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GCSE English Literature, AQA, Section A
Touching the Void:
Select an incident which you think is particularly tense and exciting in touching the Void. How does Simpson create tension and excitement in this moment? (30 marks)

Simpson uses a plethora of literary devices to create tension and excitement in Touching the Void, One incident which I think is particularly tense and exciting in Touching the Void is when Simpson breaks his leg.

One way Simpson creates tension and excitement during this incident is through the use of vivid, powerful imagery. "Pain flooded down my thigh - a fierce burning fire coming down the inside". The specific use of the words "fierce burning fire" show how Joe is angry at the pain; it is fierce because it is attacking him. Simpson could have used any word to describe how his leg felt in this moment; the fact he chose "fierce burning fire" shows how he knows he will now die. Fire is typically associated with destruction, and here it is no exception. Simpson implies severe consequences through the use of very little words, generating extreme tension; the reader subtly absorbs Simpsons hint at death, creating dramatic irony, which as a result leads to a personal connection with Simpson, allowing sympathy to be felt.

An alternative view to this quotation is that Simpson juxtaposes the imagery of his leg "burning" in "fire" to the scenery of the sheer cold and snowy conditions on the mountain; minutes before the event occurred, he was "trudging through the deep snow". It may have been Simpson's intention to do this to show how he will now be stuck on the mountain. The fact his leg braking, which will handicap his retreat, is related to the complete antithesis of the weather conveys how death is inevitable - Simpsons relates his leg to things which he cannot have on the mountain in the form of fire, as they had ran out of ignition fluid for the fire earlier that day. Pathetic fallacy plays a huge part in the novel, and definitely contributes to the tension generated in this scene, and the stark contrast between resources on and off the mountain explicates the inevitability of death, causing tension to rise.

As the chapter further continues, Joe's leg is further described, and the inevitability of death is further solidified. "I've broken my leg, that's it. I'm dead". In Simpsons panicked, distraught state, the reader is made aware of the rise in tension. The specific use of the words "I'm dead" show how Simpson accepts his gloom ridden fate before even trying to walk. This insinuates how tension can change people; if a lot is on the line, people morph into an almost different personality. At the start of the novel, Simpson and Yates are in high spirits about the climb - as they climb, their spirits rise. But, as they descend, it becomes evident that their spirits descend with them. This is further substantiated as the passage continues "my knee exploded". By relating his knee to something that explodes, the reader may interpret this as a weapon e.g. a gun. Guns are used to kill people; by relating his and this idea of a gun together, Simpson's self sentenced death is further explicated.

Simpson uses the structure in this event to build tension. Through the use of short sentences when he tells Simon what has happened, tension is built. " 'I fell. The edge gave way' I paused, and then said as unemotionally as I could: 'I've broken my leg'". The use of short sentence length in Simpson's speech portray how scared he is to reveal his fate to Simon; he knows that if he tells him, he will leave him for dead. This is further seen in the word "unemotionally" - the fact Simpson refrains from emitting emotion evidences his fear - he hides his true emotions in a façade to stay alive for a little bit more longer, for if Simon discovers Simpson's true emotions; that of anger, fear and upset, Simpson believes Simon will leave him for dead. This creates tension and excitement for the reader, as the use of dramatic irony leaves the reader wondering what Simon's response will be.

Finally, Simpson creates tension in this incident by conveying Simon's emotions through his own words. Usually, there is a dual narrative when Simon's view is considered. However, the fact that Simpson states "His eyes had been full of thoughts. Pity." infers how they both now knew how the situation will play out. This creates tension, as it shows how Simpson will not make it off the mountain alive. Death can provide some readers with a cloying excitement, and others with an overwhelming fear due to the tension built, but Simpson does brilliantly in this incident to satisfy both.
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