Summary and Analysis
Chapter 9 - Davis Gulch
Author Krakauer quotes a letter written by Everett Reuss, an artistic resident of Utah who disappeared into the desert of the American Southwest in 1934: "The beauty of this country is becoming part of me. I feel more detached from life and somehow gentler. I have always been unsatisfied with life as most people live it. Always I want to live more intensely and richly."
Krakauer suggests that this letter could have been written 60 years later by another young wanderer: Christopher McCandless. Like McCandless, Reuss also changed his name, at first requesting that his family call him Lan Rameau, and then changing his identity once again, to Evert Rulan. Additionally, Reuss identified so strongly with Jules Verne's science fiction that he frequently referred to himself as Captain Nemo, the character who flees civilization in Verne's novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. In fact, the last evidence of Everett Reuss was found in Davis Gulch, along the Colorado River in Utah, where he inscribed "NEMO 1934"in stone on the entrance to an ancient Anasazi Indian granary. Reuss was never found, and Krakauer enumerates various theories to explain his disappearance.
Krakauer connects Everett Reuss and Christopher McCandless with those seeking solitude at other times, in other places, by briefly discussing the Irish monks who inhabited an island called Pepos off of Iceland. These monks created stone dwellings in the fifth and sixth centuries, hundreds of years before the Anasazi built their desert structures in Davis Gulch.
This is a second consecutive chapter in which the author attempts to illuminate McCandless's character by comparing and contrasting it to those of his predecessors. In doing so, Krakauer further convinces the reader that although McCandless was unique, the impulses that drove him were not unprecedented. Nor are these impulses an exclusively American phenomenon. In fact, although rare, the drive toward solitude crosses continents and millennia, as the example of the Irish monks demonstrates.