“Touching the void,” by Joe Simpson
The role of the author and characterisation
- When Joe says, “The dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible,” to me it means that the people who have and choose to follow through with their wild ‘daydreams’ are a danger, not only because they may be risking their own life in the process of carrying out their ideas, but they exceed the social normalities and rise above, what some would call, the machine that is society. They choose to live outside the box, off the grid in a sense, chasing their crazy fantasies until they are achieved.
- Joe talks about the mountains regarding them as higher and far greater than him, but has a drive to conquer them nonetheless. This gives the initial impression that he is, as he describes in the first part of the book, a daydreamer; a dangerous man, risking his own life to overcome things greater than him. Despite all this Joe does take comfort in homely thing, for example, the tent he refers to in the second paragraph of the book. This shows that Joe tends to push himself to overcome great challenges and push himself out of his comfort zone, almost as if he has something to prove to himself.
- Joe, at the beginning of the book, describes Simon as everything he wished he could be. He envies Simon for his “carefree, take-it-as-it-comes attitude,” and his ability to make the best of life even in the most dire of situations. Joe also talks about how Simon was tall, strong, an easy friend, etc. Joe holding Simon is such high regard gives the idea that Joe is very self conscious and wishes he could be more than he believes he is. I think that Simon and Joe’s relationship revolves around Joe looking up to Simon, almost like a younger sibling looking up to their older brother.
- Joe’s outlook on Richard is almost a direct contrast when compared with his opinion of Simon. During the initial stages of the book, Joe talks about Richard, trying to portraying him as someone lesser than himself; a ‘night-dreamer’ rather than a daydreamer. He mentions finding Richard, “resting in a sleazy hotel,” and talks about Richard’s adventures in a manner that makes him seem almost heartless, making a note about how he watched his “travelling companion” get shot dead by some trigger happy soldiers. I think Joe’s relationship with Richard totally differs from his with Simon. Instead of looking up at him, he instead looks down upon him. I believe this is to make Joe feel comfortable with who he is, or at least better, because he makes himself believe that because he’s better than Richard, he has good qualities people should look for in him.
- Because Joe and Simon are so far away from the nearest village, getting help if something were to go wrong up on the mountain would take a long time for Richard to be contacted, to get a message to the village, and then bring aid back to their location.
- Self motivation is, I believe, a big part of what helps Joe and Simon get up the mountain. In difficult situations, reassurance and motivation are big factors when achieving a main goal. Having someone telling you that you’ll be alright or that you can do it, even in the most dire of circumstances, can lift a person up and out of a hole. The way this works for Joe and Simon revolves around the men speaking their thoughts aloud, meaning that they register and process the information using another sensory organ, giving them a more objective viewpoint. Because their brains are processing the same information twice, it automatically registers it more like a fact than a possibility.