Touching The Void Essay

Describe at least one important technique used written text.  Explain how this technique helped you to understand one or more key ideas.  Note: Techniques could include figures of speech, syntax, word choice, style, symbolism, structure, or narrative point


The Rope

  • Literal Meaning: Connection Between Joe and Simon,, physical and mental support when there is no rope
  • Figurative Meaning: The Feeling of knowing someone is there at the end of the rope, Protection, feels safer, like an umbilical cord, nurture, providing the balance between mindset, care, analogy

The use of the rope in the text, Touching The Void, by Joe Simpson shows us the important key ideas.  When Simon nearly falls to his death, after a cornice of snow falls out from under his feet, Joe was his savior by jumping down the other side of the ridge. “The ropes ran unchecked through my wet icy gloves for a few feet then tugged sharply at my harness.” (Joe) p.55 “There was no warning. No crack. One minute I was climbing, the next I was falling.” This quotation teaches the reader that the rope acts like an umbilical cord providing a lifeline for each of the climbers, as they rely on each other for food, warmth, and care if something goes wrong.  Providing each of them with the balance between a negative mindset and a positive one showing a strong connection of trust. The symbol of the rope is used in both a literal and figurative way. For example, when Joe is being lowered down the west face of the mountain the rope shows us a literal connection between Joe and Simon and it also provides Joe with physical support from Simon as he’s being lowered down the face by himself.  “It needed no pressure. The taut rope exploded at the touch of the blade.”  It shows the reader how quickly the connection can be severed with a knife or a betrayal of trust.  Joe shows the reader how important that connection is when, after he gets separated from Simon, he creates an imaginary connection between him and Simon so that he doesn’t feel alone. Figuratively I think it means that he feels protected and safer knowing that Simon is on the other end of the rope and it gives him comfort to know that he’s there.

The Voice:

  • Literal Meaning: No More Darkness, Seeing A Way Out, Imaginary Connection Between Jo and Simon,
  • Figurative Meaning: Supportive, Not Feeling Alone, Safe, Joe creates an imaginary voice that he thinks gives him that support.

“ I had never been so entirely alone…”  Joe Simpson knows that the connection between two climbers is.  So he uses the Voice as a symbol that Simon is still with him.  After Joe falls into the Void he is immediately at loss without Simon so that when it comes to making decisions that he normally relies on Simon for he hears a voice in his head that tells him what to do.  “It was like there were two minds within me arguing the toss. The voice was clean and sharp and commanding.”   The use of the voice teaches the reader that the connection between two people can be more than is more than physical, the connection between Joe and Simon provides support and protection that helps them through their treacherous journey up and down Siula Grande.   It also teaches us that though we value our alone time when you are in a scary situation like Joe was no one likes being alone, we all need family and friends to be supportive and help us feel safe.  

Light and Dark:

  • Literal Meaning: No More Darkness, Seeing A Way Out,
  • Figurative Meaning: Hope, Life,

The Void:

  • Literal Meaning: Enter Text Here
  • Figurative Meaning: Darkness, Death,

As Joe is losing hope sitting on the ledge in the void the author uses the symbol of light to show Joe the way out.  “A pillar of golden light beamed diagonally from a small hole in the roof, spraying bright reflections off the far wall of the crevasse.” p.132  As Joe sees the light he immediately knew he had to get out, he knew that no matter what happened he was getting out.   I knew without absolute certainty. How I would do it, and when I would reach it was not considered. I just knew. In seconds my whole outlook had changed….The twelve despairing hours I had spent…seemed suddenly to have been nothing like the nightmare I had imagined.” p.133  Once Joe sees the light he has a newfound sense of hope he regains his energy and his ______ to get out in contrast to the light the darkness of the void he was in is so soul-crushing that he is not even afraid The menace was my imagination but I couldn’t stop it playing in my mind.” Even when he does reach the light and get out of the void he thinks it is a dream as he was so close to death.  This shows us that in that kind of situation the smallest piece of hope can change your outlook on life.  

“Touching the Void” Chapter 9 – In The Far Distance

Symbolism in literature is where an object, person or situation has an additional meaning to its literal meaning. The symbolism of light and “the voice” in Chapter 9 is used to show Joe’s changing circumstances and his reaction to them.

Use pages 132-133, 135 and 139-40 to explain what light symbolizes in Joe’s situation. How does it change his perspective or affect his actions?

  • The narrator uses the symbol of “the light” so that I as the reader understand the emotions invested in Joe’s journey back to base camp.  As Joe feels like he is about to give up the text states “I was mesmerized by this beam of sunlight burning through the vaulted ceiling from the real world outside.”  showing us that Jow believes that being in the crevasse is not functional, there is no purpose, nothing to do but sit and wait in endless time to dye.   He gives us the feeling that being in the crevasse is cold and dark and he would much rather be out in the sun and light, warm, loved and with a purpose.  The selected text “It had me so fixated that I forgot about the uncertain floor below and let myself slide down the rope. I was going to reach that sunbeam.  I knew it then with absolute certainty.  How I would do it, and when I would reach it were not considered. I just knew it.” tell us that the light is almost like a life source for Joe as when he sees it and automatically wants to go to it.  If there wasn’t any light he might have just stayed sitting on the ledge slowing fading from the world, the light gave him hope that he might just be able to make it back to base camp.  If I was in Joe’s position the light would have definitely helped me get moving as who want’s to be in the dark, cold and alone.

Use pages 141-142 to explain the significance of “the voice” and how it reflects Joe’s mental and emotional state in this section of his journey.

  • “The Voice” in Joe’s head shows his mental and emotional state to the reader.   As Joe is struggling to get back to base he hears a voice in his head that helps him move in the right direction.  He describes the voice as another person so that he doesn’t feel so lonely crawling back through the moraines.  The selected text “Then the voice would tell me I was late and I would wake with a start and crawl again.”  tells us that the voice is more like a climbing companion telling Joe to get a move on so that he would get home in one piece without dying because he kept falling and “resting” or falling asleep.  The text also states  “The voice told me how to go about it, and I obeyed while my other mind jumped abstractly from one idea to another”  showing us that Joe relied fully on this other voice casting his “other mind” away as if it was a hindrance to him getting home safely.   The reader understands from this narration that Joe is so mentally and emotionally weak from the all the days without food, water or rest that his life now depends on a voice inside his head.  He treats the voice as if it is Simon there on the mountain with him as Simon was the dependant leader of the climbing pair and Joe relied on his reassurance before he made the decision and if the voice replacing Simons presence and if it wasn’t there he would have surely died.  This presents interesting reality about Joe’s survival: If Joe didn’t hear the voice would he have died? Could he have made his own decisions? Is it excusable for him to lose all responsibility for himself when his life is in danger or couldn’t he help it?

“Touching The Void” Chapter 8 – Silent Witness


Describe the MOOD and TONE in each passage. Also, explain how this MOOD and TONE was created. I.e. Reference any word choice, language techniques used, or sentence structure chosen.

“The first feelings of panic built up as I stared wildly from one crevasse to another. Had we gone above or below that one? Or was it that lower one? I couldn’t remember. The harder I tried the more confused I became, and eventually I was weaving a contorted and terrifying path, unsure of where I was heading.” Page 123

  • The paragraph “The first feelings of panic built up as I stared wildly from one crevasse to another. Had we gone above or below that one? Or was it that lower one? I couldn’t remember. The harder I tried the more confused I became, and eventually I was weaving a contorted and terrifying path, unsure of where I was heading.” on page 123 gives a negative and dark feeling to the reader.  The narrator uses words like panic, wildly, contorted and terrifying to set the mood of the passage. The words help the reader visualize the atmosphere of the situation and what the narrator is experiencing.  The reader visualizes crevasses on all sides like a never-ending maze and being stuck in the middle not knowing where you have been or which way to go.

“It was a lonely place to rest.  In the huge chaos of the moraines, I had sat down to rest at the one spot where I would be reminded. We and sat in the same spot six days earlier. All our keen excitement, and the healthy strong feel in our bodies, had become an empty memory.” Page 125

  • In the paragraph on page 125 “It was a lonely place to rest.  In the huge chaos of the moraines, I had sat down to rest at the one spot where I would be reminded. We and sat in the same spot six days earlier. All our keen excitement, and the healthy strong feel in our bodies, had become an empty memory” the narrator uses words like lonely and empty to describe the attitude of the narrator and the tone of the text, they make the narrator seems depressed, sad and at a loss.  The narrator also uses contrast to contribute to the tone of the text, it strengthens the aspect of the narrator now being alone in the snow emphasizing the difference between “excitement, healthy and strong” and “lonely, chaos and empty”.

“Touching The Void” Chapter 7 – Shadows In The Ice

Contrast is used to show Joe’s conflicting feelings and experiences in this chapter.

For example, he describes the black space below him in the crevasse as: “the stark blackness of the drops, too deep for the light to penetrate…the black space held untold horrors….staring at the black hole in front of me….the dark spaces menaced” (page 110), but then contrasts these dark images with descriptions of the night sky: “small hole in the roof, where the sky was cloudless, packed with stars, and moonlight was adding its glow to their bright sparkle.” (page 111)

Similarly, Joe had previously stated that he believed, he and Simon would die on this mountain: “I accepted that I was to die. There was no alternative.” “How long will you be, Simon? I thought. How long before you join me? (page 107)” However, later in the crevasse, he states: “Alive!…I laughed through the burning, and kept laughing hard, feeling tears rolling down my face (page 109)” “Simon…I couldn’t conceive of him dead, not now, not after I’ve survived.” (page 111)

Explain why contrast is used in these sections of the text. How does contrast assist the reader to understand Joe’s feelings and experiences in this chapter?

  • The use of contrast in these sections of the text strengthens the two aspects by showing up the difference to emphasize a change or difference or idea

The rope in the text could be seen as the connection and accountability that exists between Joe and Simon. Joe’s hope resides in the fact that Simon is still connected to the end of this rope (pages 113-114) What happens to this connection, sense of accountability when Joe pulls on his end of the rope, while in the crevasse? Use quotations from the text to support your answer.

  • fjhgjhgjgjhgjjhg

EXTENSION: Why do you believe Joe lowered himself deeper into the crevasse? (page 116)

“Touching The Void” Chapter 6 – The Final Choice

List some of the problems the men face trying to get down the mountain. Include quotations from the text (pages 85-94) to support these ideas.

  • Every 150metres Simon reaches a knot or the end of the rope so Joe has to stand on his good leg and wait for Simon to either take the rope out of the belay plate or walk down to him.
  • As he is sliding down the mountain Joe is constantly “snagging” his foot on rocks or ice and is crying out for his friend to stop it is very hard for Simon to continue but he knows its in Joe’s best interests to keep lowering him down “Simon let me slide faster than I had expected and, despite my cries of alarm and pain, he had kept the pace of decent going” “Despite lying on my good leg, the crampons on my right boot snagged in the snow as the weight of my body pushed down”
  • Simon gets bad frostbite from sitting in the weather and lowering Joe.  ” my hands were stiffening again. They always got bad before the knot; stiff, like claws.”  “the belay plate was easy to control despite my deadened fingers.  They were bad now. I worried about them, as I had done since we left the col.”  ” Four fingertips were blackened, and one thumb, but there was no saying whether the others wouldn’t also go the same way.”
  • The weather gets really bad and the can’t see or hear on another so when Joe sees a cliff up ahead he tries but can’t tell Simon to stop and when he falls over the edge of it Simon doesn’t know how big the drop Joe’s just fallen over is or if he can use the rest of the rope to lower him to the bottom of it.  “the rising wind and continuous spindrift avalanches drowned out all communications.”  “I could see nothing through it.  If anything the spindrift was worse than before, and that could only mean that it had begun snowing heavily.  Below me the view was equally limited.

How does Joe, recreate the tension felt when he is lowered over the cliff “into the void”? Consider any structural (syntax), language or narrative techniques he uses to recreate the intensity of this experience. (pages 94-96)

  • Joe uses short sharp sentences to create tension when he’s being lowered into the void.  He uses “I had to stop” and “Then abruptly my feet were in space. ”  these examples create a sense of danger by not giving more than one piece of information at a time, it’s like Joe is in a rush to complete the sentence before he falls off the edge.

“Touching The Void” Chapter 5 – Disaster (Climax)

When Joe shatters his knee joint, it is one of the most climactic moments in the text (one of the most tension-filled moments for the protagonist). Pages 71-73. Explain how language and writing style techniques were used to draw the reader into Joe’s experiences in this section of the descent. You may wish to comment on: imagery, emotive language, figurative language (simile, metaphor, personification, hyperbole), dialogue, syntax (sentence structures) and/or narrative voice.

  • the imagery used it this climatic moment transports you to where he is and the traumatic thoughts he must be having after being severely injured 20,000 ft up a difficult mountain like if he would live or if Simon would abandon him.

2. Joe interviewed Simon about his experiences in sections of their journey on Siula Grande and recounted what he believed to be Simon’s perspective of these experiences. Simon said that these recounts were accurate to his thoughts and feelings.                                                                                                              What is the purpose of including Simon’s narration when Joe shatters his knee-joint? Identify specific quotations that reveal important information about Simon and Joe’s changing relationship, through Simon’s narration.

  • I think Joe uses Simon’s perspective because when Joe breaks his knee he is rendered useless he had to rely directly on Simon to get him down the mountain and Simon has to make the desition whether he wants to risk his life and possibly have both Joe and Simon die while trying to help Joe down the mountain or going down himself and ensuring that he will live and leave Joe to die.

How do some of these details (from Simon’s narration) foreshadow what will happen later in the text? What do you anticipate Simon will do in these difficult circumstances?

“Touching The Void” Chapter 4 – On the edge

How is this pun used effectively to summarise the events in this chapter?Choose ONE of the following language or writing style techniques and explain how it is used to create tension (mental, emotional or physical strain) in the text.I.e. How does the technique show that the men will/are facing problems?

 Symbolism: an object or word represents an idea

The narrator uses symbolism so that the reader understands the emotions invested in the object he is describing without describing those emotions every time the object is used. He provides the reader with a visual (actual or mental) aide and/or a memory of something that conjures up certain memories and/or emotions or qualities when the reader sees the symbol.

“Touching The Void” Chapter 1 – Beneath The Mountain Lakes

 “We took the customary summit photos and ate some chocolate. I felt the usual anti-climax. What now? It was a vicious circle. If you succeed with one dream, you come back to square one and it’s not long before you’re conjuring up another, slightly harder, a bit more ambitious – a bit more dangerous. I didn’t like the thought of where it might be leading me. As if, in some strange way, the very nature of the game was controlling me, taking me towards a logical but frightening conclusion; it always unsettled me, this moment of reaching the summit, this sudden stillness and quiet after the storm, which gave me time to wonder what I was doing and sense a niggling doubt that perhaps I was inexorably losing control – was I here purely for pleasure or was it egotism? Did I really want to come back for more? But these moments were also good times, and I knew that the feelings would pass. Then I could excuse them as morbid pessimistic fears that had no sound basis.” Joe Simpson, Touching the Void, p.53

Why are these lines included in the text?What do they reveal about the author?What important ideas/messages do these lines reveal about the “dangerous
men” that T.E.Lawrence refers to in the opening of the texT

  • In the sentences “I didn’t like the thought of where it might be leading me. As if, in some strange way, the very nature of the game was controlling me, taking me towards a logical but frightening conclusion; it always unsettled me, this moment of reaching the summit, this sudden stillness and quiet after the storm, which gave me time to wonder what I was doing and sense a niggling doubt that perhaps I was inexorably losing control – was I here purely for pleasure or was it egotism?” Joe reveals that he is not confident about the climb because he feels that the more mountains he conquers what harder and more dangerous ones would he would want to climb next. Joe wonders if he will ever be satisfied with the difficulty of the mountains or if he will ever be able to stop climbing them.   He also shows that he can self-reflect a good quality because you can fix what you think is going wrong.

“Touching The Void” Chapter 2 – Tempting Fate

Describe the relationship between Joe and Simon in this chapter, including important quotations. How are the men inter-dependent and why?

  • fkhfkhfskhakhaskfjhkfhakhkfashkhk 

Describe the environment in this part of the climb? What does the environment require from the men and how do they react to the challenges presented to them?

  • dsndaskskdajhsadkjhadskjhasdkjhadskjhdas

What does the reader learn about Joe’s previous experiences in a similar environment by the end of the chapter? Why might this section of the text be important? Identify any language/ language techniques used purposefully in this section and explain their purpose (effect on the reader’s understanding).

  • kajsdhkdsahkjadshkdsahkjadshdsakjhdsakhdsakjh

“Touching The Void” – The Role Of The Author And Initial Characterisation

Joe includes these lines when he is describing mountaineers at the beginning of the book: ‘The dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.’

  • What Do You Think These Lines Mean To You? – To me this means… 

Joe explains how he feels about being in the mountains in the opening pages of the book.

  • What Is Your Initial Impression Of Joe Simpson?  Explain, Including Quotations Where Appropriate. –  Joe to me is an interesting character…

Joe describes Simon (at the beginning of the book) as: “he was an easy friend: dependable, sincere, ready to see life as a joke… a touch of madness that makes which makes just a few people so special.” Pg 19           “There were few other people I could have coped with for so long”               “Simon was keeping to steady pace that matched mine” Pg 20                “If a climber has to slow his natural pace to that of his companion, the unfit climber will soon find himself struggling to keep up.” Pg 20

  • What Do These Lines Tell You About Simon And His Relationship With Joe?  -Simon and Joe have a solid relationship with…..

    Joe describes Richard at the beginning of the book as: “jgjghg

  • What Do These Lines Tell You About Richard And How Joe And Simon View Him?