Touching The Void
Interpretation of Chapter 6 of Touching the Void
In this chapter of touching the void Simon is faced with a horrible decision; Should he sever the rope holding Joe and possibly kill him in the process, saving himself, or should he keep the rope attached, whilst his stability on the mountain decreases by the second as it crumbles beneath him, in the home that Joe will find some way to take the weight off him. Baring in mind his oblivion as to Joes predicament this is a very hard choice to make. One which ordinary people couldnt even imagine having to decide.
Alone for the first time on the freezing mountain, having just made a life threatening decision, it is easy to imagine that having a good nights sleep would be burdensome. Simon dips in and out of consciousness. Simon is not upset that he possibly killed Joe, he describes him as only the weight gone off from my waist so suddenly and violently that I couldnt fully grasp it all. This shows that Simon is trying not to think of Joe as a real human who he possibly killed. The adjective violently has connotations of pain and murder, which could suggest that Simon is subconsciously making himself the bad guy.
After a long night tossing and turning, Simon wakes up feeling surprisingly refreshed, ready to complete his descent and determined that he wont spend another night on the mountain, this combined with his state of dehydration leaves the reader believing that his journey on the mountain is to end soon; he will either die of dehydration or climb to the foot of the mountain before the day is done. When simon tells the reader that I felt watched it is probably because having convinced himself that by cutting the rope he is acting almost like a criminal whose crime yet undiscovered is feeling excessively paranoid. Alone on the mountain without Joe, Simon is fabricating beings out of the stillness, almost as if to keep him company and break his climb down in solitude. This is displayed when he says I knew it, and they knew it The verb knew is a common verb yet is none the less a interesting choice of language as it has connotations of certainty it shows that, at the time Simon believed his fate to be ensured.
In the morning when Simon recalls that he dressed like a priest before mass, with careful ceremony. it bring compares extremes, shedding new light on the situation. The simile used is conveying a message of goodness as priest are supposed to be messengers of God, who behave perfectly. Whereas the creator of the simile was at that moment anything but good, for he believes that he killed an innocent man. The design of the simile is to cast a bad light on poor Simon and is strategically placed to do just that.
Simon wakes in the morning to find the past days event a distant dream he says The dread in the night had gone with the dawn this suggests that he is putting the incident behind him in order to continue with the more important task ahead. He even states the dark thought-wracked hours behind me the word dark combined with the fact it is behind him suggests he has freed his mind of any lingering guilt and is finally ready to finish what he and Joe started what seems like years ago.
Close Reading and Interpretation of an Abstract from Touching the Void
What are the differences between Joe and Simon’s account of the event?
This text is an extract from “Touching the Void.” The style is autobiographical and provides us with two accounts; one being Joe and the other being Simon. This text discovers the fall of Joe, and how both climbers have experienced this even. Hopelessly, Joe hopes he hasn’t broken his leg, but moments and he realizes that it is a bad break. On the other hand, Simon discovers that Joe has fallen and displays an emotionless, dispassionate, and heartless feeling. I believe this text has targeted people who are interested in climbing mountains and extreme sports. Simon being selfish, and emotionless towards his friend-partner he chooses the option in which he has the best chance of survival. Both characters’ of the story have told us their side of what happened in a different structure, and technique.
Joe dives straight into panic mode; therefore he uses lots of graphic and grotesque imagery in his account of the event. We know this because in the text when Joe had fallen and was testing to see if his leg was broken he said, “My knee exploded. Bone grated, and the fireball rushed from groin to knee.” This indicates on the actual fact that Joe uses graphical imaging based mostly over false belief to indicate and distribute the pain he’s prying, the utilization of the verb, “Grated” indicates to as his bones colliding along and with the force of friction, they started shuddering and obtaining smaller, causing further pain: like after you grate cheese as each moment passes. In addition, Joe also uses metaphor “Knee exploded” to show the seriousness of the injury as only two of them are at the top of the mountain. This gives the reader an impression of Joe suffering roughly whilst hanging down the mountain and a vivid picture into their minds making them feel really uncomfortable. The use of the short sentence gives the reader an imaginative and emotional effect. Example of an imaginative effect is when the writer said, “Bone grated”, this made the reader imagine himself grating cheese, except his bones instead. The emotional effect to the reader was the intensity of pain happening to him from all sides of his body, and the technique that was used to create the emotional effect is, short sentences that also included a metaphor. In contrast, Simon uses straightforward language whilst describing the incident that has happened. This has been shown when Simon said, “He looked pathetic, and my immediate thought came without any emotion… You’re dead…No two ways about it!” This determines that Simon shows very little emotion whilst weighing the incident. We have been given the impression of Simon as a very cold and emotionless person towards his climbing companion, as he says ‘pathetic.’ Simon has also used short sentences like, “you’re dead” because it has been said in a very calm way, this has left the reader to be in an awkward/itchy situation. Therefore we have seen Simon as a very cold individual, because of his matter of fact language, which is pretty straightforward.
Both Joe’s and Simon’s account use the ellipsis; both creating different types of effects on the autobiography. For example in Joe’s account he says, “Everyone said it… if there’s just two of you a broken ankle could turn into a death sentence … if it’s broken … if …” and, “left here? Alone?…” In this phrase I believe the ellipsis has been used by Joe as a pause for him to take a thought (pausing for thought). And by Joe using the word “if” he is showing us that he has really high hopes of it just being a strain and not broken. He hopes it is only a sprain so that he can continue his climbing, and get out of it alive, without him suffering a horrendous death. At the same time, Joe uses the word, “Alone?…” as this almost shows that Joe is afraid of him being left alone to suffer an atrocious death. This can also mean that Joe has high expectancy list from his friend/partner Simon, and he really trusts him. The use of the short emphatic statement of “left here? Alone?…” makes the reader feel sorry for him as he is showing how he is lonely, this is a very good type of technique as it makes the reader sympathies with Joe and convey his current emotions. Going back to the point of Joe using it as a pause for a thought, likewise the reader will too. To take in the magnitude of what is slowly being exposed to both the reader and Joe simultaneously. Thus creating an effect of a quick pace of the action, allowing the tragedy to deteriorate into the reader’s mind. It can also affect the reader into thinking that Simon is a traitor and a bad example of what a friend is actually meant to do, in this kind of situation. Just as Joe uses the ellipsis, Simon uses it as well. But Simon says, “… You’re dead …” and, “expecting him to fall…” thus changing the effect of the ellipsis. The use of the ellipsis in Simon’s account has been used to emphasize the certainty of the situation and the tragedy of it all. The use of the second person, in this phrase makes it look like a death sentence; by Simon not using Joe’s name he is making it seem more clinical, dispassionate and detached. Moreover, he is making it seem like he is trying to avoid his friend, to keep himself alive. The use of “expecting him to fall…” just literally makes it clear that Simon wants his friend to die; therefore he doesn’t have to do anything related to murder, and that he wants to leave/escape really quickly. This creates a huge effect on the reader, as the suspense is real and it just adds up to how they feel towards selfish Simon. It can also make them feel awkward, as they have just witnessed a murderer.
Religious Perspective and Analysis of Joe Simpson’s Struggle
Touching the Void: A Religious Analysis
The story of Joe Simpson’s struggle to survive the descent from a treacherous fall in the Siula Grande is undoubtedly heroic and a showmanship of the limits of man. While this story has been widely praised and adapted into both literary and film forms, audiences debate over the religious nature Joe’s experience on the mountain. Some claim that his experience was nothing but self-realization, especially considering the fact that Joe is a self-proclaimed atheist. However, an experience of self-realization is categorized as a fully “veridical experience” (Stanford), and also highlighted as “realizing a capacity or aspect of our soul, and by extension, an aspect of our true nature as Being” (Nirmala). For these reasons, Joe’s journey could not have been anything but a religious experience. During his trek, he experienced heavy hallucinations and a guiding “voice”, that he was not aware of being part of himself or his subconscious. He refers to these as guiding forces that are in constant opposition to his natural instincts, and heavily believes in the strength of these forces even after he has returned to safety and is in recovery. Joe Simpson’s incredible struggle to survive the harsh conditions of the Andes is strongly influenced by forces that are undeniably aspects of a religious experience.
The first sign of his religious journey is his hallucinations, which are brought on by suffering, fasting, and consistent bodily and mental pain. In many religions, fasting is a voluntary tradition that sometimes triggers religious experiences, however, in this case Joe’s lack of food and water forced him to mentally transcend the realms of fact and fiction. The first step to Joe’s transformation is his focus on his bodily needs. He claims, “Water became an obsession. Pain and water. That was my world. There was nothing else” (164). This narrowing of the mind is echoed in the religious traditions of depriving oneself of bodily needs, and the transcendence of this need leads to Joe’s next experience, hallucinations. Joe hallucinates in many regards, sometimes waking up and not knowing where he is, sometimes imagining a song repeating over and over in his head, and even imagining Simon is with him. He starts to lose his grip on reality when he no longer can distinguish his own voice from other imaginary voices. He recalls, “Muttered arguments jolted me awake, and I wondered who I had been talking to; many times I looked behind me to see who they were, but they were never there” (179). The significance of these hallucinations is not that Joe becomes unaware, but that Joe is aware of other aspects of his world than the pain, suffering, and cold. He becomes more in touch with himself and the depths of his mind during this mental struggle, and also reflects on companionship in a new way. This hallucinatory hell is a telltale staple of a religious experience, since he is no longer aware of his bodily self and correct mental wellbeing.
While Joe’s hallucinatory episodes were a large factor in jump-starting his religious experience, the main and most notable factor of this event is “the voice”. “The voice” is something Joe references early and often during his painful descent, and it becomes his guide and lifeline throughout the hardest parts of his journey. While some may argue this falls under the category of hallucinations, it’s repetitive and integral nature prompts it to be viewed as something more, like a guiding force or deity. “The voice” further establishes its individual importance because of Joe’s acknowledgement of his own voice on page 153, which reads, ““Instead a voice, my voice, recited a soliloquy from Shakespeare over and over again…”. “The voice”’s commands are mainly to guide Joe in times of trial, and to force him down the mountain when Joe feels like giving up. The presence of a guiding voice is seen in many religions, including but not limited to Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam. Much like Joe, these voices become a dependance for those who listen to them. Joe cannot even subconsciously ignore “the voice” or the persuasive power of it; “I tried to ignore the voice, which urged me to move, but I couldn’t because the other voices had gone. I couldn’t lose the voice in daydreams” (147). Additionally, his reference to his daydreams separate to that of “the voice” has the same effect as his distinguishing “the voice” from his own. This solidifies his belief that “the voice” is something more than inside his head, and is a tangible spiritual force. It’s urgent nature- “Instructions tumbled in, repeated commands of what I must do, and I lay back listening and fighting the instinct to obey” (160)- as well as its overarching power to control Joe’s actions marks it as a pivotal force in Joe’s religious experience. As final proof to discredit the illusion that Joe only temporarily imagines or depends on “the voice”, he references it in fear after he has been discovered and temporarily rehabilitated, since he knows it will not be there to guide his journey back by mule. In conclusion, Joe’s steadfast devotion to “the voice” and its influence on his physical journey makes it an important marker of Joe’s religious experience.
The significance of this religious analysis, in this case, is essential to understanding Joe’s internal transformation. One of the strongest counterarguments for Joe’s journey being categorized as religious is his strong atheist roots. In his later blog he writes, “That my lack of belief was tested in a crucible far more testing than most other people have experienced should at very least give me the right to quietly state my beliefs when asked and not be plagued by people who think I am wrong and they are right” (Leppard). As readers we are not imposing a particular religion upon Simpson, which he here so adamantly opposes. Instead, we are using the religious analysis of common factors of religious experience to examine his journey, which is a key point in categorizing this as a general religious experience, not as part of a particular religious group. In conclusion, by focusing on the hallucinatory aspects of Joe’s journey and the power of “the voice” in opposition to his bodily and mental struggle, it can be determined that Joe’s experience on the Siula Grande was of the religious nature.