how the story means

In this book, we have encountered many different narrators who tell Christopher McCandless’ story.  These narrators have included rubber tramps, family members, and employers—voices from society’s up-starts to its down ‘n outs have been our guide in piecing together what, in my ways, still remains a mystery.  We’ve seen Chris’ story interpreted through the eyes of the author (who made no claims at being an objective narrator), just as we’ve seen the story from Chris’ own narrative (letters, underlining in books, postcards, and the final SOS note).  And through these various voices, we have been asked, as readers, to construct an identity of our main character, including the reasons for why he chose to walk into the wild and never return.

While many of you have various opinions about Chris (and the author), perhaps a more important question to ask yourself at the end of this book is not WHY you have constructed an opinion about Chris’ identity but HOW.  This will be one of your greatest tasks in 1102, and will further promote your skills as critical thinkers about both literary and cultural texts.

So the central question for today’s post:  HOW does the multi-narrative style of this book contribute to the way you understand our main character and his story?

The following questions should help you formulate some of your opinions.  You must address each question, and your post should be at least 350 words.

1.  How does the multi-narrative affect how you read Chris’ story?

2.  Are some narrators more reliable than others?  If so, explain who and why.  What does an unreliable or reliable narrative do to how you understand the story?

3.  How do the authors of the epigraphs at the beginning of each chapter serve as narrators in this book?  Which epigraph do you find most important in the way that you understand our main character?

4.  The poet Philip Brady has argued that one of the main differences between poetry and prose is that in prose, the reader becomes part of the narrative where poetry often leaves you with a sense of silence at the end of the poem.  If this is true, and if as readers we have become part of this story’s narrative, how have we also become narrators?  Because this is a story told from many fragmented viewpoints, how have you become a narrator of Chris McCandless’ story?  And are you a reliable narrator?


jon and chris

In Ch. 14 and Ch. 15 we finally start to understand why Jon Krakauer so closely relates to Chris McCandless.  In preparation for your final exam, please treat today’s post like a short in-class essay.  I want you to find three ways to either compare or contrast Krakauer to McCandless.  Please remember to use specific details (with page numbers) to support your points.

This post should be between 300 and 500 words and should include a short introduction. Remember to make sure your formatting is correct BEFORE you submit your post.

Captain Nemo


Photograph of Everett Reuss 

Of the other explores/adventurers/escapists/kids/etc. that we read about for class today, who struck you as having the most interesting, compelling, or even admirable story?  What details about this person’s story make you feel this way?  Also, in what way can you relate this person or his adventures/dreams to Christopher McCandless?  In what ways are are they different?  You may need to look up additional information about the person you chose to write about, but this should be very easily accomplished through a quick Google search.



–Jack London 

For your post today, I want you to try to answer one or more of these questions.

1.  One of the questions that keeps arising in the reading and discussion of Into the Wild is why McCandless keeps refusing aid (money, clothes, etc.)  I want you to speculate why he may have done this.  What were his ideals?  What were his ideas about society?

2.  If you were going to go on the same odyssey to Alaska, what would be the things that you would take with you to assure your survival?  You may want to check out this link for various survival supplies.  Please chose five items that you would take with you and explain why.

3.  In Ch. 5, Krakauer writes, “McCandless conveniently overlooked the fact that London himself had spent just a single winter in the North and that he’d died by his own hand on his California estate at the age of forty, a fatuous drunk, obese and pathetic, maintaining a sedentary existence that bore scant resemblance to the ideals he espoused in print” (44).  Why is this information important to the reader?  How does it inform the way we see Chris McCandless?

Into the Wild or Into the Post-Spring Break Mourning Period


Option 1: For class today we have read and now discussed the author’s note and first three chapters of Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. Please write about your initial reactions to the story of Christopher McCandless. Can you relate to his story? Obviously, most of us here haven’t abandoned society for a great American and perhaps personal odyssey, but there may be points to his adventure that struck a chord with you. If so, please discuss this.

Option 2: Some of you may have had mini-odysseys over the past week during Spring Break. If so, please discuss using the best and most entertaining narrative skills you possess! (Nota Bene: Please remember that this site is public, so don’t write about anything that may incriminate you!)

Your responses should be between 200 and 400 words. And remember, these posts are now out of a possible 10 points. Therefore, do your best to revise and edit them before you post to the blog.

This American Life

For this week’s post, I’d like you to come up with a short response (100-300 words) to the episode, “Reality Check,” of This American Life, which we watched in class today.

The story, told in two acts, should encourage some thoughts regarding the complications people face when their dreams are met by reality. Please make sure that your response is specific to one of the two acts and addresses this particular issue of reality check.

The Art of Description

Option #1—

Read this poem by Brian Turner

The Baghdad Zoo

Is the world safer? No. It’s not safer in Iraq.
—Hans Blix

An Iraqi northern brown bear mauled a man
on a street corner, dragging him down an alley
as shocked onlookers shouted and threw stones.

Tanks rolled their heavy tracks
past the museum and up to the Ministry of Oil.
One gunner watched a lion chase down a horse.

Eaten down to their skeletons, the giraffes
looked prehistoric, unreal, their necks
too fragile, too graceful for the 21st Century.

Dalmatian pelicans and marbled teals
flew over, frightened by the rotorwash
of Blackhawk helicopters touching down.

One baboon escaped the city limits.
It was found wandering in the desert, confused
by the wind, the blowing sand of the barchan dunes.

Brian Turner served for seven years in the US Army and was an infantry team leader for a year in Iraq with the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.  Before that, he deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina with the 10th Mountain Division.  In short, he clearly has the authority to write about the horrors of war.  But as we see in this poem, Brian Turner does not stray from an objective view; rather, he is a witness to the details of Baghdad in a time of war.

Please write 50-100 words about (1) how this poem and these descriptions make an argument about war, without him directly saying it.  (2) What do you think the argument is?  And finally, (3) what is the most compelling image of this poem to you and why?

Option #2—

Read this poem by James Wright:

Lying In A Hammock At William
Duffy’s Farm In Pine Island, Minnesota

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,
Asleep on the black trunk,
blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,
The droppings of last year’s horses
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.

Write a poem in the style of this poem.  You should use specific details to describe your location, as he does, and end with a declaration or THESIS.  Your title should be in the same style as this poem.  For example:

Sitting on My Balcony in Athens, Georgia

The poem needs not be longer than 8-15 lines.  But remember– be as detail specific as possible.  Make sure your reader can SEE what you are seeing.


If you take your poem home, work on it over the weekend, bring it back next week (Monday or Tuesday) and read it to the class, I will give you 5 points extra credit.

tell me a story


The art of storytelling is not just one to be perfected for summers around campfires or your future bestselling memoirs. The request that we all made as children, “Tell me a story,” is one that we must ask ourselves to do even now. Whether you’re writing a critical essay or a personal narrative, often times you can support your thesis by answering this request. Today, we will practice storytelling in the form of a simple personal narrative.

First, I want you to write a list of five things you would buy at the grocery store (this can be a grocery store that carries any food item from anywhere in the world) if you had an unlimited budget.

Then, I want you to write a 150 to 400 word narrative explaining your purchases. Please pay attention to sound and image in your writing, erring on the side of whimsy or sentiment rather than tedium (i.e—this because of that).

For example, on my list I would include fresh-picked Maryland blackberries. One of my favorite memories of childhood is going to the orchards outside of Rockville and scanning the bushes for the plumpest jewels just barely hanging on, which I knew my mother and aunt would later turn into pies. When I remember those days, there is a feeling of an unending early summer, longing, and a kind of joy that is difficult to duplicate outside of childhood.

Global Warming


Photograph of Lake Lanier by Neva Spell

Nearly one year ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which consists of the world’s leading climate scientists, concluded for the first time that global warming is “unequivocal” and that human activity is the main cause for the rise in air and sea temperatures and shifting weather patterns.

I want you to write several sentences conveying your opinion on Global Warming. While it should pertain to your specific or personal experiences, remember to not generalize. For example, you could spend an entire career trying to prove that “global warming is the greatest crisis the world has ever faced.” Alternatively, you may be able show (in one essay) the validity of the argument that “global warming has contributed to the drought crisis in Georgia.”

After you write a few sentences about your opinions on Global Warming, I want you to then find one piece of evidence from the following two articles that supports the validity of your opinion. Please tell me the author and title of the article you are using, followed by a direct quotation from the article. And finally, tell me why you think it supports your opinion of global warming.

Please avoid using a quote that is more than a few sentences long.

Your entire comment should be between 150 and 300 words.

Article #1: In The Age of Noah by Thomas Friedman

Article #2: Arctic Melt Unnerves the Experts by Andrew Revkin

If you need more information on issues related to Global Warming, please refer to the Science section of the New York Times, which has various articles, charts, and photographs that may aid in a better understanding of the issues.

Here is a 215 word example:

I’ve been pretty concerned about Global Warming ever since I took a class my freshman year in college called “Physical Systems of the Earth.”  It was a geography class, but I learned first and foremost that our planet is a closed system; therefore, if something is lost on one part of the planet, it has to be made up somewhere else to maintain equilibrium.  Unfortunately, we’re in a time now where Earth is really having a hard time maintaining equilibrium, which has a lot of negative consequences for the planet and for the species residing here.

In Thomas Friedmans’s article, “In the Age of Noah,” he cites a finding from another New York Times writer, Jim Yardley, who reported that in China “the world’s last known female Yangtze giant soft-shell turtle was living in one Chinese zoo, while the planet’s only undisputed, known giant soft-shell male turtle was living in another — and together this aging pair were the last hope of saving a species believed to be the largest freshwater turtles in the world.”

This quote points out exactly the kind of fears that I’m having about the less discussed impacts of Global Warming.  It seems like we’re living in an age where there are no longer course corrections, but instead an age where things are simply dying out.

First Post

While most of my postings will be far shorter than this first one, I wanted to give you several options for your initial commenting, as some of the questions are more sensitive than others. Begin your comment by introducing yourself and telling the other students a few things about you. Then, respond to one of the following questions:

1. The buzzword in every political campaign this year seems to be CHANGE. Some of you may be voting for the first time. As was witnessed by the Barak Obama campaign in Iowa, the power of young voters will undoubtedly affect the outcome of the presidential elections. What are the most important issues to you, in casting support for one candidate or another? As almost no one in the country would like things to stay the way that they are (regardless of your political party allegiances), what things would you like to see changed?

2. NOTE: If you have ear phones, you may watch the video I have linked to this question, otherwise please do not click on the hyperlink. On Sunday night, Mike Wallace of 60 minutes interviewed Roger Clemens regarding his being named in the Mitchell Report as a steroid user (specifically due to accusations that his trainer injected him with steroids over a period of years). Has the recent fallout of players being accused or admitting to steroid use tarnished major league baseball? Why or why not? If you are a fan of baseball or of sports in general, how do these accusations change the way you think about major league sports? Who, if anyone, is to blame?

3. While hiking in 1977 in Oregon, Terry Jentz and a friend were attacked by an ax-wielding madman. In her book, Strange Piece of Paradise, Jentz writes: Women especially felt greater confinement at odds with Americans’ innate sense of personal freedom. A feeling of persistent danger remained in the collective psyche from coast to coast, as though a Phantom Axeman stalked all of America’s beautiful outdoor places.

On Monday night, Meredith Emerson’s body was found 60 miles north of Atlanta. How have you reacted to the news of Meredith Emerson’s disappearance and murder? If you are an outdoor person, do you worry when you go for a hike or bike ride, camping or fishing? What do you worry about? Are their other instances/stories/even myths from our culture that have caused this fear?

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