75 pages 2 hours read

Jon Krakauer

Into The Wild

Nonfiction | Biography | Adult | Published in 1996

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more. For select classroom titles, we also provide Teaching Guides with discussion and quiz questions to prompt student engagement.

Summary and Study Guide


Into the Wild is a nonfiction book written by Jon Krakauer. It was first published in 1996 and turned into a feature film directed by Sean Penn in 2007. It has been classified as outdoor writing, travel writing, and biography.

In 1993 Krakauer published “Death of an Innocent” in Outside magazine, an article that detailed the death of Christopher McCandless. The article generated an enormous response from readers, and Krakauer spent a subsequent year tracing McCandless’s journey and researching his life. Into the Wild is the result of this research.

Into the Wild is divided into 18 chapters. Many of these chapters reconstruct McCandless’s travels between May 1990 and the summer of 1992. In 1990 Chris McCandless graduated from Emory University in Atlanta, donated his savings to a charity, and took up a life of traveling across the Western United States and Mexico. He never stayed in one place longer than two months, and traveled by foot, canoe, train, and car. In 1992 he hitchhiked to Alaska, where he intended to live in seclusion, subsisting solely on what he could forage and hunt. Although he survived for nearly four months alone in the wild, in August 1992 McCandless succumbed to starvation, grew weak, and died.

To reconstruct McCandless’s story, Krakauer utilizes a number of resources, including journal entries, first-person accounts, and intimate recollections of McCandless from family members. In Chapters 14 and 15 Krakauer describes a personal account of a trip to Alaska that parallels McCandless’s own journey. The result of Krakauer’s diverse narrative approaches is an engaging collage of non-fiction that has elements of journalism, biography, personal history, adventure writing, and the novel. An ode to the allure and natural beauty of the American West, and the kind of idealistic personality attracted to that landscape, Into the Wild is one of the most successful pieces of outdoor nonfiction writing in contemporary literature.