Popular Culture Review 29.1 (Spring 2018) - Page 19

to three winterized cabins full of supplies: the mere proximity of these human constructions would have ruined what he believed to be his experience of total loneliness, and he would have acted accordingly by attempting to destroy them. Krakauer does show some critical perspective vis-à-vis his hero, however, he tempers it immediately, as shown by the following passage, which relates McCandless’ killing of a moose: Then, on June 9, he bagged the biggest prize of all: “MOOSE!” he recorded in the journal. Overjoyed, the proud hunter took a photograph of himself kneeling over his trophy, rifle thrust triumphantly overhead, his features distorted in a rictus of ecstasy and amazement, like some unemployed genitor who’d gone to Reno and won a million-dollar jackpot. Although McCandless was enough of a realist to know that hunting game was an unavoidable component of living of the land, he had always been ambivalent about killing animals. This ambivalence turned to remorse soon after he shot the moose. (114) The manner in which Krakauer presents this self-portrait suggests that it is a fairly exceptional occasion, however, it is preceded by several others that show McCandless smiling broadly next to a dead animal, which makes his alleged “ambivalence about killing animals” quite difficult to support. By the carcasses he exhibits in two of these portraits, we can deduce that they precede his killing of the moose, for they show porcupines and according to his log, McCandless never hunted porcupines after his killing of the moose. One of these self-portraits shows him holding the head of a dead porcupine with one hand and raising his thumb, while the other shows him posing between two dead porcupines on racks, his hands raised in the attitude of a magician having concluded a good trick. McCandless’ expressions in these two pictures are much more caricature-like than on the self-portrait to which Krakauer refers and do not seem to indicate any type of ambivalence about killing animals, quite to the contrary: they correspond perfectly to the cliché pose of proud safari hunters, and  McCandless flaunts on these a “rictus of ecstasy” much wilder than the one he shows in the moose pictures. As to the “remorse” surrounding the killing of the moose, it is mainly due to McCandless’ inability to preserve the meat which fell prey to flies and maggots within a few days. Krakauer treats this episode as a momentary set-back, soon overcome by the powerful and deep consciousness of McCandless who recovers his “contentment.” 19