Monday, March 4, 2013

That "Voice"

In class the other day we briefly discussed what pushed climbers to that next level. In this case for Joe, that next level was fighting for survival on his last limbs, no pun intended. Throughout the course this idea of internal struggle and emotional strength and in some cases weakness has interested me. Prior to the disaster, Joe says, "for the first time in my life I knew what it meant to be isolated from people and society. It was wonderfully calming and tranquil to be here. I became aware of a feeling of complete freedom – to do what I wanted to do when I wanted to, and in whatever manner” (21). However, after the disaster the battle for survival revealed the nightmares of reality. 

This wonderfully and calming feeling of isolation soon became a living nightmare for both Joe and Simon. My question is, what is this voice Simon is confronted with during times of intense isolation? Identifying this voice in difficult and opinions will vary. Personally, I think it is greater than a conscience, more powerful than those voices inside his head. This was that next push, that faithful hope speaking out. For Joe, the voice was overwhelming at times; however, to look back on the disaster the voice is what was ultimately responsible for his survival. At some points, the voice is "irritating" and disturbing", but at others it could not be more welcoming. On page 144, Joe "tried to ignore the voice, which urged me to move, but couldn’t because the other voices had gone. I couldn’t lose the voice in daydreams". It provided a sense of not being along. When all other options were eliminated, this voice provided the only stability and sense of hope for Joe and guided him to survival. 



  1. I also saw a parallel to the way that Yates reacted when he had to make the difficult decision to cut the rope. In the aftermath of the incident, Yates says that he acted in a calm way and without almost any emotion. I see this as similar to the voice that Simpson heard in his head. Yates shuts off some part of his brain in the same way that Simon did.

  2. Sorry, Baylis, I'm not going to answer your question at all, but I just really liked your point regarding the sudden change in the connotation of isolation. I think one of the major contributing factors to this shift is the forced change of plan, and the loss of control that signifies. Isolation on the mountain is all well and good until you have a broken leg and might be left behind. When disaster strikes - whether it be a broken leg or a lack of kerosene or deviating from the planned route - straying from the planned expedition is a big part of what makes isolation become terrifying rather than clarifying. Even when they were still together, Joe and Simon experienced this dreadful sort of isolation as they coped with Joe's injury individually. I guess my question is this: Can you experience clarifying isolation without the risk of terrifying isolation? Or is that positive, revelatory feeling reserved for such extreme climates that the dangers of deviating from the plan and nearly dying become intrinsic elements of the experience?