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Yet, one pitfall of the novel is the lack of detail in McCandless' personal life, details that Krakauer admits haunted McCandless and probably played a large part in driving him to abandon modern society. Whereas family drama had the potential to take focus away from the journey, exploring the motives, including the severely flawed McCandless family, would have enlightened the reader to McCandless' thought process. It wasn't until more than a decade after the book publication that the revelation emerged from McCandless' sister that Krakauer was honoring his promise to her to not reveal damning family problems. This knowledge almost ends up saying more about the family and about McCandless' antagonism towards his family than anything Krakauer could have written. However, never does Krakauer allow drama to take attention away from McCandless and his philosophy. He does a noble job of balancing McCandless' inspiring journey and thoughts and the glaring mistakes that he made that led to his death; this writing approach contributes to the uncertainty of the entire journey and whether or not it was worth it in the end to McCandless.
In spite of the enormous amount of speculation, fact gathering, and talk concerning McCandless, it is difficult to figure out how to unpack the story of Chris McCandless. He wrote in his journal that he was driven by anti-materialism and a blossoming sense of anti-society leanings; he endeavored to achieve a higher sense of life and to commune with nature on an almost religious level. This sense of altruism and his death has sparked two decades of controversy, reverence from a cult-like following of sojourners, faithful to McCandless' ideas and spirit of wandering, and anger from Alaskans and naturists who consider McCandless to be reckless in his endeavor and disrespectful to the force of nature in his naivety about living off the land. Since the publication of the book, thousands of people have been inspired by McCandless' belief in a society free of stress and the belief that life should be lived to be an adventurer. On the flip side, hundreds of those people have tried to make the Alaskan trek to the bus in which McCandless died in, resulting in millions of taxpayers' dollars worth of rescues and several deaths. Educators, parents, police, park rangers, doctors, scientists, the McCandless family, even Krakauer himself have all warned about the dangers of making the trek, stating that even expert naturists struggle with the trail to the bus. However, this has not scared the hundreds of people who make the trip every year. They connect with the sense of wanderlust McCandless embodied and they admire the tenacity he had that pushed him to Alaska. They do not care of the cost, even if it means their lives. This faithful adherence to trying to live a life unbound by societal constraints is noble; however, the question is at what point does noble translate to shortsightedness? This is the ultimate question that Krakauer poses and is the ultimate take away for the reader to consider. This is a book that will stay with you; McCandless and his conviction that modern society had taken the joy and adventure out of life will stay with you, no matter what side of the debate you stand.