1.1 Written Text Essay 2017 Question 3: Describe a place or time where a character felt very comfortable of uncomfortable in the written text.

Explain how techniques helped you to understand the character’s reaction.

Note: Techniques could include figures of speech, syntax, word choice, style, symbolism, structure, or narrative point of view.

In the book “Touching the Void”, written by Joe Simpson, Joe encounters a very uncomfortable moment when he shatters his knee joint. Joe sets out with his climbing partner, Simon Yates to climb an unclimbed route in the Peruvian Andes on the mountain Siula Grande. However, the two men are inexperienced and fail to take this factor into account. In addition, they are far from help. When things start to go wrong, they are put in an uncomfortable situation that possibly could have been avoided if help was nearby.  Joe, along with Simon are able to help the reader understand their reactions towards Joe’s leg break, as well as the difficult situation they are in, through the various language techniques they use. This includes foreshadowing, emotive language and personal perspective.

Joe foreshadows danger and discomfort in Chapter 3 – Storm at the Summit: “For the first time we could see the summit…it looked like bad weather was on the way.” Joe’s use of foreshadowing creates a negative atmosphere and gives the reader an idea that he and Simon are about to encounter struggle. Even though the two men are nearing the summit, they still have a whole climb ahead of them: the descent. Some may think the descent is easier than the ascent. However, most climbing accidents occur during the descent, so Joe and Simon are still far from safety. Joe also predicts bad weather, and this will test his and Simon’s skills to the absolute limit. Strong wind, heavy snow and flat light can suddenly change a pleasurable climb into a nightmare of an experience. Add in an injury, and there can be a potential disaster on your hands. As readers, the quote can teach us that in climbing, things can be going well, before a sudden change in weather can cause the situation to make a turn for the worse. It also shows us the human nature of predicting danger, a form of survival instinct so we can get ourselves to safety. Joe’s prediction of danger means he can be ready for facing adversity and think of how to manage the difficulty, so he can make the best decisions possible (e.g. picking the safest route down the mountain) while he is still in safety.

Joe shatters his knee joint during the descent in Chapter 5 – “Disaster”, and he describes the event with the use of emotive language. The injury puts both of them in a highly uncomfortable situation. This can be shown when Joe says: “I felt a shattering blow in my knee, felt bones splitting and screamed.” This quote puts the reader in ‘Joe’s shoes’ and the use of emotive language: “shattering, splitting and screamed” can make them empathise with his pain (ie. can imagine the pain in their own leg). I for one, found it interesting that Joe and Simon were both affected in different ways from this event. Simon is put in a position of immense responsibility, whilst Joe is in a state of extreme agony; affecting his physical abilities for climbing, as well as his mental abilities such as decision-making. Joe’s injury makes his leg practically useless and one could argue that Simon now has Joe’s life in his hands. This passage of the text shows that we can encounter moments of extreme pain and discomfort in our own lives, caused by being in an extreme environment. The quote particularly resonates with those who have broken their own leg. Joe’s injury also reflects the human’s reaction to pain: the emotion (shown with emotive language), the severity and the feeling of total weakness.  

In terms of climbing in a remote, mountainous environment, an injury as severe as a broken leg can often lead to death. Joe realises this, and uses his personal perspective to talk about the issue. “Dying had seemed so far away and yet now everything was tinged with it.” The language Joe uses shows his feelings towards the moment in his immediate thoughts of survival. The quote shows how suddenly one’s attitude can change when they are put in danger. Joe has been forced outside of his comfort zone, and climbing down Siula Grande has now become a fight for survival.

Simon uses his own personal perspective in the book to give the reader an idea about his initial thoughts towards Joe’s leg break. “You’re f**ked, matey. You’re dead…no two ways about it!” Simon’s immediate reaction on the situation they are in, comes across to the reader as very negative. Simon thinks Joe is going to die. His use of strong language also adds emphasis to his thoughts. This particular area of the text shows that when we see someone in a difficult situation, we can automatically think ‘that’s it’. It also shows us that our emotions can get in the way of our logical thinking. Simon becomes ruled by his emotions, and this means he is not able to think of any possible solutions to the issue at that present moment in time.

The book “Touching the Void”, by Joe Simpson shows how decisive an uncomfortable moment can be on a climber’s situation. This is highlighted when Joe shatters his knee joint. Joe’s injury puts him in an unfit physical state, and overalled by the pain, he struggles to make rational decisions. Simon is therefore put in a great deal of responsibility and becomes in charge of two lives rather than one. Joe shattering his knee joint teaches the reader that in the outdoors, things can happen when you least expect it. It also shows the reader the importance of being prepared in the event of a survival situation so immediate help can arrive. Joe and Simon failed to achieve this, which led to an uncomfortable situation that could have been avoided if the two men had planned ahead. Joe’s injury also has a lesson for all of us; it is often in human nature to think ‘everything will be fine’, before thinking about the possible risks around the situation – as if we imagine it will go away. For Joe and Simon, the risk became a reality, and therefore had to face the consequences. The author: Joe Simpson uses the language techniques mentioned to add significance to his, and Simon’s reaction of Joe shattering his knee joint.

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  1. Alex, overall this is an effective essay. Well done for including multiple judgements throughout the argument. It would be difficult to write an essay of this length in the exam so I would suggest leaving out least “Joe’s perspective” and the repetition of ideas in the conclusion. “Simon’s perspective” is a stronger example of purposeful language/structure to convey ideas, and a number of the judgements made in the conclusion have been stated or implied in the points. You will have to make the call on this. Well done for this prep.


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