Into The Wild: Chris’ Conflicts

This is an analysis of Chris McCandless’ conflicts pertaining to: Chris vs. Parents; Chris vs. Nature; Chris vs. Self.

As we all know, people have differences; that’s what makes us unique. In the book Into the Wild, these differences become the sources of conflict between Chris McCandless and his parents. These small clashes between father and son result in conflict. His idealistic quest for independence forces Chris to separate himself from his family and the world, taking refuge in nature. He wanders into Alaska’s interior looking for compassion to fill the void between him and his parents, but what he really finds is a cold, lonely place. The chain of conflicts was all set in motion because of his differences with his parents.

There are considerable differences that contribute to the conflict between Chris and his parents. For instance, “Both father and son were stubborn and high-strung” (64). Walt McCandless had a need “to exert control” over “Chris’s extravagantly independent nature” (64), which made a conflict between father and son. Chris criticized his parents for moral shortcomings and the hypocrisy of their lifestyle. He even felt “the tyranny of their unconditional love” (64) from which he rebelled. Chris’s social belief system also differed largely from his parents. Chris viewed his father as a moneymaking capitalist because Walt McCandless was trying to climb the social ladder while developing his own company. Chris, however, viewed life more through Thoreau’s “Higher Laws” revealed in his study of Walden, “Chastity is the flowering of man; and what are called Genius, Heroism, Holiness, and the like, are but various fruits which succeed it” (66). Chris’s idealistic view of life puts him at odds with his father and gives him an unrealistic perspective about the refuge of nature.


When McCandless secludes himself from his parents and society, he attempts to replace them with the wilderness. Perhaps this conflict between Chris and nature was brought about due to his need to escape from established rules and his parents. Since Chris hated to be told what to do by his parents and conform to their differing ways, he even rejected the help of Gallien, a man who knew a whole lot more about the harsh temperatures in Alaska who warned Chris about the interior of Alaska. Chris did not heed that, “Alaska is not the best site in the world for eremitic experiments or peace-love theatrics” (73). Perhaps McCandless had the same beliefs as Gene Rosellini that he could eat roots, berries, and seaweed and “become a Stone Age native” (75). McCandless underlined a portion of Walden that states, “Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth” (117). Perhaps Chris McCandless assumed he would find truth and purpose in nature, but instead he discovered problems from within the wild. He found in nature as well as in man, “The hospitality was as cold as the ices” (117). Chris McCandless’s dream of harmony with nature was ironically achieved through his death.

Chris McCandless finally came to peace with his parental conflicts and nature on August 18th. This harmony or peace was ironically achieved because it brought forth his death. According to Jon Krakauer, it seems as if “Chris’s death was unplanned” (134). Even though Chris McCandless went into Alaska’s interior unprepared with minimal supplies, he seemed eager to test himself with destiny. For instance, “McCandless didn’t start a forest fire … as a distress signal” (198). When Chris was in trouble in the wilderness, he does not see help as an option because of the quality of life he has back in society. After all, Chris had already given away all his money and possessions which indicates that he knew he was not ever coming back. Perhaps this could be because as “Chris’s resentment of his parents hardened, his sense of outrage over injustice in the world at large grew” (123). His lack of respect for society and its rules forces Chris to choose between either a conflicted life or a peaceful life with nature even at the cost of his life. Within the final moments of his life, Chris resolved the conflict with his parents: “He crawled into the sleeping bag his mother had sewn for him and slipped into unconsciousness… Chris McCandless was at peace, serene as a monk gone to God” (199).

Many people might see Chris’s death as a tragic consequence to his rebellious spirit towards his parents and society. In reality, it could have been Chris’s attempt to live life to the fullest even if it meant meeting his destiny, even death.  He left earth at peace with nature as well as with his parents. This idealistic young man even with the parental conflicts had come to peace with them in his final moments of life.

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1 Comment
  1. Iben
    Posted May 24, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    You’re quoting the book wrong. It’s “the tyranny of their conditional love.” Great article aside from that!

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