Touching the Void, by Joe Simpson
Chapter Five: Disaster
When Joe shatters his knee joint, it is one of the most climactic moments in the text (one of the most tension-filled moments for the protagonist). Pages 71-73. Explain how language and writing style techniques were used to draw the reader into Joe’s experiences in this section of the descent. You may wish to comment on: imagery, emotive language, figurative language (simile, metaphor, personification, hyperbole), dialogue, syntax (sentence structures) and/or narrative voice.
In the beginning of this section of text Joe’s mood is confident, and seemingly in control, this is all part of building up to the peak of the story line, giving the reader a sense of ease, and comfort, before things quickly go wrong leaving us with a sense of shock and surprise, making Joe’s circumstances all the more terrifying. Another technique is how often Joe mentions death, leaving us completely devoid of any hope that he will pull through, he even calls his leg a “a death sentence”, this is so when he does have small victories and starts to make progress it feels triumphant. The dialogue is changed between Joe and Simon from the moment Joe hurts his leg. Simon avoids speaking unless necessary, and when he does it is without emotion, or the joking tone that he and Joe had before. Simon turns into a calculated person, and he know straight away that the chances of both of them making it off the mountain are slim to none. This gives us a further insight to Simon’s character, that while he is a guy who loves to joke around he can also be come serious and calculating if the situation calls for it.
Joe interviewed Simon about his experiences in sections of their journey on Siula Grande and recounted what he believed to be Simon’s perspective of these experiences. Simon said that these recounts were accurate to his thoughts and feelings.
What is the purpose of including Simon’s narration when Joe shatters his knee-joint? Identify specific quotations that reveal important information about Simon and Joe’s changing relationship, through Simon’s narration.
How do some of these details (from Simon’s narration) foreshadow what will happen later in the text? What do you anticipate Simon will do in these difficult circumstances?
Simon’s point of view is essential to telling an accurate account of their climb of Siula Grande. It gives us a different perspective and gives us and idea of why Simon did things the way he did. Without that perspective we would be missing a very important part of the recount. It is important also because it tells us that even though Simon was distant and cold with Joe hurt his leg he had reasons, it keeps Simon from being crucified by people who read this book, and giving the reader an opportunity to think if they would react as calmly and as efficiently as Simon did in that situation.
Simon’s perspective gives us several clues on what will happen in the rest of the book, for example when he says “I accepted without question that I would make it off this mountain alone” giving us the idea that no matter what Simon wont be finishing the climb with Joe, but rather by himself. Simon also says “Below him I could see thousands of feet of open space falling into the eastern glacier bay. I watched him quite dispassionately. I couldn’t help him, and it occurred to me that in all likelihood he would fall to his death” This tells us that there is little Simon can do to help Joe, and makes us think about if Simon will be able to save Joe from falling later on in the book.