1.8 Significant Connections

As Humans, we can be knocked down easily by things throughout each of our lives. In order to survive, we need to have the mental strength and ability to overcome those hardships in order to survive and eventually thrive. However, depending on our experiences and upbringing there are many ways we react in order to survive. This idea is present throughout the texts: Touching the Void written by Joe Simpson, Into Thin Air written by Jon Krakauer, 127 Hours directed by Danny Boyle based on the book Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston, and Unbroken directed by Angelina Jolie based on the novel by Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken.

In the novel Touching the Void, by Joe Simpson, the author shows that to survive difficult circumstances, you need to have immense mental strength to be able to overcome the challenges and hardship you are suffering. Joe shows this strength when he and his climbing partner are scaling the previously unclimbed West face of Siula Grande.  But despite all the hardship, Joe displays immense mental strength when he escapes from the void and is crawling on his hands and broken leg down the mountain. Joe references the “voice” that keeps him going and wanting to survive despite the hallucinations that are causing him to give up. He describes this ‘voice’ to be his inner conscience, talking and motivating him to survive. This is important because if this ‘voice’ had not been there to guide him, it is likely he would have given in to despair and eventually perished. Touching the Void paints a clear picture of why the importance of being mentally strong in high-risk environments, where your situation could change instantly for the worse and there is only yourself for help.

In the novel Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, Rob Hall shows that no matter how hard you can sometimes try to survive, it doesn’t always work out as you might hope. This was demonstrated by Rob when he is fighting to get down Everest before the storm hits. But ultimately “survival was not an option”. Throughout Rob’s battle to survive, he was constantly thinking rationally which enabled him to endure for as long as he did.  This is because “above the South Col, up in the Death Zone, survival is to no small degree a race against the clock.” This informs the reader that this place is known as the “Death Zone” for good reason. As soon as you’re above 8,000 meters, your body starts slowly dying due to oxygen deprivation. The longer you spend in the death zone, the less likely your chances of survival. Rob knew this but still decided to stay with Doug and take him to the top because he felt he couldn’t leave his client behind. When On the West Face trapped by the weather Rob calls his wife to say “I’m not going to get killed,” This shows the confidence Rob has, as an experienced climber. At this point in his adventure, all he could see were opportunities and excitement but underestimated the danger of Everest. All he had in his mind was to climb the mountain, failure simply hadn’t entered his mind  Rob also says “If you don’t hear from me again, it means everything’s fine”. This show Rob’s absolute confidence, even when the conditions are so incredibly inhospitable. He keeps his head clear and doesn’t think about death. He absolutely believes, till the very end, that he will survive. This is the opposite to Touching the Void, because when Joe falls breaking his leg, he immediately assumes he will not survive. “I accepted that I was to die. There was no alternative.” This infers that Joe does not appear to have the mental strength to survive and seems likely to give in to death. But then Joe changes his focus and believes that he can survive. He has a total change of mindset. “I knew without absolute certainty. How I would do it, and when I would reach it were not considered. I just knew.” This new mindset ultimately led to his survival. Whereas, in Into Thin Air when the storm hits Rob is constantly fighting to survive and is not giving in. Only when he realizes that he is trapped and cut off by the storm, he finally gives in knowing that survival is not an option.

In the film 127 hours by Danny Boyle, Aaron shows the viewer that regardless of how much preparation you put in, it does not prepare you for if disaster strikes. Aaron shows this when he is running in Canyonland, Utah. When walking through Blue John Canyon, a boulder dislodges and falls, trapping his right arm. The remoteness of Canyonland is shown clearly by a panorama of the barren landscape, This shot is used to show the isolation and emptiness of the environment, This also foreshadows that if something does go wrong, no help is readily on the way. This foreshadowing becomes reality when Aaron gets trapped by the bolder. The camera zooms out of the canyon to show the vastness and expanse of the landscape where he is trapped. This shows the reader that no help is on the way and there is no chance of rescue. This is also shown when Aaron, talking to himself says “Hey there, Aaron! Is it true that you didn’t tell anyone where you were going?” This makes the reader feel despair for Aaron knowing that no one will find him and that survival is unlikely. This is similar to Into Thin Air, where Rob is stranded and cut off from help, fully understanding that there is no rescue. Rob gives up just above the South Summit where he then stays. Whereas Aaron knowing he is trapped with no help, takes action eventually cutting his arm off to survive.

In the Film Unbroken, Directed by Angelina Jolie, Louie Zamperini shows the viewer that to endure and survive through times of suffering, hardship, and torture you need to have tremendous mental strength. Louie shows this throughout his journey from drifting aimlessly for 47 days, to then surviving for two years in a Japanese prison camp. He managed to survive due to his mental ability to keep his mind sharp and to never give up. An example of this is Louie’s persistence and determination shown by the comment by his brother “if you can take it you can make it”, which tells the viewer that Louie will never give up and he will keep going no matter what comes at him. This is also shown by the bridging shot of Louie running along the road, growing up and becoming faster. During his time on the raft and in capture he manages to endure at first the solitude and then the torture from his captives. He absolutely believes he will survive, shown by when Louie repeats the comment “If you can take it you can make it”. The viewer is shown that this persistence and determination is present throughout his life when Louie says “All my life I have always finished the race. When saying this, Louie didn’t just mean the running races, but it is extended to all of his life, telling us that he never gives in. This is similar to Touching the Void, where both men are mentally strong and when disaster does occur, they are prepared and can rationally think in order to survive, But ultimately Louie was mentally stronger than Joe because Louie never once gave in. He was determined the whole time, whereas Joe flicked from giving in and not wanting to survive when he was being slid down the mountain this showed that Joe could not cope with the pain and lost sight of the survival he was ultimately trying to reach. He was not able to keep his mind on survival and lost focus when the pain became unbearable. Joe was lucky that he was able to make rational decisions to get himself out of the void and survive because if not he would have likely not survived.  Louie survived through the torture and suffering because of his discipline and a strong mindset. We can learn from Louie that with enough determination and passion to live anyone from anywhere can survive.  

In the novel Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, Beck Weathers shows that with determination and mental strength, any human can battle with death and survive what is considered unsurvivable. Beck show this when just above the South Col, on a section known as the Balcony, his sight becomes impaired due to an operation a few years before. He was left on the South Col to wait for the group’s return. But as the conditions deteriorated, he managed to get down to 100m above Camp 4, where he was left with Yasuko Namba, who was suffering from severe altitude sickness. He was left for dead twice by the sherpas because he was thought to be beyond saving, due to being in a hypothermic coma. But that night Beck miraculously crawled into camp 4 where he was given a tent. They all thought he would die in the night, especially when his tent collapsed. But he miraculously survived the night and then managed to get down to the Khumbu Icefall where a military helicopter subsequently managed to pick him up and take him to the hospital in Kathmandu (this is still the highest recorded helicopter flight). This goes to show what the human body can do when put to the test, Beck later tells us that when he woke from his hypothermic coma, “I looked up and the sun was about 15 degrees above the horizon and heading down, so I knew that I had one more hour to live. Nobody has ever survived two nights on Everest in the open”. This demonstrates that Beck knew the severity of his situation and had the mental ability to endure. This is similar to Unbroken because both Beck and Louie continued fighting for their lives and they never once gave up. 


I believe that, when put to the test, humans can survive through what might previously be considered unsurvivable circumstances. The non-fiction texts Touching the Void, Into Thin Air, 127 Hours and Unbroken, each demonstrate that as humans, we can be knocked down easily by things in our lives. And in order to survive, we need to dig deep and find the mental strength and ability to overcome those hardships to ultimately survive. 


One Reply to “1.8 Significant Connections”

  1. Aden, I am very pleased that you have approached this task by looking at “the nature of survival” in different ways. Your individual text discussion is very interesting. One area that you could strengthen is your final connections between texts: be more specific to the textual details you are referring to; watch generalisations. You may wish to bring in comparisons to more texts?

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