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Tone and Mood in John Krakauer's Into the Wild
Transcript of Tone and Mood in John Krakauer's Into the Wild
Tone and Mood
Into the Wild, by John Krakauer, tells the story of Chris McCandless, a young man from a good background, who decides to criss-cross the country on a soul searching journey modeling transcendentalist principles. After several years of hitchhiking and exploring, he is found dead in the Alaskan wilderness after starving to death on an "Alaskan odyssey", meant to be a final, grand expedition. Like any other literary work, the mood and author's tone in Into the Wild plays a major role in shaping the story. Prominent and recurring moods include indifference and remorse, while the author's tone can best be described as empathetic.
Mood 1: Indifference
Mood 2: Remorse
Jon Krakauer wrote Into the Wild to detail and explain the adventures and demise of Chris McCandless. His tone is empathetic, as seen by the direct connections he draws between himself and McCandless. Throughout the novel, indifference and remorse are common moods that the reader feels, which one is prominent depends on the topic and word choice in the given section or chapter of the book. Krakauer writes this story in a unique and interesting way, by means of flashbacks, interviews, and commentary, and hopes to connect with the readers as he tells the story of Chris McCandless.
mood: noun, [moo-d]. the feelings experienced by the reader when reading a piece of literature.
indifference: noun, [in-dif-er-uhns] lack of interest or concern; synm: unimportance
Throughout the novel, the reader discovers many circumstances that might have saved Chris McCandless. Knowing that McCandless should probably be alive creates a feeling of remorse within the reader.
For example, on page 174, Krakauer says, "...the basket was in the same place as it is now, on his side of the canyon...Because he had no topographical map, however, he had no way of concieving that salvation was so close at hand."
This, and dozens of other circumstances, such as Chris's chance discover of his father's bigamy that turned him away from his parents, and his decision to leave for Alaska in the spring instead of staying in Carthage, create a sad irony that invokes wishful thinking.
Another example of remorseful mood is dislpayed here: "Billie... sat bolt upright in the middle of the night, waking Walt. "I was sure I'd heard Chris calling me," she insists, tears rolling down her cheeks. "I don't know how I'll ever get over it... I heard his voice! He was begging, 'Mom! Help me!' But I couldn't help him because I didn't know where he was. And that was all he said: 'Mom! Help me!' "(125-126).
When the reader continues to study Chris's story, one finds out that Chris's mother had a dream about him a month before Chris's body was found, which creates enough empthathy and pity so as to produce a strong emotional reaction. Into the Wild had that effect on some readers because they could feel what Billie would have been feeling. They pity her, and cling to an absurb, but strong false hope that Chris is still alive. If his mother had known where Chris was she might have be able to saved him.
Into the Wild evokes a feeling of indifference with the nonchalant manner in which Krakauer documents McCandless' story. The mood is shown to be indifferent with the quote, "When McCandless turned up dead in Alaska and the perplexing circumstances of his demise were reported in the news media, many people concluded that the boy must have been disturbed."(70) This excerpt from Into the Wild inflicts the feeling of indifference with the utter lack of emotion; no strong, emotion-packed adjectives are used, even when Krakauer mentions death. Another example of when Krakauer is indifferent is on the front cover. "In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter." This brief discription of McCandless's journey lacks any emotion by stating the bare facts.
Remorse: [ri-mawrs] noun- deep and painful regret for wrongdoing; synm: pity; compassion.
Tone: noun, [t-oe-n]; The attitude an author expresses towards their subject.
Empathy: noun, [em-puh-thet-ik]; the ability to mutually experience the thoughts, emotions, and direct experience of others
Krakauer's tone can be best described as empathetic; throughout the novel, he makes numerous connections between himself and McCandless, and dismisses criticisms of McCandless by ignoring many faults with his actions and personality. On page 155 for instance, he compares McCandless with himself at that age, explaining much of his and Chris's behavior on their youth and recklessness. Krakauer says that as a young man, he possessed a similar estrangement from his father, a "similar intensity and heedlessness", and believes that the intention of McCandless's journey, like his own, was to discover himself and "fix all that was wrong with his life." Later, Krakauer defends McCandless from criticisms that he was an incompetent, narcissistic 'greenhorn' by pointing out that he had survived for over three months. The dozens of testimonials presented by Krakauer describe Chris as a 'really nice guy', intelligent, dependable, and engaging. While most also present him as headstrong, the only testimony that voices strong criticism is found on page , when Westerburg says "I wished I could grab his neck and say 'How could you treat your family like that... like fucking dirt? I got a another kid working for me; he don't even have parents, but you don't see him bitching about it, do you?'"