“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?

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