Alaska State Troopers had a difficult time identifying Chris McCandless’s body. However, when the story ran in the paper, Jim Gallien was certain it was “Alex.” Gallien called police and described Alex; police finally believed Gallien when they saw his name in Chris’s journal. Soon after, Wayne Westerberg heard radio talk-show host Paul Harvey discussing a kid who starved to death in Alaska. Westerberg called Alaska State Troopers to tell them what he knew about Alex. However, police were having difficulty discerning who had actually known the dead hiker, since they received over 150 calls from people claiming to be a friend or family member. Yet Westerberg insisted he knew the hiker and could provide his Social Security number (from a W-4 form). With this information, police were able to contact Chris’s bother, Sam, in Virginia.
In Chapter 11, the author visits with Chris’s parents, Walt and Billie. Walt and Billie have since moved to the Maryland shore. Walt has had a very successful career, working as a private consultant for organizations such as NASA. Krakauer recounts Walt’s life, including his first marriage to a woman named Marcia, with whom he had five children. He left his wife for his secretary, Billie. Billie and Walt moved to Virginia, where Walt worked for NASA. However, soon after, Walt quit and he and Billie began a private consulting firm. Chris had been fearless as a child and a high achiever. He was also a talented musician and athlete. As a high school student, Chris wandered around Washington D.C and talked with homeless people; he would buy them meals and try to help them improve their lives. Sometimes, Chris would bring homeless people to his parents’ house and hide them in the family’s Airstream trailer.
Chris did not want to go to college but his parents persuaded him. Chris was embarrassed by his parents’ money. Yet he was a complicated character—while Chris believed money was inherently evil, he was always an entrepreneur. As a child he sold vegetables throughout the neighborhood; at age twelve, he began a neighborhood copy business; in high school he worked as a salesman for a local building contractor.
In Chapter 12 Walt and Billie recall Chris’s high school graduation. They threw him a party and he gave a moving speech. The next day, he set off to travel. He returned home two days before he was due at Emory University, scruffy and thirty pounds lighter. His family was alarmed to learn that during his travels, he had gotten lost in the Mojave Desert and almost died from dehydration.
Chris did very well during his first year of college and even considered law school. However, things seemed to change the summer between sophomore and junior years. Friends described him as distant and cold. Chris was angry with his parents because of a secret he had learned from family in California—when Walt left Marcia for Billie, their romance did not end. In fact, Walt even had another child with Marcia after Chris was born.
Chris began to ridicule the rich kids at Emory. Although Chris despised conspicuous consumption, he was not politically liberal. At Emory, he even co-founded a College Republicans Club. During his final year at Emory, Chris rarely contacted his parents. After graduation, Chris donated all of his savings and headed west. Two years later, he was found dead in Alaska.
In Chapter 13, Krakauer visits Chris’s sister, Carine, in Virginia Beach. Carine has an “extremely good” relationship with her parents, is married to a man named Chris Fish, and owns an auto-repair business. This visit takes place ten months after Chris’s death; Carine is still grieving deeply. Carine remembers the night she learned her bother was dead: Carine’s husband came home early from work and said they needed to talk; Sam had called him at work and given him the news. They drove four hours north to her parents’ house. The next day, Carine and Sam flew to Alaska to collect Chris’s remains.
This section does an excellent job of complicating the perception of Chris McCandless that the reader is no doubt developing by this point. Thus far we have seen a Chris that was foolhardy and sullen, although sometimes given to sociability. In this section, his parents and sister describe the boy they loved so much. Here, Chris is a hard worker and high achiever. He is a brilliant entrepreneur.
While other interviews have provided only snapshots of Chris—what he was like for a week or a day—his family can describe how he evolved into a drifter and how conflicted he really was. In this section we learn that Chris did not always shun society; he even considered becoming a lawyer at one point. However, Chris was very consistent in other regards; his generousity towards the homeless and willingness to converse with “seedy” characters demonstrate an enduring tolerance and perhaps admiration for those who did not conform to accepted standards of living.
This section also supplies the reader with two key points about Chris McCandless’s past that most certainly fueled his decisions: 1. he was embarrassed by his parents’ wealth, 2. he was angry with his father because sexual dalliances.
Staff, TheBestNotes.com. "TheBestNotes on Into the Wild".
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