Touching The Void Essay

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 “Touching The Void”  written by Joe Simpson; a story of survival in the Peruvian Andes after two young climbers, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, make the summit of Siula Grande and Joe breaks his leg; the language technique symbolism is key to understand the main elements of the story.  I will be discussing how the symbol of the rope helps us to understand how dependent humans are on each other, how the rope being cut shows Simon giving up on Joe, and how the burning of Joe’s clothes helps us understand Simons healing process.

Paragraph 1

At the start of the text, the rope represents interdependence and safety. During the beginning of the text both Joe and Simon rope together this is for safety as if one of them falls the other one can arrest their fall, this means that each member of the group relies on, or they are interdependent, each other. “One minute I was climbing, the next I was falling… I realized you had held my fall.” The symbol of the rope helps the reader to understand that climbers rely on each other to provide a level of safety. It shows the reader that we as humans rely on each other every day, sometimes for survival or sometimes for things as simple as a cup of coffee, but we can not live without the support of others.

Paragraph 2

The rope being cut helps the reader understand that Simon has given up on Joe. In the middle of the text during Simons attempt to lower Joe down the remainder of the mountain Joe is lowered off a cliff, Simon holds Joe for as long as he can but then without hesitation, he cuts the rope and allows Joe to fall to what Simon believes is his death. “His weight had gone from me.” The rope being cut helps the reader understand that Simon has given up on Joe because it shows the reader that Simon is willing to sacrifice Joe to save himself, which he would not be willing to do if he still was determined to save Joe. It teaches the reader that humans will always value their own lives over others.

Paragraph 3

Simon burning Joe’s clothes helps the reader to understand that Simon is ‘letting go’ of Joe. Nearing the end of the text the day after Simon has arrived at camp while he still believes Joe to be dead he and Richard, the third member of their group who remained at camp, burn Joes clothing and other items they aren’t going to give to his (Joes) parents. “I had to get things straight in my own mind before I could return… The healing process had started… I searched round the tent looking for the medicine box. It lay partly hidden by some of Joe’s clothes at the back of the tent. I threw it onto the grass outside and then sifted through his things, After fifteen minutes there was a pile of clothes and possessions lying in the sun by the medicines… I turned the pile of possessions and began sorting through them. I found his used film and zoom a lens in a plastic bag. It was a large bag so I gathered all the things I wanted to give to his parents and put them in as well… He fetched some petrol and we burnt the clothes in the river bed.”  This symbolizes Simons process of letting go or in other words coming to grips with his grief about Joe’s death. It is symbolized by the state of Joe’s clothes. Initially, they are ignored showing that Simon is in denial, the first stage of grief. Then Simon begins to move them out of the tent, symbolizing that his healing process is starting or coming his grief is coming out of the ‘tent’. Simon then begins to sort them into piles one of which is what he wants to give to Joe’s parents, this symbolizes that Simon has come to grips with facing Joes parents about their son’s death, he then burns the other pile symbolizing that his healing process is finished. This teaches us as the readers that ‘time heals all wounds’, that we as humans will eventually move through our problems and move on with our lives.


In “Touching The Void” written by Joe Simpson the language technique symbolism is key to helping the reader to understand key ideas. I have explained how it helps the reader to understand the key ideas of, the dependence each climber has on one another, how the bond between the climbers was broken and helps the reader to understand the healing process that is taking place for Simon.

One Reply to “Touching The Void Essay”

  1. Hi Liam. Well done for completing this practice essay.
    Some thoughts:
    – Complete your final judgements E.g. “but we can not live without the support of others” – have you completed your point here?
    – Your point about Simon cutting the rope is an interesting one; how had the rope changed from being a lifeline of trust? Are there additional factors that cause Simon to “give up” and “let go” of Joe?
    – I do like your point about the significance of “burning Joe’s clothes”, however, the quote for this point is very long. Would it be more effective to take parts of this quote and discuss them individually, stating what each shows?

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