21st June 2018


Describe at least one important technique used in the written text:
explain how this technique helped you to understand one or more key ideas.


“….The dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.” Joe and Simon, are dreamers of the day. Their dream being, to climb Siula grande. But is this mountain worth running the risk of losing a friendship, or even a life? “ Touching the Void”, By Joe Simpson tells the story of Joe Simpson and Simon Yates journey up and down the face of Siula Grande. Through this story, we are able to examine many language techniques. 2 specific language techniques that help show key ideas in this text is symbolism and foreshadowing. These techniques are able to show us as readers the concept of the environment the characters are in, and also teach us valuable lessons we can take back into the real world.


The first technique used in this written text of ” Touching The Void” is shown through the idea of symbolism. Symbolism is a significant language technique that uses a concrete noun to represent/express an emotion or belief. Throughout the text, symbolism is strategically used to bring additional meaning to the literal meaning of a scenario. The affect this language technique has on “Touching The Void” is impacting, as it gives the reader a deeper understanding of the current events and emotions that happen in this novel. A specific object that Joe Simpson uses through symbolism in this text is “The Rope”. The rope throughout the text was a safety blanket that kept the two climbers safe, and prevented them falling off the mountain and into the void. At one point, the sturdy rope was the only thing keeping Joe and Simon alive. An example of the ropes significant input in this novel involves the scene where Joe was fatally hanging in thin air after falling over the edge of the mountain. Simon was connected at the opposite end of the rope, sitting in a dug out snow hole trying to haul his friend back up to safety. “Simon had managed to hold the impact of my body suddenly coming on to the rope…I was hanging in free space.” The rope in this scenario instantly has a greater and more powerful meaning than being just a “rope”. The idea that the men are on either side of the rope, forcefully battling for survival, suggests that this object has become a life line. An umbilical cord that shouldn’t be cut. But like all things in life, things can come to a sudden turn of events, and what was once portrayed as a positive and necessary commodity for survival – is now an object that is gambling with the men’s lives. “Either he would die in his seat, or be pulled from it by the constant strain of my body.” “I wondered if I would die before this happened”. This quote from Joe as he is hanging above his fait, shows the idea that both men couldn’t come out of this situation alive. One of them wouldn’t survive. This quote instantly shows that the life line has now become a death sentence. What was once a guardianship for the men’s life, is now a simple piece of material that could kill them in no time at all. The rope presents a contrast between life and death. Without the rope connecting Joe and Simon together, they wouldn’t have survived the unfortunate falls and accidents that happened along the way; but being connected together at this point has lead them to a formidable fate, where the outcome is seen as pessimistic with whatever direction it takes.     The rope helps create further ideas and understandings for the reader to comprehend. With a situation as dangerous as this one, would you be okay with putting your life’s destiny in the hands of a simple object like this one? Through the ropes symbolism we are given the ability to find our own perspective on the ropes signifiants, as well as the outlook of the men’s situation. We can either see the rope as a negative or positive object. Either something that is keeping the men alive and holding them together, or a death trap that can only have one outcome. We as readers are able to make that choice. The authors technique of using symbolism through the rope leads us to the idea of life in itself. It teaches us of the ups and downs, the negatives and positives that life brings to us. Just like the rope, we decide what outlook on life we have. Whether it is a positive or negative one. It shows us the contrast of life, the difference between good and bad situations, and what choices we can make upon them. The idea of the ” rope” can also be a representation of the two characters relationship. When Joe was hanging over the ledge, the rope had no slack. You could describe it as being tight. You could also describe Joe and Simons relationship as “tight”. This idea states that the rope is also symbolising the men’s friendship. Joe and Simon, when attached to this rope, were accountable for each other. Keeping the rope tight meant keeping them alive, somewhat like keeping their relationship “tight” would also keep the men alive. It shows the importance of being able to communicate and agree on decisions with a partner when on an expedition as dangerous as this one. Therefore Joe and Simon’s attitude towards each other would have to be kept intact if they wanted to conquer this mountain alive. But what if the two men were not always able to see eye to eye? This idea is backed up by the evidence of how Joe and Simon became frustrated with each other earlier in the book.“We had got angry enough with each other today, and more of the same wouldn’t help.” While there relationship was being hindered by the fatigue and stress the mountain was applying, Joe broke his leg in an inhumane fall. This scenario in the long run, is the reason the men got into the situation of life and death. “I’ve broken my leg, that’s it. I’m dead… a broken ankle could turn into a death sentence…” The symbolism of the rope as it represents the relationship between Joe and Simon is an important concept that has been weaved throughout the whole novel of Touching the Void. This idea gives the reader a much clearer view point of the scenario where Joe is hanging over a crevasse, being held up by Simon above. With the rope being used as a form of symbolism, we as readers are able to link the idea of relationships and survival together. It helps us comprehend how the relationship between two people can have a much wider effect on an event or scenario. When Joe and Simon were frustrated and irritable with each other, there descent turned into a uproar of disasters. This shows how the idea of communication and civilness is so important in our everyday lives. To be able to communicate with peers and associates around you is such an important interpersonal skill to have, as we are shown that without communication and teamwork, things can take a turn for the worst very quickly. The rope teaches us as readers this important lesson that we can take back into our own lives. The rope is seen as the link between Joe and Simon, the thing that is keeping them together, the anchor of their relationship; and if their relationship is hanging by a strand, so are the men.

My second language technique that has been included in “ Touching The Void” is the use of foreshadowing. This technique has been integrated and seen through the whole text and is used to build tension and anticipation for the readers. Foreshadowing is a common language technique that gives details to the text that will indicate what is to come later on. A great example of foreshadowing is seen right at the start of the novel, where Joe and Simon are set at their base camp, 28 miles from the closest village, surrounded in isolation. Joe and Simon spend time preparing for their intrepid venture up the west face of Siula Grande, while Richard (a young traveller they picked up on the way) watched and waited to say goodbye. The use of foreshadowing in this section of text was used to describe the journey ahead, and to give us hints as to what was to come, even if the characters didn’t know it at the time. “What if something went wrong? “It wouldn’t take much to kill us off. “I saw how much alone we had chosen to be, and felt small”. This quote gives us the idea that Joe is creating tension for us as readers, as he refers to his wildering anxiety and doubts about what he is about to do. Joe tells us he is feeling worried, but doesn’t know why. This quote is also foreshadowing in another way. The quote states “ I saw how alone we had chosen to be”. The key word here being chosen. This indicates how further into the text Joe is again just as lonely, but this time it is not by choice. The way Joe presented himself to be anxious about what Siula grande will be like, suggest the idea that something is giving him a bad feeling about this trip. We can understand this as readers because we relate with the idea of your “ gut instinct”. This relates back to us as it is a saying that is used in our everyday society. To “ trust your gut instinct” is a foreshadowing technique in itself. So when Joe is describing his doubts and worries during his preparation for the climb, it sets off a negative atmosphere for the reader. Joe’s doubt infectiously rubs off on his readers, and now we are thinking of what could be on the horizon as well. This section of the text is a great example of foreshadowing. It makes readers look deeper into the context, and even helps us to grasp a deeper understanding of the feelings and atmosphere that was surrounding the characters at this moment in time. We can understand that the atmosphere may have been dull, as the alarming fate of Joe and Simon was hanging heavily above their heads.


A second section of the text that presents the language technique of foreshadowing is shown through the middle part of the text. This section describes a repeated amount of falls that Joe and Simon are involved in, while trying to descend Siula Grande. The mini falls that joe describes throughout there descent is a way of creating anticipation for the big fall later on. “ I shivered at the thought of what had happened if I had moved up with him- it would have taken both of us… I was hanging thirty feet above the ridge line… when I finally got up I heard you shouting… I was nearly too tired to answer.” At the beginning of there descent, Simon falls through a cornice of snow when trying to get to the ridge. This near death experience was a wakeup call for the men, as they soon realise that the descent may not be as quick and easy as they thought. This quote is a great representation of just one of many falls that Joe and Simon got themselves into. Foreshadowing is used here as a way of preparing the readers for what’s to come. It gives us a taste of the atmosphere and emotions that are being felt by the climbers when they experience life threatening falls like this one. The author portrays an atmosphere that is tense and exhilarating, leaving the readers wanting to know what happens next. Another example of a defeating fall on the descent of Siula Grande is the daughnting moment when Joe breaks his leg. It is at this moment where we as readers readers grasp the understanding that things are literally going down hill. When Joe breaks his leg he immediately thinks the worst, that this is the end.” dying had seemed so far away, yet now everything was tinged with it.” This foreshadows the events that are soon to come as a hurdle like this one can only make the journey home even tougher. “ If I tried to get him down I might die with him”. This quote describes Simons thoughts as he processes the fact that Joe is now incapable of getting of this mountain alone. It foreshadows the big moment later on in the text when Simon finds himself on the verge of death, trying to help Joe get down. These thoughts and feelings that the two men share leave the reader with a bad feeling about the next stages of the book. Joe Simpson has managed to get inside the readers head and make us feel a sense of empathy for the men as they are situated in an impossible scenario, that we as readers couldn’t even begin to describe. These quotes teach the readers of the intensity of the environment and the scenario that Joe and Simon are in. we are able to understand how extreme and violent this mountain has become, helping us feel a sense of empathy for the characters. The technique of foreshadowing teaches us as readers about the author himself. We learn that Joe Simpson has focused more on how the disaster (Simon cutting the rope, leaving Joe to die) had occurred, rather than the disaster itself. This technique enables Joe to go deeper into the minds of the characters in the text, which then shows the readers a deeper side of Joe and Simon’s thoughts and feelings. By letting the reader get this close to the characters, it lets us feel the feelings of tension, fear and anticipation for ourselves.


The techniques of symbolism and foreshadowing that has been integrated into the novel of “Touching the Void”, by Joe Simpson, has left us with a much deeper understanding of the book itself. By the authors ability to show symbolism through the object of the rope, we are taught important lessons about the idea of contrast. Symbolism in this novel not only gave us an insight on the environment and setting in the book, but we were given the chance to have our own opinion on the significance of the “rope”, whether it was a positive or negative object that affected the men’s journey.We were also able to take the use of symbolism and create a life lesson that we could take back into the real world. It showed us the contrast that life can sometimes bring to us, and taught us about the power that we hold to choose what sort of out look we have on certain situations that may come our way. The way symbolism was used throughout this text was justified by the way readers were able to understand the characters on a deeper level. Imagine putting your life into the hands of an object. We may see this as something hard to imagine, as most of us wouldn’t have been in that situation before, therefore we can not relate.  But with the help of symbolism we are able to understand just that little bit more, about the brutality of the Joe and Simon’s journey. My other language feature that I have listed is the use of foreshadowing. Foreshadowing for me was one of the main techniques in this text that was able to present us with some very valuable and key ideas. Just like symbolism, foreshadowing was scattered throughout the whole novel, and was a way of creating anticipation and tension for us as readers, and Joe and Simon neared the stage of there “ Big fall”. Foreshadowing was used through the start of the text, as it explained the mens ( particularly Joes) thoughts and worries about climbing the west Face of Siula Grande. Joe’s thoughts and negative vibes about the mountain enabled us to feel the same atmosphere that the characters may have felt. We were able to see just how dangerous their journey was going to be, and what might possibly go wrong along the way. Foreshadowing was also used in the middle part of the novel, as we were told about many falls that the men had while trying to descend. This included the idea of foreshadowing as we learnt about the tension that the author was trying to lead on. It gives us the idea that Joe Simpson was able to confide in the idea of making us focus more on how the disaster happened than what actually did happen. This idea became important as it peeled back further layers of the author and the characters of the book, giving us a more significant idea of Joe and Simon’s thoughts and feelings. Overall these 2 language techniques showed us as readers a deep and insightful look into the setting and characters of the book, but also presented key ideas that readers can take back into the outside world after reading “ Touching the Void”.  

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  1. Hi Meg. There are some impacting judgements in this essay – Well done. Because the essay is so long, I would advise that you only focus on one to two points (maximum) in your exam (although you will have different essay tasks to choose from).

    When looking at THIS practice essay, consider how you could edit it down. For example, your first point really begins: ‘A specific object that Joe Simpson uses through symbolism in this text is “The Rope”.’
    – Have a read through and find other places where definitions, or general summaries of the effect of techniques is not needed. There is also some repetition of ideas here.
    – Also, look for “shifts’ in your points to create new paragraphs.
    * Please speak with me if you have any questions.


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