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.

One Comment

  1. Hi James. Overall, your essay is very well-structured. Well done for including quotations throughout your points to solidify your ideas. You could consider editing some of the descriptions about what happens on the mountain to save time in the exam. Also, you could sacrifice your conclusion – there is nothing here that you have not already stated in your essay, so it may not be needed. You will have to see what essay topics you get and whether you need all of this information to answer the chosen topic.


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