1.1 written text essay

Question – describe at least one important technique used in the written text explain how this technique helped you to understand one or more key ideas


In the non-fiction text Touching the Void written by Joe Simpson, a language important technique of symbolism was used to help me understand the key ideas of trust, trust broken and perseverance. The objects that were symbolised were the rope and the voice. The rope symbolised both trust and trust broken because of both the physical and symbolic connection that it provides between the two men. The voice symbolised perseverance because it is what motivated Joe to not give up, even when there seemed to be no hope left. These symbols teach the reader about human nature by showing the reader the human traits of taking risks, self-preservation and our will to survive.

The symbol of the rope was used to show the key ideas of trust throughout the text, particularly in the sections where Joe talks of past mountaineering experiences.  Joe and Simon fully depend on, and totally trust one another. This is symbolized by the rope because when they rope up together, they give each other both security and safety. This is referenced in the text when Joe talks of his life previously being saved by being roped to another climbing partner: “We hung on that fragile rope for twelve formidable hours…Eventually our shouts were heard and a rescue helicopter succeeded in plucking us from the wall.” When Simon and Joe rope up together they are also putting their lives in each other’s hands; this is referenced when Joe talks about a pair of climbers falling down a mountain still roped together: ”He had seen the falling leader jerk and twist and, without a sound, pull his partner into the void…The two men plunged down, roped together, helpless.” The symbolism of the rope in these quotes helps the reader understand the key idea of trust. This is because when the two men rope up together, they perform what could be considered the greatest act of trust possible – putting your life in someone else’s hands. By both men knowing about the dangers and securities of roping up, they accept the risk because they value the reward enough. This speaks volumes about human nature; humans have a tendency to risk their lives for no other reward than to win, be the best or be the first. We take these risks because the feeling we get when we reach the top is greater than the risk we have to take, even if this risk means death.

Another key Idea that is symbolised by the rope is the key idea of trust broken. Trust between Joe and Simon is broken when the rope that connects and provides safety to them is cut.  The rope is cut by Simon after Joe is lowered accidentally over the edge of a large cliff during the descent of Siula Grande. He is lowered down the mountain by Simon as he has a broken leg and cannot abseil himself. However, because of the darkness and the storm, Simon has no idea that he is lowering Joe over a deadly drop. After Joe spends a while hanging over the void Simon realises that he will be pulled off the mountain and killed if he doesn’t seal Joe’s fate by cutting the rope. The reader can tell that the rope symbolizes broken trust because when the rope is cut, the trust between Joe and Simon is broken and Joe falls into the void.  Simon makes the decision to cut the rope after he realises that if he does not he will be pulled off the mountain. The breaking of trust is shown after Joe falls into the crevasse and finds the cut rope: “I drew the slack rope to me, and stared at the frayed end. Cut! I couldn’t take my eyes from it.” For trust to be broken it has to exist in the first place. When we see Joe’s reaction we know that trust was broken therefore we know that trust existed between the two men prior. This is significant because in the climbing community it is taboo to even think about cutting the rope – The most vital piece of equipment in for climbing. This is backed up by Simon saying: “No-one cuts the rope” when he is guilt tripping himself for doing just that. So when Joe’s rope is cut, Simon not only a breaks trust with Joe, he also breaks the trust of climbers in general; no-one wants to climb with the guy who cut his partner’s rope. Simon’s actions in cutting the rope, knowing that it would kill Joe, tell us something about human nature. By Simon cutting Joe’s rope he is doing something embedded in human nature which is self-preservation.  He values his life over Joe’s and is willing to sacrifice Joe to save himself. What is ironic about this is that by cutting the rope, Simon actually saves both his and Joe’s lives by disregarding Joe’s.

In Touching the Void, a symbolism of the voice is also used to help the reader understand the key idea of perseverance. When Joe is crawling back down the mountain after escaping death, more than once he is confronted by a voice inside his head. The voice is constantly telling him to keep going, to survive. When Joe’s own mind has lost the ability to control his actions the voice directs him on how to survive, this shown when Joe says: “the voice told me exactly how to go about it, and I obeyed while my other mind jumped abstractly from one idea to another.” Another quote that shows Joe’s subconscious determination and perseverance is:” so long as I obeyed the voice I would be alright   …then look at my watch, the voice told me to reach that point in half an hour. The voice is a display of perseverance because although Joe is hallucinating, injured and near death, he still never gives up subconsciously, somewhere in the back of his brain there is still fight left. This can teach the reader something about human nature, about not giving up, about the will to survive. Joe’s example shows that when we persist, whether it be conscious or subconscious, we can survive. The voice inside Joe’s head may be internal self-talk, acute stress response(fight or flight) or a combination of the two. internal self-talk is where someone talks to themselves silently as if they were talking to another person. for example Joe talks about the voice telling him to keep crawling; if this were internal self-talk the voice would have been Joe talking to himself. it is likely that the voice was internal self-talk as self-talk has been shown to influence behaviour: “this internal dialogue can influence our feelings and behaviours.” – (Dr Alice Domar PhD, Clinical Psychologist). On the other hand acute stress response, a.k.a flight or fight is reaction deeply embedded in human nature. Fight or flight is where your body instinctively responds to a situation by getting ready to either fight the threat or to run from it. in Joe’s situation it could be that Joe’s instincts what is telling him what to do, the voice could just be part of his hallucination. In my opinion in Joe’s situation, it is a mixture of the two, this is probably why Joe survived.

In the non-fiction text Touching the Void written by Joe Simpson, a language important technique of symbolism was used to help me understand the key ideas of trust, trust broken and perseverance. The objects that were symbolised were the rope and the voice. In this essay, I discussed how the key I ideas of trust, trust broken and perseverance were symbolised by the rope and the voice as well as talking about how these key ideas relate to human nature.  and the In the non-fiction text Touching the Void written by Joe Simpson, a language important technique of symbolism was used to help me understand the key ideas of trust, trust broken and perseverance. The objects that were symbolised were the rope and the voice.
What the reader learns is that the key ideas symbolised by the rope and the voice are closely related to certain aspects of human nature. the key idea if trust which is symbolised by the rope is closely related to taking risks in human nature. The key idea of trust broken is closely related to the aspect of self-survival. Finally, the key idea of perseverance is closely related to the will to survive.


Rivers are not just large magnificent bodies of water but are also the veins of the earth. Dams are like blood clots, they block the natural flow of the river, they block a steady flow of cash that depends on the river, they destroy the environment and disturb people’s livelihood. If a dam is like a blood clot for our planet then why are we so keen to create them? Because they are “Green” which means they have less carbon emissions than traditional energy sources. Hydroelectricity might be the most renewable and green source of energy in the world but the environmental and social impact that is created means alternative energy sources are necessary. There are three main issues with hydropower dams, firstly dams have a huge environmental impact to the surrounding area. Second, the social impact on people living in the area which the dam affects. Thirdly, the recreational impacts which affect all river users.

The social or cultural impact that dams have is just one of the reasons we need to find alternative energy sources. How would you feel if you were told that your family, your house, your community, everything you know had no choice but to move? How would you feel if you found out that your local landscape would be gone in a matter of years, flooded by an enormous reservoir that a new hydro-dam would create? This was a reality for more than 1.24 million people in Yiling district in China when the Three Gorges Dam was constructed in 2003. 13 cities 140 towns and 1350 small villages were forced to shift due to a reservoir with a surface area 40 times larger than the Wanaka area. It is estimated that 40-80 million people have been displaced worldwide by dams ever. What I still struggle to understand is how any company or government could justify the creation of something like a dam. It seems absurd that any one company could dictate such a massive impact on so many people’s lives Another group of people that are affected when a dam is built are the people who live downstream. Imagine that a stream run through both you and your neighbors property and you both relied on the stream for food water, everything. If your neighbor built a dam on their section of the river and stopped your flow, how would you feel? What would you do? What could you do? This exact scenario is happening on a large scale right now. On the Mekong river in south east asia a small country called Laos are building dams, blocking the mekong and stopping the flow that Vietnam’s delta region utterly depends on. In many cases the people who live along the river bank rely on the river to cook, clean, farm and drink; When a dam is built both the consistent flow and regular floods are stopped which affects all regions downstream. The Delta region of the Mekong river in Vietnam is now lacking vital nutrient-rich sediment which is brought during the flood each year. This is because of the dams that have been built upstream by another country. The Mekong Delta is one of the most productive and densely populated areas of Vietnam, home to 18 million people it produces 50% of the country’s staple food crops and 90% of the rice exports. Scientists have warned that 27% of Vietnam’s GDP could be gone in the next twenty years if daming on the Mekong continues. A large portion of the country relies on the delta, taking away such a precious resource will result in Vietnam becoming a significantly poorer country.  Damming of rivers affects so many people who depend on them and it needs to stop.

Hydro-power is good for the environment right? Then you would be surprised to hear that one of my main reasons against having dams is their environmental impact. It’s not the carbon emission that threaten the environment but the habitat destruction that incurs when a dam is built. When a dam is built it can disrupt entire ecosystems, wipe out trees and plants and kill the many animals that live in the area affected.  Large dams can lead to the extinction of many fish, the disappearance of birds in floodplains, huge losses of forest, wetland and farmland, erosion of coastal deltas, and many other major impacts. The deaths of these animals and plants happen for many reasons but they all lead back to the creation of the dam. Firstly, when a dam is built the reservoir that is created by the dam destroys the habitat for all the creatures living there; It is important to note that it is almost impossible to predict the reservoirs size and depth. The creation of a dam is a destructive force against the ecosystems in its way. A local example of habitat destruction caused by dams is the Cromwell Chafer Beetle Nature Reserve which lies between Bannockburn and Cromwell. It is the only reserve in the world that was specifically created to protect invertebrates. This reserve was created because of the clyde dam and lake dunstan destroying the beetles habitat. If the beetles were not moved when lake dunstan was filled it would have extincted the chafer beetle. This is a good example of dams destroying wildlife and their habitats.again the end effect of the dam is that a corporation can walk right over anything in its way and let someone or something else deal with the consequences. The damming of rivers and the destruction of animals habitats has to stop before it is to late.

The final group that is affected by the damming of rivers is recreational river users. Everyone from kayakers to fisherman to rafters is affected by a dammed river. A good example is in Uganda on the White Nile. Uganda’s main source of income is tourism and the tourist attraction voted most popular is about to be forced out of business to the damming of the Nile. The White Nile has some of the most spectacular whitewater in the world and is sought after by kayakers and rafters from all over. Rafting on the white nile is one of Uganda’s most famous tourist attractions. Maybe it’s the sheer beauty of the river or perhaps the adrenaline of riding down the wild roller coaster that is the white nile.  As soon as august this year many amazing rapids will be flooded by the creation of the Isimba dam. Kayaking and rafting in Uganda is more than a passion, it is a way of life. If you can learn to kayak in Uganda it means a reliable job as a guide however taking away the amazing river will result in financial instability for all who depend on the river. A local example of the same thing is the hawea wave. How is that the same thing? Before the Clyde dam was constructed there used to be large rapids in the Cromwell gap. The Hawea wave which I’m sure you all know of. Was constructed due to a legal battle between kayakers and Contact energy to get compensation for the river that was destroyed by the dam.


Companies seem to be able to walk all over millions of people to build hydro schemes and ruin the rivers for everyone which is why it needs to stop. If something isn’t done soon to stop these damned dams then we will lose some of the most magnificent, powerful and life-bringing pieces of our planet. In conclusion we need to find alternative energy sources and stop locking our rivers, this is because of the environmental, social and recreational impact that i have just talked about.

Say no to dams



chapter 7

contrast is used in the text to show Joe’s conflicting feelings and experiences. the contrast between two things shows the differences between two different ideas, for example, dark and light and life and death.

In the text, the rope that connects the two men represents a bigger connection, It represents their strong bond, their friendship, their trust in each other with their lives. when the rope is cut these bonds disappear, the power that the bond that the rope represents is lost

chapter 9

  1. When Joe sees the light he literally ‘sees the light’.  When he looks up from the dark cold ice prison that is the crevasse he sees ‘the light at the end of the tunnel’, a hole at the end of the crevasse. Suddenly he goes from having given up hope, to having energy and enthusiasm. For Joe, the light symbolizes life, if he can reach the light he can escape the void. Seeing the light really is a turning point for Joe’s attitude towards his situation, It makes him extremely optimistic which helps him not give up.
  2. The other symbolism in the text is the Voice. the Voice controls Joe and tells him what to do. It guides him back to base camp and gives him the motivation to keep going and survive. I think that the voice represents Joes primal survival instincts and his optimistic side as it gives him hope. an example of this is:

Disaster – Chapter five

When Joe shatters his knee joint, it is one of the most climactic moments in the text.  Joe uses descriptive language and writing style techniques to draw the reader into the moment and to portray the immense pain he is going through.  The first sentence describing his accident is short and sharp and sets a high tempo to the event.”I felt a shattering blow, felt bones splitting and screamed.” this sentence puts the readers in the moment, this is important because it lets the readers feel the pain that the men are going through.  Another technique that Joe uses is repetition, “A fierce burning ball of fire coming from inside my thigh”, the fireball rushed from groin to knee”, “pouring on fire”. The repetition of the word fire lets the reader feel the ‘burning’ pain and draws them into the action.

Joe interviews Simon and includes his perspective in his book, he does this to show a different perspective of the action

On The Edge

The words “On The Edge” is a pun that can be viewed from many alternative aspects, this includes the literal meaning as in On a cliff face, it could also mean that they are ‘on edge ‘ and also mentally On the Edge. These are all displayed in the chapter.

Foreshadowing is one of the main language features used by Joe, this creates a tension because of the way it makes the reader think about the future forever wondering what will happen later in the text, for example, “I sensed that something would happen without understanding quite what it would be”. this gives the reader something to think about

Reaching the Summit of Siula Grande

These lines are included in the text as a sort of foreshadowing of things to come. Joe talks about coming up with harder more dangerous ambitions each time the last one is achieved what is to say that this adventure is the one that pushes the boundaries too much

Tempting Fate – Chapter 2

In chapter 2 of Touching the Void Simon and Joe have a very strong relationship which is why the climb together so well.  Although it is an unspoken thing both of them know that without the other they would be in trouble; they seem to have a full trust in the others abilities, they know each other’s limits and rely on their collective skills to overcome all obstacles or challenges in their path.one quote from chapter 2 that portrays this particularly well is: “I watched Simon’s progress, now agonisingly slow and hunched up, my hair bristling at the thought of a cornice collapse. I followed him as fast as I could. He too had realised the danger.”  The environment that Simon and Joe have to cope with in chapter two is full of danger and small challenges to overcome.  However, they act together always and struggle through to survive. at the end of chapter two, we learn about Joe past experiences which are similar to his current environment. this lets us know that he has the ability and the mindset to cope with situations like the one he is in.

The Role of the author and initial Characteriation

  1. To me the quote: “The dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.” means that people who live their dreams are dangerous because the things that they do are things that we only dream of.
  2. Based on the opening pages of Touching the Void my initial impression of Joe Simpson (author) are that he is a man who can find comfort and safety in extreme situations. An example of this is when he says “ We were in the middle of the Cordillera Huayhuash, in the Peruvian Andes, separated from the nearest village by 28 miles of rough walking, and surrounded by the most spectacular ring of ice mountains I had ever seen, and the only indication of this from within our tent was the regular roaring of avalanches falling of Cerro Sarapo. I felt a homely affection and a warm security of the tent..”
  3. Firstly we can tell that Joe and Simon have a strong bond because Joe mentions that there would be few other people that he could have coped with for so long. They also seem to be able to joke with each other. Although they are very evenly matched Joe also seems to look up to Simon
  4. Richard was described by Joe as an avid adventurer and explorer, someone who drifted in the wind as such; going wherever the world took him. As far as it’s revealed in the text joe doesn’t think much of Richard as he offers nothing to him however he seems contempt to keep him around to look after the gear and camp.
  5. The distance from civilization is significant because if something were to happen to one of the climbers it would be hard to walk out, the prase is a distinct foreshadowing of something waiting to happen.
  6. Throughout the book, Joe seems to chant one phrase or another in his mind as it is a way for him to focus on the task at hand without being distracted by uncomfortable sensations like hunger, cold and pain. It also probably makes him think and focus on his goals such as reaching the summit.

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Chris Waugh