“Touching the void,” by Joe Simpson
Chapter 4 – “On the edge.”
- The chapter title, “On the edge,” works as a pun as the chapter heavily revolves around Joe and Simon putting themselves in danger in order to progress in their ascent up the side of the mountain. During the initial stages of the chapter, Joe visualises ideas of potential disasters when the two men are attempting to scale, Siula Grande.
“There was no question about traversing lower down on the East face, for this was a continuous series of large flutings running down over the clouds which had closed over the void again several hundred feet below us.”
These first lines of the chapter, immediately give the image of crossing a barrier into new territory and potentially, into the unknown. The words “closed over the void,” gives me the image of a door closing behind Simon and Joe, blocking them off from the lower part of Siula Grande and the rest of the world. “On the edge,” could refer to the crossing this sort of line and moving into this new, foreign area. The men are at the beginning or, ‘on the edge,’ of a new part of their endearing adventure. Further into the chapter, the men are presented with a new set of challenges to face and overcome, proving difficult for the two of them, further being emphasised by Joe’s use of rather profound language. One of the major obstacles Joe and Simon have overcome is traversing along a particularly tricky ridgeline with the ever present risk of falling leading to a rather unpleasant death. This is the first example of the pun, “On the edge,” coming into play. ‘On the edge,’ so far as I can see it, could be interpreted two different ways. Firstly, the men are literally on the edge of a massive ridgeline on the East face of Siula Grande. Secondly, the mental stress of the climb will make the men very aware and anxious of what’s going on around them. This makes them seem very ‘on edge.’ This state of being on edge is shown more throughout the rest of the chapter meaning the title really does it’s job in summarising this part of the story.
- Imagery is an important language technique used throughout, “Touching the void,” as it puts the reader in the narrator’s (Joe’s) shoes, and gives an idea of Joes interpretation of the situations himself and Simon end up in. Imagery is also used to create tension. Because we as the reader are only getting an idea of what’s happening from Joe’s perspective, we can never be sure of how Simon feels or what’s he’s seeing when he and Joe are seperated. In the beginning of the chapter Joe is following Simon across a ridgeline at a distance of about 150 feet. Joe is pondering ways in which he and Simon could injure or even kill themselves on the ridge, and how he might be able to save them both from falling to their untimely deaths.