"Into the Wild" by Jon Krakauer, Chapters 1–7

Nonfiction writer Jon Krakauer retraces the steps of Christopher McCandless, a young man who gave up his material possessions and met a tragic end in the wilds of Alaska.

Here are links to our lists for the book: Chapters 1–7, Chapters 8–13, Chapter 14–Epilogue

Here are links to our lists for Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer.

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. unsullied
    spotlessly clean and fresh
    Alaska has long been a magnet for dreamers and misfits, people who think the unsullied enormity of the Last Frontier will patch all the holes in their lives.
  2. infallibility
    the quality of never making an error
    There was a hint in it of laughter, but of a laughter more terrible than any sadness—a laughter that was mirthless as the smile of the Sphinx, a laughter cold as the frost and partaking of the grimness of infallibility.
  3. derelict
    in deplorable condition
    A vintage International Harvester from the 1940s, the derelict vehicle is located twenty-five miles west of Healy as the raven flies, rusting incongruously in the fireweed beside the Stampede Trail, just beyond the boundary of Denali National Park.
  4. contumacious
    willfully obstinate; stubbornly disobedient
    Thompson, Samel, and Swanson, however, are contumacious Alaskans with a special fondness for driving motor vehicles where motor vehicles aren’t really designed to be driven.
  5. autopsy
    an examination and dissection of a dead body
    The body was taken to Anchorage, where an autopsy was performed at the Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory.
  6. mawkish
    effusively or insincerely emotional
    The Cabarets plywood-paneled walls are hung with deer antlers, Old Milwaukee beer promos, and mawkish paintings of game birds taking flight.
  7. estranged
    caused to be unloved
    If McCandless felt estranged from his parents and siblings, he found a surrogate family in Westerberg and his employees, most of whom lived in Westerberg's Carthage home.
  8. encrypt
    convert ordinary language into code
    Westerberg had been drawn into a scheme to build and sell "black boxes,” which illegally unscramble satellite-television transmissions, allowing people to watch encrypted cable programming without paying for it.
  9. contrite
    feeling or expressing pain or sorrow for sins or offenses
    Contrite, he copped a plea to a single felony count and on October 10, 1990, some two weeks after McCandless arrived in Carthage, began serving a four-month sentence in Sioux Falls.
  10. nomadic
    With Westerberg in stir, there was no work at the grain elevator for McCandless, so on October 23, sooner than he might have under different circumstances, the boy left town and resumed a nomadic existence.
  11. altruistic
    showing unselfish concern for the welfare of others
    (The latter is a reference to Tolstoy’s protagonist and alter ego, Pierre Bezuhov— altruistic, questing, illegitimately born.)
  12. itinerary
    a proposed route of travel
    Five weeks earlier he’d loaded all his belongings into his little car and headed west without an itinerary.
  13. odyssey
    a long wandering and eventful journey
    The trip was to be an odyssey in the fullest sense of the word, an epic journey that would change everything.
  14. onerous
    not easily borne; wearing
    He had spent the previous four years, as he saw it, preparing to fulfill an absurd and onerous duty: to graduate from college.
  15. inimical
    not friendly
    The desert is the environment of revelation, genetically and physiologically alien, sensorily austere, esthetically abstract, historically inimical....
  16. therapeutic
    tending to cure or restore to health
    Here the leaders of the great religions have sought the therapeutic and spiritual values of retreat, not to escape but to find reality.
  17. egress
    the act or means of going out
    There was nowhere to move the car, however, as the only route of egress was now a foaming, full-blown river.
  18. distraught
    deeply agitated especially from emotion
    Instead of feeling distraught over this turn of events, moreover, McCandless was exhilarated: He saw the flash flood as an opportunity to shed unnecessary baggage.
  19. credo
    any system of principles or beliefs
    Although the tone of the journal—written in the third person in a stilted, self-consciousness voice—often veers toward melodrama, the available evidence indicates that McCandless did not misrepresent the facts; telling the truth was a credo he took seriously.
  20. brackish
    slightly salty
    “He was unheeded, happy, and near to the wild heart of life. He was alone and young and wilful and wildhearted, alone amid a waste of wild air and brackish waters and the seaharvest of shells and tangle and veiled grey sunlight.”
  21. unbridled
    not restrained or controlled
    This lower stretch of the river, from Hoover Dam to the gulf, has little in common with the unbridled torrent that explodes through the Grand Canyon, some 250 miles upstream from Topock.
  22. hummock
    a small natural hill
    On January 16, McCandless left the stubby metal boat on a hummock of dune grass southeast of El Golfo de Santa Clara and started walking north up the deserted beach.
  23. unsavory
    morally offensive
    To avoid being robbed by the unsavory characters who rule the streets and freeway overpasses where he slept, he learned to bury what money he had before entering a city, then recover it on the way out of town.
  24. primordial
    having existed from the beginning
    The dominant primordial beast was strong in Buck, and under the fierce conditions of trail life it grew and grew.
  25. temperamental
    subject to sharply varying moods
    Didn’t like to be around too many people, though. Temperamental. He meant good, but I think he had a lot of complexes—know what I’m saying?
  26. turgid
    ostentatiously lofty in style
    Mesmerized by London’s turgid portrayal of life in Alaska and the Yukon, McCandless read and reread The Call of the Wild, White Fang, “To Build a Fire," "An Odyssey of the North,” “The Wit of Porportuk."
  27. enthralled
    filled with wonder and delight
    He was so enthralled by these tales, however, that he seemed to forget they were works of fiction, constructions of the imagination that had more to do with London’s romantic sensibilities than with the actualities of life in the subarctic wilderness.
  28. consignment
    the delivery of goods for sale or disposal
    One afternoon while McCandless was tending the book table at the Niland swap meet, somebody left a portable electric organ with Burres to sell on consignment.
  29. calisthenics
    light exercises designed to promote general fitness
    He did calisthenics each morning to get in shape for the rigors of the bush and discussed backcountry survival strategies at length with Bob, a self-styled survivalist.
  30. anachronistic
    chronologically misplaced
    On January 4, 1993, this writer received an unusual letter, penned in a shaky, anachronistic script that suggested an elderly author.
  31. desiccated
    thoroughly dried out
    Away from the lakeshore the land rises gently and then abruptly to form the desiccated, phantasmal badlands of Anza-Borrego.
  32. nexus
    the means of connection between things linked in series
    When he needed provisions, he would hitch or walk the four miles into town, where he bought rice and filled his plastic water jug at the market-liquor store-post office, a beige stucco building that serves as the cultural nexus of greater Salton City.
  33. ramshackle
    in deplorable condition
    Franz drove Alex the rest of the way, chatted with him there for a while, and then returned to town, where he lived alone, rent free, in return for managing a ramshackle apartment building.
  34. artifact
    a man-made object
    Executed with remarkable skill and creativity, this belt is as astonishing as any artifact Chris McCandless left behind.
  35. fulminate
    criticize severely
    Not infrequently during their visits, Franz recalls, McCandless’s face would darken with anger and he’d fulminate about his parents or politicians or the endemic idiocy of mainstream American life.
  36. burgeon
    grow and flourish
    Franz relished being with McCandless, but their burgeoning friendship also reminded him how lonely he’d been.
  37. pseudonym
    a fictitious name used when performing a particular role
    Ronald Franz (this is not his real name; at his request I have given him a pseudonym) looks remarkably sturdy for a man in his ninth decade who has survived two heart attacks.
  38. rancid
    having a rank smell or taste
    I opened the microwave, and the bottom of it was filled with rancid grease. Alex had been using it to cook chicken, and it never occurred to him that the grease had to drain somewhere.
  39. extravagant
    unrestrained, especially with regard to feelings
    Given Walt’s need to exert control and Chris’s extravagantly independent nature, polarization was inevitable.
  40. rapport
    a relationship of mutual understanding between people
    In high school McCandless had enjoyed a close rapport with two or three members of the opposite sex, and Carine recalls one instance when he got drunk and tried to bring a girl up to his bedroom in the middle of the night

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