Into the Wild Themes

Themes are overarching ideas and beliefs that the writers express in their texts, including poetry, fiction, and plays.  Themes make the story appealing and persuasive and help readers to understand the hidden messages in a story or poem. Themes in Into the World, a masterpiece of Jon Krakauer, presents the dilemma of authoritative parenting and calling towards nature and wilderness.  Some of the major themes in Into the Wild have discussed below.

Themes in Into the Wild

Theme #1

Allurement of the Wilderness

The allurement of nature and wilderness is the major theme of this story. It is not only specific but also highly bewitching. The main character, Chris McCandless believes wilderness may provide him shelter from the painful modern realities of materialism. As he wanted free from the evils of society. His idea is to find out his inner truth and reality and live a stress-free life. However, though his diaries, the readers learn the opposite. It is also surprising that his life in the park does not prove as romantic as he has thought. He spends much of his time finding food to eat. His journal entries about food remind the readers that it is not always easy to survive in the wilderness. Life can be balanced when people live in the community.

Theme #2


Forgiveness is another central theme of the book. Chris McCandless is a promising and sympathetic young person, empathizes with others. However, his final act seems to be highly selfish as he berates his parents and causes them to feel ashamed. He is unable to forgive his parents gave him a good life and a good education. Abandoning the family shows unforgiveness towards his parents. It also shows his resentment against the prevalent social norms of materialism.

Theme #3


Chris believes his Alaskan trip would be the ultimate destination to enjoy absolute freedom. According to Chris, freedom was to not be a burden on others and avoid submission to authority, especially parents. The world, community, and family abide by the laws. Hence, to escape these laws, Chris decides to leave for the wilderness. However, it is interesting to note that this freedom was the end of intimate relationships Chris could have had.

Theme #4

Temptation of Danger

Chris was tempted to walk into danger and adventure. The risk-taking was enticing to him. In fact, Chris’s hitchhiking and final entry into the Denali National Park proves that he is bewitched. Hence, he left a life of comfort and works for others. He even feels excited and happy when helping other starving people. Sadly, his risks take him to the forest, where he eventually faces death.

Theme #5

Search for Identity

Search for identity can be seen in both explicit as well as implicit. Chris was almost clueless and was heading for in-depth research of his life, his ways, his interaction with the people and nature. This search is actually an investigation into his identity. As readers dig into his personal journals, they find out his real identity. The writer also believes that Chri’s search for his identity has always remained indescribable. He finds that there are various fundamental questions that nobody can answer about Chris, his life and his death.

Theme #6

Father-Son Estrangement

The father-son estrangement or fractured relationship is also an important theme. Both the narrator, as well as the protagonist, are ambitious persons belonging to reputed families. The strong-willed fathers and strong-willed sons soon develop differences. Both defy family traditions and take their own path. This creates a rift among the sons and fathers leading them to develop estrangement. In the case of Chris, this estrangement is very much clear in his journal.

Theme #7

Valuing Principles

Chris McCandless adhering to the principles of altruism and the welfare of others. That is why when he comes across any hungry or needy, he tried to help them all. His anti-materialistic stance went with him everywhere. He enjoyed giving to charities and keeping enough for his survival. One of the reasons for his estrangement with his parents was that he did not like their materialistic outlook toward life. For example, he stopped giving and taking gifts when he made a decision.

Theme #8

Role of Chance

Chance plays an important role in human life, as depicted in the book. When McCandless leaves for Alaska, there is no plan. He just befriends the people during his journey and sees the deaths of four people before reaching Alaska. This is merely a chance. Another example of chance is when Chris faces a flash flood in the desert of the Mojave. He stares the death in its face when his car breaks down. Some boaters come to take him out of the Lake Mead, he suffers from heatstroke, it is another good example of a chance. However, he is resolved that he would not come back to civilization. However, until his death, he spends on the roads and in the park is merely a chance.

Theme #9

Man Versus Nature

The story of Chris is the story of a man versus nature. He leaves for the wilderness in the hope that he would live close to nature. He has seen the natural scenery and nature around his home town and during his journey. However, Chris did not realize that nature could be cruel in the wilderness. Hence, he left for the Denali National Park to have communion with nature. If he had learned from his confrontation with nature during the journey through the Mojave desert, he might have returned home. But his romantic idea of nature was so strong that he lived in the wilderness until his death.

Theme #10

Struggle for Relationship

Chris’s story revolves around his fight to leave this society. He wanted to lead his life in isolation and find a relationship with the people he comes across during his journey. So, he becomes highly expressive when he meets strangers on his way to Alaska, but at the same time, he hates his parents and loses contact with them. Therefore, it seems surprising that he expresses himself that he feels discomfort in society. His constant escape from his home town and his own people shows that he was running away from society. Surprisingly, he also helped other people.