Jon Krakauer is the author and narrator of Into the Wild, whose life in certain ways parallels McCandless’s. Obsessive about mountain climbing from his teens to his late twenties, like McCandless he also has issues with male authority figures, and has a very conflicted relationship with his father.
Chris McCandless is the subject of Into the Wild. McCandless is an intelligent, extremely intense young man with a streak of stubborn idealism. He grows up in a wealthy suburb of Washington, D.C., where he succeeds both academically and athletically. He graduates from Emory University with honors in 1990, and soon afterwards gives all of his savings to charity, starts going by the name of "Alex," abandons almost all of his possessions, and spends two years hitchhiking and traveling around the west. He then hitchhikes to Alaska, where he walks alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley in April 1992. He is found dead four months later.
Jim Gallien is a union electrician and accomplished hunter and woodsman who picks up “Alex” four miles outside of Fairbanks and drives him to Denali. He is the last person to see McCandless alive.
Ken Thompson is the owner of an Anchorage body shop who is with Gordon Samel and Ferdie Swanson on a hunting trip when they find McCandless’s body.
Gordon Samel is an employee of Ken Thompson, and he is the one to find McCandless’s body on what is supposed to be a moose hunting trip.
Ferdie Swanson is a construction worker and friend of Ken and Gordon who is with them when they find McCandless’s body.
Butch Killian is a coal miner and emergency medical technician from Healy, the closest town, who arrives at the bus soon after Samel has found McCandless’s body.
Wayne Westerberg is the owner of a grain elevator in Carthage, South Dakota, who meets McCandless when he picks him up hitchhiking in 1990. He gives McCandless jobs multiple times, and becomes close to him.
Chris’s father, Walt is an eminent aerospace engineer and the father of eight children from two marriages. He is fifty-six at the time of Chris’s death. He is taciturn, passionate and stubborn, much like his son, and also brilliant, musically talented, with a mercurial temper.
Chris and Carine’s mother, Billie is a very petite woman who meets Walt while working as a secretary at the company he works for before they split off to start their own company together. Like Walt and her children, she is very passionate, with a strong temper.
Carine is Chris’s younger sister, with whom he is extremely close. Carine looks a lot like Chris, and is also energetic, self-assured, and a high-achiever, but unlike Chris is very gregarious, forgiving of people’s faults, and happily fits into capitalist society.
Bud Walsh is a National Park Service ranger who finds McCandless’s abandoned Datsun in the Mojave Desert.
Jan Burres is a middle-aged rubber tramp who travels around the West selling knick-knacks at flea markets. She meets McCandless when she picks him up hitchhiking. They become close, and he stays in written contact with her until going into the Alaskan wilderness.
Peter Kalitka is the private investigator hired by the McCandlesses to find Chris.
George Dreeszen is the talkative assistant manager at the McDonald’s where McCandless works for a short period in Bullhead City.
Lori Zarza is the second assistant manager at the McDonald’s where McCandless works in Bullhead City, who is surprised that Chris gets hired and encourages him to use better hygiene.
Charlie is the somewhat crazy old man who gives McCandless a mobile home to live in temporarily while he is in Bullhead City.
Ronald Franz is an eighty-year old devout Christian and soldier who picks McCandless up hitchhiking and takes a strong liking to him. He has lost his wife and children long ago, and so feels a fatherly affection for Chris, whom he offers to adopt. After hearing of Chris’s death, he stops believing in God.
Gail Borah is Wayne Westerberg’s longtime on-again, off-again girlfriend, a divorced mother of two who becomes close to McCandless while he is in Carthage.
Mary Westerberg is Wayne Westerberg’s mother, who has McCandless over for dinner, and hits it off with him immediately even though she doesn't usually like Westerberg’s workers.
Gene Rosellini is a brilliant man from a wealthy family who decides to see if he can live as primitive man did, and succeeds at it for over a decade before deciding his experiment has failed, and killing himself.
John Waterman is a very talented young climber from the suburbs of D.C., whose drive to climb dangerous slopes intensifies as he loses his mind, and who eventually embarks on a suicidal assent of Denali, and is never heard from again.
Carl McCunn is a thirty-five year old amateur photographer who hires a pilot to drop him in the wilderness for a five month long stay to take photographs of wildlife. He forgets to arrange for someone to pick him up, and so ends up killing himself once his rations run out.
Everett Ruess is a twenty year old born in 1914, who is intensely passionate about nature, and spends almost all of his time after he is sixteen on the move in a very similar manner to McCandless. He eventually disappears without a trace in Utah.
Ken Sleight is a sixty-five year old professional river guide who has closely studied the mystery of Ruess’s disappearance, and has his own theory for what happened.
One of Chris’s older half-brothers, Sam is the first to hear about Chris’s death from the authorities.
McCandless’s maternal grandfather, Loren is proud, stubborn, and dreamy, and never can quite fit into society, just like Chris. The two get along very well together. Loren is especially fond of wildlife, and finds hunting very emotionally difficult.
Gordy Cucullu is a younger member of the cross-country team of which McCandless is captain in high school.
Eric Hathaway is a friend of McCandless’s on his high school cross-country team.
Kris Maxie Gillmer
Kris Maxie Gillmer is a member of the girls’ cross-country team at McCandless’s high school, and one of Chris’s closest friends at the school.
Chris Fish is Carine’s husband and partner in their auto-repair business.
Kai Sandburn is a cheerful, outgoing woman who Krakauer meets on his quest to climb the Devil’s Thumb.
Jon Krakauer’s father, Lewis is a kind and generous man, but is extremely competitive and ambitious, and extends his aspirations to his five children. The only future he wants for Jon is for him to become a doctor, and Jon’s rebellion against this leads to a wide chasm between the two of them. Lewis ends up losing his mind due to misguided self-medication for a painful medical condition.
Gaylord Stuckey is a sixty-three year old man who meets McCandless in the Laird River Hotsprings, and, taking a liking to him, drives him the rest of the way to Fairbanks.
An Alaskan companion who accompanies Krakauer to McCandless’s bus, Roman grew up in and felt stifled by the same suburbs as McCandless, and makes Alaska his home immediately after graduating high school at sixteen. He teaches at Alaska Pacific University and is known throughout Alaska for many brave back-country feats.
Dan Solie is another Alaskan companion who accompanies Krakauer to McCandless’s bus.
Andrew Liske is a friend of Roman Dial’s from California who also accompanies Krakauer to McCandless’s bus.
Sir John Franklin
Sir John Franklin is a nineteenth century British naval officer whose ignorance and hubris leads to the death of around one hundred and forty men entrusted to his leadership on Arctic expeditions.
Into the Wild Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Into the Wild is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
When McCandless hugged Borah good-bye, she says, “I noticed he was crying. That frightened me. He wasn’t planning on being gone all that long; I figured he wouldn’t have been crying unless he intended to take some big risks and knew...
As McCandless prepares to leave Carthage for Alaska, he tells Westerberg that he will return there in the fall to help on the grain elevator again, and Westerberg gets the sense that his Alaska trip will be his last big adventure before he settles...
Vegetation is lean. Shade from the withering sun is virtually nonexistent. To descend into the confines of the canyon, however, is to arrive in another world. Cottonwoods lean gracefully over drifts of flowering prickly pear. Tall...