Monday, February 24, 2014

Hypocrisy and the Father-Child Connection

I found Touching My Father’s Soul refreshing. I have had a tough time connecting to climber’s motives in the past books that we have read, but Norgay portrays his reasoning in a genuine and relatable manner. I admire his desire to connect with his father and appreciate how he clearly articulates his rationale for climbing Everest. While some climbers do not explore their drives for adventure, Norgay carefully discusses why he feels it necessary to risk his life on the mountain.

At the center of this drive lies the stressed relationship between Norgay and his father. Norgay makes a point of continually emphasizing the disconnection he feels from his father. He notes that his father was away climbing for most of his childhood, and this void has obviously impacted the course of Norgay’s entire life. Because he felt so separate from his father growing up, he must connect with him after he has passed away. While I can relate to the strong desire to connect to people who are gone by following in their footsteps, I find myself wondering weather chasing this particular connection to his father will inhibit Norgay’s connection to his own child. The father-child connection, or lack thereof, is at the core of Norgay’s being, but just like his father, Norgay will miss a portion of his eldest child’s earliest childhood. He spends time discussing his wife’s opinion about the climb, and even his fear of leaving his wife and child widowed and fatherless if a tragedy should occur on the mountain. In this way, Norgay’s decision to climb Everest seems somewhat hypocritical. His own consciousness of this contradiction troubles him, but he still feels a pull towards his father’s history on the mountain.


  1. I do not know if his decision to climb Everest is truly that hypocritical. I feel it is more complicated than that. Yes, he is leaving his wife and child (unborn i think, but i could be wrong) behind for his climbs, but he is clearly not his father. He recognizes that his father made mistakes raising him, and I believe that even just recognizing that he could be doing the same thing to his own family shows that Jamling is not intending to repeat his father's mistakes.

    I also think that Tenzing dying while Jamling was only 19 is a major factor in Jamling's choice to follow in his father's footsteps and climb. Perhaps if Tenzing was alive longer to bond with his son, Jamling may not have felt the drive to climb Everest in the first place. I think that although he clearly recognizes what he is doing may be considered hypocritical, he feels he has no other choice but to climb Everest. For a spiritual man such as Jamling, replicating his father's legacy may be his only chance to understand his father in death, something he didn't have a chance to do while Tenzing was alive. So maybe it is too simplistic to say that Jamling's choice to climb Everest is hypocritical, because it seems to be a complicated matter.

  2. Yes we are speaking in generalizations when we say his choice is hypocritical. I don't think that it was necessary for him to climb Everest to come to terms with his father's death. I think it would just have happened at a different time in a different place. I find it amusing that he seems to hold a resentment against his father for leaving to climb, yet he himself goes against his father's wishes and the lamas' negative predictions, and barely coerces his wife into agreeing. He holds so strongly to the ties of his family and later his religion, yet he willingly casts them aside for his personal quest. He seems constantly trying to justify his climb with its success of reaching his father.

  3. This is a really interesting point of conflict throughout the narrative that is left relatively unaddressed. Part of the difficulty with interpreting Jamling’s internal struggles is undoubtedly the boundary between readers and his subconscious as formed by the presence of a ghostwriter. Whether or not the clues we get regarding Jamling’s opinion of his father are manufactured, I think it is interesting that he chooses to pursue an understanding of the past over appreciating the present (in terms of his new wife and new child). I’m of a similar opinion to Rebecca that climbing to the peak of Everest (as the star of an IMAX film) strikes me as an excessive and unnecessary action to touch his father’s soul.