Sunday, September 12, 2010

Comparison of Into the Wild and Hotel World

(This is an essay I wrote for an English class.)

Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer, is a historical account of the life of Chris McCandless and others similar to him. Author Krakauer presents the events of Into the Wild in a nonlinear manner, forgoing chronological recreation of history in favor of a literary style more befitting of a fictional work. This nonlinear style is similar to that featured in the fictional novel Hotel World, by Ali Smith, which is about a cast of women living around the Global Hotel. While the two books differ greatly in their depicted content, they share similar literary organization.

Into the Wild starts off just before the end of the story chronologically. Chris is just about to make his trip into the wild, and we then cut to the end where his body is found by hunters just over a hundred days later. The story then skips backward to reveal more about how things got to the end state, not by showing the very beginning but rather some of the middle. We learn how Chris became a tramp and some of the places his journey sent him. And then the story veers off as the author talks about people other than Chris who went “into the wild” as it were. The author returns to the story by talking about how Chris’ body was identified, introducing his family as purveyors of knowledge regarding Chris’ childhood, thus taking the story to the very beginning and moving forward until Chris took off. The author then takes a detour to explain why he thinks Chris didn’t go into the wild to die, which he does by describing the author’s own experiences going into the wild. The story then puts the book’s start in context as it describes Chris going to Alaska, going into the wild, and his experiences there until his death. The book concludes with the author taking Chris’ parents out to the site of their son’s death and their departure, ending the story. Into the Wild’s organization of nonfictional events is similar to the organization of fictional events in Hotel World.

Hotel World is divided into separate sections rather than chapters, and many of them are named after positions in a timeline: Past, Present Historic, Future Conditional, Perfect, Future in the Past, and Present. With the exception of Perfect, all of them evoke points in time; however, it is not clear that they all represent the linear depiction of time they appear to represent. Similarly to Into the Wild, Past appears to take place around the same time as Present. It is not so much set in the past as it is a depiction of the past, as the ghost character Sara remembers her life and death. Present Historic depicts a time after Sara’s death with a focus on the character Else, and takes place around the time of Future in the Past. Future Conditional takes place long after Present Historic, but its focus character Lise remembers events taking place at the same time as it. Perfect takes place just after the past events depicted in the previous section, making it set roughly in the present. Future in the Past takes place around Present Historic and Perfect, and continues onward from there. It isn’t clear how Present fits in to the timeline, but it does appear to take place at the time of Past as both sections end with the same quote from Sara. Hotel World thus has a similar way of presenting its content as Into the Wild.

Another similarity the two books share is their ways of depicting different characters’ stories as a way of telling an overall story. In Into the Wild, Krakauer diverges from his tale of Chris McCandless to compare his subject to a few different likeminded individuals, including the author himself, giving the reader a little perspective on the case before returning to his main subject. Similarly, Hotel World has an overall chronological story involving multiple characters, which the author depicts by telling different stories relating to each main character individually. The primary contrast between the two books is that Into the Wild has the primary focus of Chris McCandless, whereas Hotel World has no primary focus and tells the story of each main character to progress the story onwards.

In conclusion, the two books Into the Wild and Hotel World have similar literary structure despite being different kinds of books. Into the Wild’s organizational structure is more commonly seen in fiction than in nonfiction, and Hotel World is a good example of a fictional novel with that kind of organization. The books also share similarity in that they depict different narratives in the process of telling an overall story, but Hotel World shows how it differs from Into the Wild in the way it gives each main character a single section in which it exists as a primary character.

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