Touching the Void
Describe at least one important technique used in the written text. Explain how this technique is used to help you understand key ideas.
Survival, determination and the consequences of human nature are all important ideas used by Joe Simpson throughout his novel, “Touching the Void.” This nonfiction novel, recalls the journey and misfortune of two climbers attempting to scale the incredibly dangerous, West face of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. Throughout the novel, Joe Simpson uses multiple language techniques to help the reader to understand important ideas that are key to the text, one of these techniques being foreshadowing.
Foreshadowing is a prominent language technique used throughout the initial stages of, “Touching the Void,” to help the reader predict the events where Joe breaks his leg and the eventual separation of the two climbers, as well as understand the idea of Joe becoming less conscious of the dangers of the mountain and less concerned about the safety of himself and Simon.
During the climax of the text, Joe and Simon come to an ice face that they must either climb down or move around to make progress. Because Joe is feeling impatient and is eager to get off the mountain, as well as confident in the conditions, he makes the decision to descend the ice face rather than take the time and effort to move around it. Joe examines the face and finds a place that he may be able to climb down safely, however, due to his hasty approach and overconfidence, he makes a mistake in the placement of his ice hammer and falls off the face, landing and breaking his leg. These events are clearly foreshadowed by Joe’s dialogue and thoughts during the initial stages of the text.
The first example of foreshadowing of these events is shown through Joe’s thoughts when he reaches the summit of Siula Grande. Upon Simon and Joe reaching the summit of Siula Grande, after the physically and mentally demanding ascent of the West face, Joe begins to feel, “the usual anticlimax,” and begins to question his motive for climbing the mountain: “What now?” “If you succeed with one dream, you come back to square one and it’s not long before you’re conjuring up another.” These quotes show that, after achieving his main goal, Joe feels that there’s nothing more to the climb, completely disregarding the fact that the descent is still a major part of his journey and poses just as many risks as the ascent. His carefree attitude poses a major threat to his and Simons safety as, if in his overconfidence he makes a mistake in his climbing path or the placement of his axes, he could risk falling off a cliff or ridge, killing or badly injuring himself and Simon in the process. This shows the reader that it is part of human nature to be dissatisfied and always want something more than what we already have as well as question what we perceive are our weaknesses. We disregard the things we have and should be appreciative of for ideas and dreams of something we believe could be better, sometimes, as in Joe’s case, at great cost.
After Joe and Simon begin their climb down the East face of the mountain, the two men encounter multiple issues that make their descent more difficult than either of them originally anticipated. Clouds and steady snowfall limit the visibility the two men have and thick snow slows their pace to a crawl. After encountering some difficult and dangerous terrain on the East ridge, Joe makes note of how he never thought about the descent as being in any way dangerous compared to the initial climb: “I felt the first twangs of anxiety. This ridge had turned out to be way more serious than we had ever imagined while our attention had been focused on the route up the West face.” These quotes show that Joe is now realising the error in his judgement when it came to regarding the descent as easy and risk free. From this section of the text, the reader is shown that Joe regards the descent as just another obstacle between him and his next goal, showing how human nature is to constantly be focused on the next best thing rather than living in the moment and taking into account the journey as a whole, including the risks involved.
Over the next two days the conditions become increasingly worse and instead of feeling anxious, Joe feels frustrated at the lack of progress being made because of these conditions. He states, “I began to feel impatient,” “The mountain had lost its excitement, its novelty, and I wanted to get off it as soon as possible.” This shows us that now Joe’s main concern is not the safety of himself and Simon, getting of the mountain is. The idea that he is more focused on getting off the mountain combined with his overconfidence in his and Simon’s safety, foreshadow him falling off the ice face because of bad decisions he’s made that have been influenced by his mindset.
These events and the dialogue we see during the initial stages of, “Touching the Void,” written by Joe Simpson, accurately foreshadow Joe falling off the ice face and breaking his leg. They help the reader understand the key idea of the consequences of human nature, in that Joe is becoming less conscious of the dangers presented to him as he believes that there is less risk in the descent of Siula Grande, and that he is becoming more concerned about getting off the mountain than the safety of himself and Simon.