Monday, March 4, 2013


One part of this account that stood out to me was the obvious detachment that both Simpson and Yates felt about their individual situations on the mountain. Besides leading me to think about what I would have done if I had been in their positions and if I would have experienced similar emotions or lack thereof (which is a completely separate blog post), I noticed how their detached feelings evolved throughout their story and served as survival mechanisms. For Yates, most likely the harsh environment he was in, coupled with the physical and emotional stresses he had experienced led to him viewing Simpson as "a vaguely recollected memory" (149). This detachment was necessary for his own survival. If he had not been able to put aside more consuming emotions, he might not have been able to do what he needed to do to survive himself and descend successfully. His affirmation that he did the right thing contributed to his ability to put ignore other emotions. His detachment must also be attributed to the complete removal of outside influences on the mountain. For example, it is primarily when he expands his thoughts to consider what people would think when he returned home that he acknowledges his feelings of guilt and contemplates his culpability.

Simpson experiences his own feelings of detachment. As he said, "I would probably die out there amid those boulders. The thought didn't alarm me. It seemed reasonable, matter-of-fact" (140). This detachment ended up giving him a heightened perspective that he had never quite experienced before: "I looked ahead at the land stretching into distant haze and saw my part in it with a greater clarity and honesty than I had ever experienced before" (140). Simpson details his agonizing descent down the mountain very vividly, yet he doesn't spend much time discussing a fear of death that looms so closely. If he had been consumed by the sorrow of his near-death experience, he might not have been able to listen to the voice inside his head urging him to just keep on moving. He ignored most thoughts besides physical pain and the nagging will to live.

Even ten years after the incident, Simpson still felt detached. When he returned to Peru to film for the movie he said "I seemed to be hearing all this from a distance" (207). However, "telling and retelling the Void story...proved to be a good treatment" for his detachment and post-traumatic stress disorder; "with each telling of [the] real story it gradually becomes a fiction, becomes someone else's experience, and [he could] separate [himself] from the trauma" (213). Yet by separating himself from the event, he continued to detach himself from what happened. As he said in the epilogue, "Isn't memory a wonderful deceiver?" (215) So, detachment allowed Simpson and Yates to survive, and evolving detachment proves a continual coping mechanism.

1 comment:

  1. I feel that the detachment that is so prevalent in this book is mostly a coping mechanism. Though this is a bad, horribly insignificant comparison, this ordeal was like going on a long run. The whole time all you can thin about is how much it hurts and how badly you want to stop, but as soon as it is all over that pain and discomfort is all just a distant memory. While it is happening it seems like the world is ending, but once it is over it is something that has been overcome and feels a little bit smaller in our minds. And like when Simpson returns to Peru to film the movie, it doesn't feel the same when you drive by your running route. Our minds do not allow us to relive such a traumatic event every time that we are reminded of it because it would then become a something truly unbearable. Simpson is detached because he has to be, if he is not it is as if the experience has broken him.