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Course Hero. "Into the Wild Study Guide." November 28, 2016. Accessed January 23, 2019.


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Into the Wild | Symbols



Rice symbolizes the fine line Chris McCandless walked between being practical and taking risks in the wild. Krakauer notes that McCandless could live off little more than a bag of rice for a surprising amount of time. But he often didn't take enough rice with him on his travels to ensure against hunger. On a solo canoe trip down the Colorado River, for example, he took a scanty five pounds of rice and had to forage for river animals to survive. Krakauer speculates that perhaps he did this because he wanted to live off the land. Perhaps he wished to challenge himself to survive on as little as possible to demonstrate his skill. The 10-pound bag of rice he took with him into the Alaskan wild also proved insufficient for his needs once he became trapped there. As he planned for his Alaskan quest, a sufficient quantity of rice might have provided his story with a different ending.

Social Security Number

The way Chris McCandless dealt with his Social Security number represents both his displeasure with a government he considered too intrusive and his desire to shape his own identity. The first time he filled out a W-4 tax form for a job, which required his Social Security number, he refused to use it to identify himself. He demonstrated his displeasure by writing "Exempt" across the form, filling in a vulgar name for himself as a joke, and jotting "I forget" in the space for his Social Security number. Two years later, just before making his final trip to Alaska, however, McCandless mysteriously filled in the W-4 for another job with his correct name and Social Security number. This Social Security number later became the clue that led the Alaskan police to correctly identify him as the corpse found in Bus 142.

The Bus

The bus where Chris McCandless lived during his almost four-month retreat on the Stampede Trail represents Chris's ideal dream of leading a simple life alone and in harmony with nature but also his terrible death. This decrepit Fairbanks city bus, also known as Bus 142, was a perfect place for him, offering necessary minimal shelter from the weather and wild animals and maximum enjoyment of the uninhabited expanses he so loved. But the bus was also where he died alone. It is the location his parents visit at the end of the book, where they attached a memorial plaque commemorating their son's death. Many hikers have traveled to visit the bus, considering it a shrine to McCandless and a testimony to living one's dreams.

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