Monday, February 3, 2014
In the final chapter, as Herzog is presented with the “Gurkha Right Hand” for valor, the Maharajah comments “You are a brave man, and we welcome you here as a brave man” (308). Merriam-Webster’s Encyclopedia defines bravery as “the quality that allows someone to do things that are dangerous or frightening.” Following in line with this explanation, there is no doubt that Herzog was, in fact brave. Interestingly enough, however, just a few lines below this short encyclopedia entry is another definition of bravery, stating that it is a “showy display.” Does this not, also, describe Herzog’s actions? Many of the earlier posts touch on whether Herzog should have continued to the summit of Annapurna, even with the odds wildly against him. However, with sound determination, there was little to shake him from completing what he later describes as the “ideal” – summiting Annapurna had been seen as an unreachable goal and Herzog shattered this belief (311). Yet, the question remains, did Herzog continue his traverse to truly accomplish this goal or, was he wrapped-up in reaching the ideal simply to be able to say that he had done it?
On the last page of the book, Herzog, reflecting on his emotions on his flight homeward, states that as he walks down the ladder exiting the plan, “all those friendly eyes looking at us with such pity, would at once tear aside the masks behind which we had sheltered. We were not to be pitied – and yet, the tears in those eyes and the expressions of distress, would suddenly bring me face to face with reality” (311). While previously in the account, Herzog mentions how close he had come to death throughout various events that unfold, this is the only time he suggests that he did not want to be “pitied” for what had happen to them on the mountain. I take this comment as a reference to both his and Lachenal’s amputations and wounds and Herzog's lack of desire to be pitied for these injuries. However, this can be inferred in multiple ways: does Herzog not want his friends and family to feel pity for him because he fully understood the risk he was taking and continued onward regardless; or, is Herzog alluding to the idea that the risk was too great and, perhaps, should not have been taken at all, thus he feels he does not deserve their pity. This account raises a lot of interesting questions regarding what it means to be brave, the risks involved with displaying bravery, as well as when it is, perhaps, braver to retreat than to continue on.