Thoreau as an Oblique Mirror: Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild

José Sánchez Vera


In his nonfiction biography of Christopher McCandless, Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer uses a plethora of references to Henry D. Thoreau. In this article I analyze Krakauer’s use of Thoreau’s economic ideas, liberalism, and view of nature and wilderness. I argue that Krakauer blurs a pragmatic understanding of Thoreau and uses techniques of fiction to create an appealing story and characterize McCandless as a latter-day Thoreauvian transcendentalist. By doing so, Krakauer explains and defends the protagonist’s actions from criticism, thereby making him appear as a character whose story is exceptional. Although the characterization of the protagonist as a follower of Thoreauvian ideals by means of a partial interpretation of Thoreau does not provide us with a better understanding of McCandless’s life, Krakauer’s extensive research and the critical self-reflection in the text produces a compelling nonfiction narrative. Moreover, the romantic image of Thoreau advanced by Krakauer reflects the preoccupations and issues that concerned Krakauer, or at least his times. Particularly, it reflects Krakauer’s own ideas concerning the negative effects of materialism on both ourselves and the natural world.

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ISSN: 0044-8060
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