Rhetoric in Into the Wild
Appeals to Logos
*Strategy 1: describing McCandless’s intelligence. Ex. 1: In the third chapter of the novel, where Krakauer describes McCandless’s relationship with Wayne Westerberg, he discusses Chris McCandless’s family and education in brief. Specifically, Krakauer mentions, “In May 1990, Chris graduated from Emory University in Atlanta, … and had distinguished himself as a history and anthropology major with a 3.72 grade-point average” (Krakauer 20). This presents a side of Chris that appeals to people’s logos and makes them think. The main question that pops into mind is, “how could such a smart kid make such a dumb mistake?” This intrigue keeps the reader immersed in the book, and therefore continues to hold their attention.
Ex. 2: Later on in the novel, around the middle of chapter eleven, Krakauer describes McCandless in more depth. He talks about his social life, what he was like as a young boy, and what he was like when he grew. There is another good example of Krakauer using McCandless’s intelligence to appeal to logos, and that is when he quotes one of Chris’s high school running teammates, Eric Hathaway.
Hathaway remembers, “Chris brought home good grades. He didn’t get into trouble, he was a high achiever, he did what he was supposed to do” (Krakauer 114). Again, Krakauer sets up a good image of how smart Chris was. Readers also learn that he was diligent and hardworking, and they can understand how it would tie into Chris’s persistence in the Alaskan wild.
*Strategy 2: talks about when McCandless did illogical things, to interest readers. Ex. 1: In the beginning of the novel, when Krakauer talks about McCandless’s journey into the Mojave Desert, he mentions that Chris did something really ridiculous. Krakauer recounts his actions in this way: “in a gesture that would have done both Tolstoy and Thoreau proud, he arranged all his paper currency… and put a match to it. One hundred twenty-three dollars in legal tender was promptly reduced to ash and smoke” (Krakauer 29). Krakauer describes Chris’s donation of his college fund to charity a couple of pages later in the book. Yet, when one reaches that page, they have to wonder why Chris didn’t just keep his money with him, so he could donate it later, or at least buy some supplies. This leads to more curiosity about McCandless’s common sense, which in turn entices the readers further onward.
Ex. 2: Near the end of the book, when Krakauer returns to the subject of McCandless’s journey into the Alaskan wild, he talks about the meager amount of food McCandless carried, and alludes to Chris’s ignorance. He says about McCandless, “he’d subsisted for more than a month beside the Gulf of California on five pounds of rice and a bounty of fish caught with a cheap rod and reel,… made him confident he could harvest enough food for an extended stay in the Alaskan wilderness too” (Krakauer 162). Any person who reads this automatically questions Chris’s common sense, because they wonder how he could possibly think California is anything like Alaska. Not only that, but the fact that Chris purposely neglected to pack good supplies makes people find him arrogant, and, in young people’s slang, “a douche-bag.”
Appeals to Ethos *Strategy 1: Describing the moral values of Chris McCandless
Ex. 1: In the middle of the book, in chapter eleven, Krakauer includes responses from people who knew Chris in college and high school. One of his female running teammates, Kris Maxie Gillmer, recounts how determined McCandless always was about righting social injustices. Proof of this is found in his senior year of high school. Krakauer confirms, “McCandless took life’s inequities to heart. During his senior year at Woodson, he became obsessed with racial oppression in South Africa” (Krakauer 113). Krakauer may have included only this event and a few others like it throughout the novel, but it leaves no doubt in the reader’s mind that McCandless hated injustice. This “wows” the reader, making them see just how high Chris’s morals were. One could call it a subtle attempt by Krakauer to eke out sympathy for McCandless from the readers.
Ex. 2: In the fourth chapter of the novel, “Detrital Wash,” Krakauer describes Chris on his two month journey in the Western part of the great United States. He also mentions how McCandless’s parents, worried sick, hired a private detective. The investigator began an extensive search, and finally found information in December, “when he learned from an inspection of tax records that Chris had given away his college fund to OXFAM” (Krakauer 31). The fact that Chris donated his college fund to charity also casts him in a good, moral light. However, the ironic thing is that OXFAM is an organization dedicated to feeding starving people, and that Chris McCandless died of starvation. Either way, this appeal to ethos also makes people view Chris in a better light, perhaps to make them feel like he was a great person.
*Strategy 2: Describing the moral flaws of Chris McCandless Ex. 1: Krakauer says in the author’s note at the beginning of the novel that he will leave it to the readers to form their own opinions about McCandless, so it only seems natural that he would include negative points about the boy’s morals as well. Although he had a rigorous moral code, he made the strangest exceptions. Krakauer says, “he was also able to forgive, or overlook, the shortcomings of his literary heroes: Jack London was a notorious drunk; Tolstoy… went on to father at least thirteen children, some of whom were conceived at the same time the censorious count was thundering in print against the evils of sex” (Krakauer 122). When readers see this little note, they see how strange Chris’s moral code was. He wouldn’t excuse his father for living a lie, and yet, he praised and adored hypocritical men who did even worse things than his father. This appeals to people’s ethics because it makes them think about their own morals, not just Chris’s.
Ex. 2: Krakauer discusses McCandless’s relationship with his family several times during the book. According to the family and the people who knew McCandless, he was mainly only ever close with his younger sister, Carine. Carine remembers this about her brother, “He was always really nice to me, and extremely protective. He’d hold my hand when we walked down the street. When he was in junior high and I was still in grade school… he’d hang out at his friend Brian Paskowitz’s house so we could walk home together” (Krakauer 110). This may be just a simple phrase, but it drastically appeals to a reader’s ethic views as well. One cannot help but wonder why Chris, who apparently loved his younger sister and protected her, could possibly leave without saying a word to her. He got angry about his father’s lies, but he somehow doesn’t think what he’s doing is the same. It is as if he trusts other people more than his family and the sister he loves. Appeals to Pathos
*Strategy 1: Arousing admiration of McCandless Ex. 1: If one reads the novel Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, it is almost impossible to miss the biased way Krakauer writes about the exploits of Chris McCandless. He makes Chris sound like this really great guy with a thirst for adventure, which draws readers in. an example of this is Krakauer’s comparison between himself and McCandless in the chapter titled, “The Stikine Ice Cap.” Krakauer writes, “I couldn’t resist stealing up to the edge of doom and peering over the brink. The hint of what was concealed in those shadows terrified me, but I caught sight of something in the glimpse, some forbidden and elemental riddle that was no less compelling than… In my case—and, I believe, in the case of Chris McCandless—that was a very different thing from wanting to die” (Krakauer 156). This description makes the readers picture a great visionary in the eyes of society, someone who was willing to take risks and was unbound by earthly desires. It makes them admire McCandless’s bravery as well, which is, of course, evoking emotion.
Ex. 2: Krakauer focuses on many admirable things McCandless does, but one important one, helping the homeless and destitute, really stands out. Krakauer comments, “McCandless would wander the seedier quarters of Washington, chatting with prostitutes and homeless people, buying them meals, earnestly suggesting ways they might improve their lives” (Krakauer 113). This really tugs at people’s hearts, making them look up to Chris. Many see these examples of kindness and wish they could be more like McCandless. In all effect, this puts Chris at a higher standard with other people.
*Strategy 2: Focusing on how depressed everybody was when they learned Chris was dead.Ex. 1: Of course, the main example of this would be when Carine McCandless learns that her beloved brother, Chris, was found dead. According to Krakauer’s information on her reaction, “Carine’s eyes blurred, and she felt the onset of tunnel vision. Involuntarily, she started shaking her head back and forth, back and forth… Then she began to scream… Carine curled up on the couch in a fetal position, wailing without pause… She remained hysterical for the next five hours” (Krakauer 130). This really makes readers angry at Chris McCandless. They think he was a jerk for leaving his family, and they further fume about how he could have saved everyone so much pain if only he’d been prepared and not so arrogant about being able to survive.
Ex. 2: Another extremely depressing example of appealing to pathos is when Krakauer describes the reaction of Ronald Franz, a man who grew extremely close to and fond of Chris when he helped him out in California. Franz was devastated when he heard the news of Chris’s death. He says, “I asked God to keep his finger on the shoulder of that one… But he let Alex die… I renounced the Lord. I couldn’t believe in a God who would let something that terrible happen… I bought a bottle of whiskey… wasn’t used to drinking, so it made me sick. Hoped it’d kill me, but it didn’t” (Krakauer 60). Again, this makes readers extremely sad. In a way, it actually shocks them too. It takes something very powerful to make a man renounce his faith, and readers can only begin to try and grasp what Franz was feeling.
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