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In Chapters Ten and Eleven, Chris’s childhood is illuminated, and Krakauer traces back those characteristics that would lead to him deserting his family and all his possessions to wander into the wilderness. The strongest of these is his stubbornness, which prevents him from taking his talent to the next level in almost anything, because he is so against following directions and taking advice, or following authority. He is able to excel at running because he certainly has determination and natural athleticism, but at sports that require technique and finesse, he falls just short of greatness. This certainly seems to foreshadow what will happen to him in Alaska—his determination helps him survive for months under incredibly difficult conditions, but holes in his knowledge and his refusal to accept help eventually lead to his death.
Seeing this stubbornness in its youthful form illuminates certain qualities of it that would otherwise be unclear. What will become his passion and independence in his early twenties come off as simple aversion to authority in his younger years. Although he easily gets A’s throughout most of his education, he fails a physics class, simply because he refuses to follow the teacher’s specific guidelines for lab reports. The teacher institutes this policy because of the large number of reports he must grade, but to Chris—not quite capable of seeing it from someone else’s perspective—it is just an arbitrary rule that someone wants to impose on him.