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Thoreau as a Mirror for Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild
Karlstad University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (starting 2013).
2013 (English)Independent thesis Basic level (degree of Bachelor), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]


To tell the nonfiction biography of Christopher McCandless in Into the Wild Jon Krakauer uses a plethora of references to Henry D. Thoreau. In this thesis I study how Krakauer uses Thoreau while balancing on the fine line that differentiates the historian from the storyteller. Through an analysis of Krakauer’s use of Thoreau’s economic ideas, liberal ideas, and view of nature and wilderness I argue that Krakauer blurs a pragmatic understanding of Thoreau and uses techniques of fiction to characterize McCandless as a late Thoreauvian transcendentalist. By doing so, Krakauer explains and defends the protagonist’s actions from criticism making him appear as a character whose story is exceptional. However, the characterization of the protagonist as a follower of Thoreauvian ideals by means of a partial and romantic interpretation of Thoreau is misleading and does not provide us with a better understanding of the life of McCandless. Moreover, the romantic image of Thoreau advanced by Krakauer reflects Krakauer, or at least his times; particularly, it reflects Krakauer’s own view of wilderness and his concern for its impending demise. Consequently, I conclude that Krakauer’s version of McCandless’s story is perhaps too biased to amount to a strong historical narrative and be considered proper nonfiction. Nevertheless, the romanticized characterization of McCandless aids Krakauer to write a more appealing story.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013. , 28 p.
Keyword [en]
Jon Krakauer Henry D.Thoreau Transcendentalism Into the Wild nonfiction biography McCandless economy liberalism nature wilderness fiction transcendentalism romanticism
National Category
Languages and Literature
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-28447Local ID: EN:1OAI: diva2:635615
Subject / course
Educational program
Teacher education, 330 hp
Available from: 2013-08-20 Created: 2013-07-04 Last updated: 2013-08-20Bibliographically approved

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