Rhetoric in Into the Wild
Appeals to Logos
*Strategy 1: describing McCandless’s intelligence.
Ex. 1: In the third chapter of the novel, where Krakauer describes McCandless’s relationship with Wayne Westerberg, he discusses Chris McCandless’s family and education in brief. Specifically, Krakauer mentions, “In May 1990, Chris graduated from Emory University in Atlanta, … and had distinguished himself as a history and anthropology major with a 3.72 grade-point average” (Krakauer 20). This presents a side of Chris that appeals to people’s logos and makes them think. The main question that pops into mind is, “how could such a smart kid make such a dumb mistake?” This intrigue keeps the reader immersed in the book, and therefore continues to hold their attention. Ex. 2: Later on in the novel, around the middle of chapter eleven, Krakauer describes McCandless in more depth. He talks about his social life, what he was like as a young boy, and what he was like when he grew. There is another good example of Krakauer using McCandless’s intelligence to appeal to logos, and that is when he quotes one of Chris’s high school running teammates, Eric Hathaway. Hathaway remembers, “Chris brought home good grades. He didn’t get into trouble, he was a high achiever, he did what he was supposed to do” (Krakauer 114). Again, Krakauer sets up a good image of how smart Chris was. Readers also learn that he was diligent and hardworking, and they can understand how it would tie into Chris’s persistence in the Alaskan wild.
*Strategy 2: talks about when McCandless did illogical things, to interest readers. Ex. 1: In the beginning of the novel, when Krakauer talks about McCandless’s journey into the Mojave Desert, he mentions that Chris did something really ridiculous. Krakauer recounts his actions in this way: “in a gesture that would have done both Tolstoy and Thoreau proud, he arranged all his paper currency… and put a match to it. One hundred twenty-three dollars in legal tender was promptly reduced to ash and smoke” (Krakauer 29). Krakauer describes Chris’s donation of his college fund to charity a couple of pages later in the book. Yet, when one reaches that page, they have to wonder why Chris didn’t just keep his money with him, so he could donate it later, or at least buy some supplies. This leads to more curiosity about McCandless’s common sense, which in turn entices the readers further onward. Ex. 2: Near the end of the book, when Krakauer returns to the subject of McCandless’s journey into the Alaskan wild, he talks about the meager amount of food McCandless carried, and alludes to Chris’s ignorance. He says about McCandless, “he’d subsisted for more than a month beside the Gulf of California on five pounds of rice and a bounty of fish caught with a cheap rod and reel,… made him confident he could harvest enough food for an extended stay in the Alaskan wilderness too” (Krakauer 162). Any person who reads this automatically questions Chris’s common sense, because they wonder how he could possibly think California is anything like Alaska. Not only that, but the fact that Chris purposely neglected to pack good supplies makes people find him arrogant, and, in young people’s slang, “a douche-bag.”
Appeals to Ethos
*Strategy 1: Describing the moral values of Chris McCandless
Ex. 1: In the middle of the book, in chapter eleven, Krakauer includes responses from people who knew Chris in college and high school. One of his female running teammates, Kris Maxie Gillmer, recounts how determined McCandless always was about righting social injustices. Proof of this is found in his senior year of high school. Krakauer confirms, “McCandless took life’s inequities to heart. During his senior year at Woodson, he became obsessed with racial oppression in South Africa” (Krakauer 113). Krakauer may have included only this event and a few others like it throughout the novel, but it leaves no doubt in the reader’s mind...