The following is a short overview of the analysis of the excerpt from Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer.
The rhetorical situation of the letter is that it was written by Chris McCandless, an American hiker who set off to the Alaskan wilderness soon after graduating from college and donating his savings to charity. Even though the letter was originally addressed to a single receiver - a man named Ronald Franz - the fact that Krakauer reprinted it in his book means that it can reach a much wider audience.
The composition of “Into the Wild” is typical for a letter. In the beginning, McCandless talks about his whereabouts and future plans. In the main body, he addresses Ron and gives him advice about the effects of changing one’s lifestyle and pursuing adventure. The ending presents McCandless’ wish to reunite with Ron in the future and his hope that Ron will have his own adventures to share then.
McCandless’ style of writing is mixed. It is formal yet friendly, as the letter is addressed to a man McCandless is fond of.
McCandless makes use of rhetorical devices to support his opinion. For example, he uses direct address, allusions, and repetition to convince Ron to follow his advice.
The dominant forms of appeal in the letter are ethos and pathos. Through ethos, McCandless makes himself appear as an example for Ron, as he is ready to set off on an adventure. Ethos is also used in connection with religion and God. Pathos is used when McCandless appeals to Ron’s emotions and invites him to gather the courage to set off on an adventure of his own.
A full analysis can be found in the following pages.