Into the Wild

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Ron Franz taught McCandless gow to do leatherworking. Krakauer writes,

An accomplished leatherworker, Franz taught Alex the secrets of his craft; for his first project McCandless produced a tooled leather belt, on which he created an artful pictorial record of his wanderings. ALEX is inscribed at the belt's left end; then the initials C.J.M. (for Christopher John McCandless) frame a skull and crossbones. Across the strip of cowhide one sees a rendering of a two-lane blacktop, a NO U-TURN sign, a thunderstorm producing a flash flood that engulfs a car, a hitchhiker's thumb, an eagle, the Sierra Nevada, salmon cavorting in the Pacific Ocean, the Pacific Coast Highway from Oregon to Washington, the Rocky Mountains, Montana wheat fields, a South Dakota rattlesnake, Westerberg's house in Carthage, the Colorado River, a gale in the Gulf of California, a canoe beached beside a tent, Las Vegas, the initials T.C.D., Morro Bay, Astoria, and at the buckle end, finally, the letter N (presumably representing north). Executed with remarkable skill and creativity, this belt is as astonishing any artifact Chris McCandless left behind. (pg. 52)

Near the end of Chapter 7, Westerberg says of the belt,

Alex used to sit at he bar in the Cabaret and read that belt for hours on end... like he was translating hieroglyphics for us. Each picture he'd carved into the leather had a long story behind it. (pg. 68)

a. Considering what you know of McCandless so far, why did he make the belt? What does it represent to him? Why did he feel a need to explain it to others? What stories does it tell?

b. In what sense is the belt a summary of McCandless's life up to that point?

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The belt represents Chris's free spirit and independence. The highway points away into new lands not turning to go home. I think this tells the story of Chris's alter ego, Alexander Supertramp. It represents Chris's need to venture into the unknown. The belt basically summarizes what he has done thus far in the story.