"Into the Wild" by Jon Krakauer, Chapters 8–13

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. strident
    unpleasantly loud and harsh
    The most strident criticism came in the form of a dense, multipage epistle from Ambler, a tiny Inupiat village on the Kobuk River north of the Arctic Circle.
  2. hubris
    overbearing pride or presumption
    McCandless is, finally, just a pale 20th-century burlesque of London's protagonist, who freezes because he ignores advice and commits big-time hubris).
  3. asceticism
    rigorous self-denial and active self-restraint
    McCandless's contrived asceticism and a pseudoliterary stance compound rather than reduce the fault.
  4. histrionic
    characteristic of acting or a stage performance
    McCandless's postcards, notes, and journals ... read like the work of an above average, somewhat histrionic high school kid
  5. recondite
    difficult to penetrate
    In mid-winter a field biologist discovered all his belongings—two rifles, camping gear, a diary filled with incoherent ranting about truth and beauty and recondite ecological theory
  6. unkempt
    not neatly combed
    One rainy afternoon while walking into town, I crossed paths with an unkempt, agitated man who appeared to be about forty.
  7. forebear
    a person from whom you are descended
    He wondered whether humans could live as our forebears had when mammoths and saber-toothed tigers roamed the land or whether our species had moved too far from its roots to survive without gunpowder, steel, and other artifacts of civilization.
  8. serenade
    sing and play for somebody
    He carried around a cheap guitar held together with masking tape and would serenade anybody who’d listen with long, off-key songs about his adventures.
  9. incinerate
    become reduced to ashes
    the cabin he was staying in caught fire and burned to rubble, incinerating both his equipment and the voluminous accumulation of notes, poetry, and personal journals that he regarded as his life’s work.
  10. circuitous
    deviating from a straight course
    As if climbing the peak alone in winter weren’t challenging enough, this time he decided to up the ante even further by beginning his ascent at sea level, which entailed walking 160 hard, circuitous miles from the shore of Cook Inlet just to reach the foot of the mountain.
  11. flamboyant
    tending to attract attention; marked by ostentatious display
    And he seemed like a smart guy. But there was a side to him that was a little bit dreamy, a little bit out of touch with reality. He was flamboyant. He liked to party hard.
  12. bravado
    a swaggering show of courage
    He could be extremely responsible, but he had a tendency to wing it sometimes, to act impulsively, to get by on bravado and style.
  13. posthumously
    after death
    “I think I should have used more foresight about arranging my departure,” he confessed to his diary, significant portions of which were published posthumously in a five-part story by Kris Capps in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
  14. scavenge
    feed on carrion or refuse
    At one point he managed to scavenge meat from a diseased caribou that had wandered into the lake and died.
  15. bohemian
    unconventional in especially appearance and behavior
    Stella was a headstrong woman with bohemian tastes and driving artistic ambitions, for both herself and her kin; she self-published a literary journal, the Ruess Quartette, the cover of which was emblazoned with the family maxim: "Glorify the hour."
  16. callow
    young and inexperienced
    Ruess was, in the words of Wallace Stegner, "a callow romantic, an adolescent esthete, an atavistic wanderer of the wastelands"
  17. unscathed
    not injured
    Twice I was nearly gored to death by a wild bull. But always, so far, I’ve escaped unscathed and gone forth to other adventures.
  18. nonchalantly
    in a composed and unconcerned manner
    And in his final letter Ruess nonchalantly confesses to his brother: I have had a few narrow escapes from rattlers and crumbling cliffs.
  19. paraphernalia
    equipment consisting of miscellaneous articles
    except for the burros and their tack, none of Ruess’s possessions—his camping paraphernalia, journals, and paintings—was ever found.
  20. picaresque
    (of fiction) involving clever rogues or adventurers
    When Edward Abbey was writing The Monkey Wrench Gang, his picaresque novel about eco-terrorism in the canyon country, his pal Ken Sleight was said to have inspired the character Seldom Seen Smith.
  21. arcane
    requiring secret or mysterious knowledge
    Within the ranks of his arcane field—an advanced technology called synthetic aperture radar, or SAR—he is an eminence.
  22. mercurial
    liable to sudden unpredictable change
    According to members of the extended family, his moods can be dark and mercurial, although they say his famous temper has lost much of its volatility in recent years.
  23. trajectory
    the path followed by an object moving through space
    It is impossible to know what murky convergence of chromosomal matter, parent-child dynamics, and alignment of the cosmos was responsible, but Christopher Johnson McCandless came into the world with unusual gifts and a will not easily deflected from its trajectory.
  24. antisocial
    shunning contact with others
    He wasn’t antisocial—he always had friends, and everybody liked him—but he could go off and entertain himself for hours. He didn’t seem to need toys or friends. He could be alone without being lonely.
  25. rancor
    a feeling of deep and bitter anger and ill-will
    The rancor was more smoke than fire, says Carine, but "I think it was one of the reasons Chris and I were so close. We learned to count on each other when Mom and Dad weren’t getting along.”
  26. savvy
    the ability to shrewdly understand or judge things
    The old man’s backwoods savvy, his affinity for the wilderness, left a deep impression on the boy.
  27. panache
    distinctive and stylish elegance
    Indeed, in a goofy video Chris made in college, he can be heard belting out "Summers by the sea/Sailboats in Capri” with impressive panache, crooning like a professional lounge singer.
  28. nuance
    a subtle difference in meaning or opinion or attitude
    Nuance, strategy, and anything beyond the rudimentaries of technique were wasted on Chris.
  29. apartheid
    a social policy of racial segregation
    He spoke seriously to his friends about smuggling weapons into that country and joining the struggle to end apartheid.
  30. demeaning
    causing awareness of your shortcomings
    When Walt and Billie suggested that he needed a college degree to attain a fulfilling career, Chris answered that careers were demeaning “twentieth-century inventions," more of a liability than an asset, and that he would do fine without one, thank you.
  31. incorrigible
    impervious to correction by punishment
    To the contrary, he enjoyed tipping a glass now and then and was an incorrigible ham.
  32. infuriate
    make furious
    ‘All you need to know is that it works,’ he said. ‘You don’t need to know how or why.’ Chris was just being Chris, but it infuriated me.
  33. philanderer
    a man who likes many women
    One of the individuals he professed to admire greatly over the last two years of his life was a heavy drinker and incorrigible philanderer who regularly beat up his girlfriends.
  34. sanctimonious
    excessively or hypocritically pious
    Whenever Walt McCandless, in his stern fashion, would dispense a fatherly admonishment to Chris, Carine, or their half siblings, Chris would fixate on his father’s own less than sterling behavior many years earlier and silently denounce him as a sanctimonious hypocrite.
  35. obliquely
    to, toward or at one side
    He chose instead to make a secret of his dark knowledge and express his rage obliquely, in silence and sullen withdrawal.
  36. anomalous
    deviating from the general or common order or type
    Chris’s seemingly anomalous political positions were perhaps best summed up by Thoreau’s declaration in “Civil Disobedience": "I heartily accept the motto—‘That government is best which governs least.’ ”
  37. lambaste
    censure severely or angrily
    He lampooned Jimmy Carter and Joe Biden, called for the resignation of Attorney General Edwin Meese, lambasted Bible-thumpers of the Christian right, urged vigilance against the Soviet threat, castigated the Japanese for hunting whales, and defended Jesse Jackson as a viable presidential candidate.
  38. pellucid
    transmitting light; able to be seen through with clarity
    It was an abbreviated trip—he spent a short time around Fairbanks, then hurried south to get back to Atlanta in time for the start of fall classes—but he had been smitten by the vastness of the land, by the ghostly hue of the glaciers, by the pellucid subarctic sky.
  39. recalcitrant
    stubbornly resistant to authority or control
    In both photos Chris stares at the lens with the same pensive, recalcitrant squint, as if he’d been interrupted in the middle of an important thought and was annoyed to be wasting his time in front of the camera.
  40. cremate
    reduce to ashes
    Less than twenty-four hours after landing in Fairbanks, Carine and Sam flew on to Anchorage, where Chris’s body had been cremated following the autopsy at the Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory.

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