A peek into my mind…

Dec 03


Non-Fiction / Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air:

We continued to reflected on the quote from theologian and professional storyteller Megan McKenna: “All stories are true; some of them actually happened.”

This time we explored Jon Krakauer’s account of his adventure on Mt. Everest. Originally sent there to write an article for Outdoor Magazine on increasing littering of oxygen bottle by climbers, he ended up writing a harrowing account of what turned out to be a tragic expedition. The book can be seen as fulfilling several purposes: entertainment, personal catharsis, and didactic value to readers (audience). How did the Krakauer attempt to tell the “truth” of his subject? 

Task: Together as a class we read the book, “Into Thin Air” it was a non-fiction book that helped us understand the human pathos, ethos and logos side more exclusively. An important aspect of that are the characters, how do we see them? How do others see them? How do they see themselves?

We were assigned to analyze the author John Krakauer by using facts from the book.

Jon Krakauer; a Man Faithful to theTruth

According to the picture from (http://geopolicraticus.wordpress.com/2009/10/07/krakauer-on-mccandless/) taken from an English blog, Jon Krakauer has short silver tousled hair and hidden cheekbones; his eyes squint and depict a dark blue grey color.  His nose is quite large and so are his ears; they supplement each other. Jon Krakauer’s brows are firm and full. His demeanor is a strong one, his shoulders broad and his face signed by wrinkles carrying his 54 year old experiences. It is sometimes hard to know what a person has been through but the look in someone’s eyes can also reveal the deepest of emotions. On the pictures I have seen of Jon Krakauer  you can see his eyes sparkle telling me that he is passionate about the topic that is being discussed; his climb and also in this case the book “Into the Wild”. By using his appearance we cannot clearly find out who he is, but his actions, words and other people’s views can tell us a lot more about Jon Krakauer’s character.  


By listening to what Krakauer has to say we can get a clear picture of the reason behind some of his actions. Krakauer tells is in the introduction of the story the essential idea of why he wrote his book in the first place.  Jon Krauker ends the introduction of his book “Into Thin Air” with, “I wanted my account to have a raw, ruthless sort of honesty that seemed in danger of leaching away with the passage of time and the dissipation of anguish.” (Introduction, XVII) He tells us not only the importance of why he wrote the book, but he also brings us a connection with ethos. This lures us in because of the pure honesty of the reason he wrote this book. Moreover he is a sensitive man who wants to release his pain through writing. Krakauer is also a man who aspires the thrill of climbing; he needs a purpose; a passion to help him thrive.  Jon Krakauer in chapter two explains to the readers what compelled him to write this article and to go on this adventurous trip; he says, “The incumbent hazards lent the activity a seriousness of purpose that was sorely missing from the rest of my life. I thrilled in the fresh perspective that came from tipping the ordinary plane of existence on end.” (Chapter Two,23) This tells us what Jon Krakauer’s reason is to climb the mountain: the thrill of the extraordinary.  It gives us an insight in his attitude towards the climb and even life itself. He is a man true to his desires and is full of excitement when it comes to challenges. This desire could become unhealthy but as far as I know this is what keeps Krakauer going on the long treacherous journey to the top. It shows us his devotion and passion.  In Chapter Eight the climbing crew is making its way up the treacherous Icefall at 4:45 in the morning; this condition brings feelings and worries up in Krakauer, as explained in this quote, “I didn’t doubt the potential value of paying attention to subconscious cues.” (Chapter six,81) It shows us that Krakauer takes human intuitions seriously and he says this to make clear that he was having these uncomfortable feelings. It tells us about the value of instinct for Krakauer, as this is an essential feeling you need whilst climbing the mountain. This quote could be what saved his life. His three characteristics; sensitivity, devotion and instinct enabled him to do the climb at the best of his abilities, not only climb but also live at the best of his abilities.


Jon Krakauer, from what I have read is a dedicated and strong man, this I have gathered by analyzing his actions. An example of his dedication would be when his wife Linda calls him when he is at base camp and practically begs him not to go further; the excerpt goes as follows: ”If you get killed,” she argued with a mix of despair and anger, “it’s not just you who’ll pay the price. I’ll have to pay, too, you know, for the rest of my life. Doesn’t that matter to you?” “I’m not going to get killed I[he] answered. “ Don’t be melodramatic.”  (Chapter Six, 88) This quote not only shows his dedication to climbing the mountain but also some ignorance of the danger of Mother Nature.  It tells us that Krakauer is a man who sticks to his dream no matter what gets in his way; not even his wife’s feelings. This characteristic of being so dedicated might also be a downside because he might forget what his priorities in life are.

Another reaction of Krakauer that shows a scenario that would have been reacted to differently in another environment is when Jon Krakauer encounters two dead bodies. His reaction is one of emotional defense and mental strength. His reaction was, (Chapter 8) “The first body had left me badly shaken for several hours; the shock of encountering the second wore off almost immediately.” We see how strong he is willing to be, in order to keep going. He is able to adapt to the bizarre situation fairly quickly. This quote tells us furthermore about the difference of his reactions; if this body would have been encountered on a smaller mountain or a street etc. it would have left someone traumatized even for life. This time Jon Krakauer is shocked but only to think about the danger of the environment. The body is left behind, the image shoved in the back of everyone’s head. Depiction of actions helped us derive; his dedication and mental strength. The down side of his response to his dedication and mental strength could be that instead he was being insensitive and naïf, opposed to being dedicated and emotionally strong.

To get a complete picture of a person we have to know how they depict themselves and also how others depict them. We can learn more about someone’s true self and motives. Jon Krakauer writes about his first encounter with the people who will climb up the mountain with him. Krakauer says that the only one he shares something in common with is Doug Hansen. When he describes Doug, he is also describing himself. Krakauer says, “Nevertheless, I didn’t have much in common with any of my teammates except Doug. A wiry, hard-partying man with a prematurely weathered face that brought to mind an old football, he’d been postal worker for more than twenty seven years. He told me that he’d paid for the trip by working night shift and doing construction jobs by day. Because I’d earned my living as a carpenter for eight years before becoming a writer- and because the tax bracket we shared set us conspicuously apart from the other clients-.”(Chapter Three, 39) This quote tells us how Krakauer regards Doug but also himself; comparing himself to his teammate Doug, he concludes they both live for their dedication of mountaineering.

Doug Hansen doesn’t directly say how he regards Jon Krakauer but you know how he feels around  Krakauer and that he sees him as a confidant in Chapter Five when the team is stuck at Base Camp. This is still at an early stage in their trip and Doug already confides his life story, even the bad parts to Krakauer. Knowing people I can say that when you have just met someone that person who you confide in must be really trustworthy and a real friend to share such personal things with; which is what Doug did. Krakauer in Chapter 5 represents this is, “ Less than two months shy of his forty-seventh birthday, divorced for seventeen years, Doug confided to me that he’d been involved with a succession of women, each of whom eventually left him after growing tired of competing with the mountains for his attention.”(73) Thus Dough confided to someone he had barely known, giving Krakauer an open, social and trustworthy character. On the other hand the fact that Jon Krakauer is posting this information in a public book where everyone can read Doug’s message meant for Krakauer seems rather ironic.  Even though Jon is trustworthy, he has still shared divulged information with the world. By gathering and using quotes to analyze a character in these four steps we can really get to the bottom of a character; there is more than meets the eye.


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