Author's Note and Chapter 1

Author’s Note

In his opening Author’s Note, Krakauer explains that he originally documented the story of Chris McCandless in an article for Outside magazine; it generated more reader response than any other article in the magazine’s history. Krakauer announces that he has tried to keep himself out of the work, but that his own fascination with the story was quite personal. Therefore, some of his own experiences are woven into the book in an effort to shed greater light on the character and history of Chris McCandless.

Chapter 1 Summary

The narrative begins on April 28, 1992, just before McCandless enters the wilderness to embark on his “Alaskan odyssey.” Jim Gallien, an electrician, picks up a hitchhiker near Fairbanks, Alaska. The hitchhiker is a small, slender young man carrying a light backpack with a rifle protruding from it. He tells Gallien that his name is Alex and asks for a ride to Denali National Park, explaining that he intends to go into the bush and “live off the land for a few months.” At first, Gallien thinks McCandless must be “one of those crackpots from the lower forty-eight who come north to live out ill-considered Jack London fantasies,” but over the next two hours, he changes his mind. As they talk, it is clear to Gallien that McCandless is quite rational and intelligent, and he asks Gallien a number of good questions about which berries are edible and what kind of game he can expect to find.

Gallien worries, however, that the young man does not have adequate supplies for surviving in the harsh conditions of the bush. He notices the cheapness of McCandless’s boots, which are not even waterproof, and the smallness of his rifle, which is not big enough to shoot big game like moose or caribou. McCandless doesn’t even have snowshoes or a compass, and he admits to Gallien that the only food he’s carrying is a ten-pound bag of rice. For navigation, McCandless has only a rough state road map, which offers no...

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