, and even sparks romantic interest, Chapter 7 shows that McCandless could belong if he wanted to. His relationships with Wayne Westerberg and his girlfriend, and even his ability to entertain a group of people with his musical talent, reveals that he has the ability to make relationships click and live as a socially warm person in a community. However, his goal of self-sufficiency and living in the wild override all other considerations. The tone of Chapters 6 and 7 becomes elegiac, even as McCandless surprises his friends, Wayne Westerberg and Burres, with a series of postcards informing them that he may never return. Content wise, Chapters 6 and 7 are different from the rest of Into the Wild as they contain a lot of text quoted directly from Christopher McCandless. Krakauer quotes an entire letter from McCandless to Ronald Franz, allowing the reader hear McCandless’s voice, if only in written form. Significantly, it allows the reader to think through McCandless’s formulations of his ideas about life and the inability of most people to change their situations and achieve happiness.
McCandless encourages Franz to leave Salton City and experience adventure and passion for the road as a means of changing his life. McCandless' impressive phrases give the reader the experience of being subject to McCandless’s persuasion. His writing reflects his friendly feelings for Franz but also his own strong sense of rectitude, self-righteousness, and authority. The postcards that arrive at the end of Chapter 7 act as counterpoint to this long letter as well as fulfillment of its philosophical advice. Their brevity suggests determination and the irrevocability of McCandless’s decision to leave the society behind.

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