Pilgrim's Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier Summary & Study Guide

Tom Kizzia
This Study Guide consists of approximately 31 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Pilgrim's Wilderness.
This section contains 565 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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Pilgrim's Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier Summary & Study Guide Description

Pilgrim's Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion on Pilgrim's Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier by Tom Kizzia.

Note: The primary individual depicted in this book goes by a number of different names throughout his life. The name Papa Pilgrim is being used in most instances in this study guide because that is the name he used during the time period during which most of the incidents take place. However, when discussing chapters that describe previous times in his life, the guide follows the author's lead and uses the name most closely associated with that chapter and time period.

Pilgrim's Wilderness is a work of non-fiction by Alaskan journalist Tom Kizzia. The book recounts the bizarre saga of a man who calls himself Papa Pilgrim and the impact he and his large family had on a small community in the Alaskan wilderness. Although he is initially hailed as a hero by staunch advocates of property rights when he boldly stands up to the regulations imposed by the National Parks Service, things unravel when his checkered history and the cruel abuse he imposes on his wife and children come to light.

The year is 2002 when a man who calls himself Papa Pilgrim arrives in the small outpost town of McCarthy, Alaska. With him are his wife Rose and their fifteen children. The family attracts immediate attention because of their frontier-style clothing and old fashioned ways. The family is looking for a place that is free and wild. They purchase a large piece of property that includes an abandoned copper mine and a number of small cabins. Part of the property lies within the sprawling Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, making it necessary to obey certain rules and regulations with regard to the use of the land. This is a situation that is controversial among Alaskans who value individual rights.

The family uses its fleet of old, rusty vehicles to begin hauling supplies up the mountain to the homestead they are establishing. They also occupy a piece of land on the public right of way in McCarthy. At first, the residents of McCarthy accept them, partly because Papa has a great deal of personal charisma and the ability to talk his way out of any controversy with his Bible references and charm. When the family refuses to cooperate with park rangers and obey the regulations regarding the use of park land, it rises to hero status and begins to gain fame beyond the borders of McCarthy.

Alaskans would have been less welcoming if they had known more about Papa and his background. Raised by an affluent family in Texas under his real name, Robert Hale, Papa has a checkered history that includes the suspicious death of his 16-year-old wife, several years spent in a haze of drugs during the late 1960s, and a long string of thefts and other issues while the family lived in New Mexico. As the years have passed, he has become increasingly cruel, severely beating his wife and children for minor infractions of his rules. Most of the rules pertain to his delusional ideas about the right ways to repent from sin and ensure entrance to heaven. He has also been raping his oldest daughter, Elishaba, since she turned 18. Rose and the children have always obeyed him, but as they become exposed to outside influences, they begin to see how normal families live and by the story's end, Papa's world unravels and he dies in prison without repentance.

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This section contains 565 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy the Pilgrim's Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier Study Guide
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