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From 127 hours: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Author: Aron Ralston

A Rock and a Hard Place is an autobiographical account of Ralston’s experiences. The anthology is about his unfortunate incident of having his arm stuck in between a boulder and a wall of rock while hiking in a canyon.


  • The title is an idiom that foreshadows that Ralston will find himself in a predicament and any decision he makes will be a difficult one.

  •  The anthology is informative as it uses terminologies usually used for climbing.

  • The anthology includes descriptive language and is definitely written by an expert in his field of expertise.

  •  It is a first-hand account so is very emotive

  •  The writer assesses each part of the descent carefully before undertaking it. He hints at a sense of danger he is in before the boulder falls on him.


  • The anthology is structured well. Each paragraph serves its own purpose.

  •  “I come to another drop-off”- detached tone. There is no sense of emotion as he uses the word “another” which proves that he’s done this before.

  • He uses an active voice and then:

  •  “Fear shoots my hands over my hands”- passive voice- he isn’t in control (fear is). Sudden changes in the structure highlight fear and panic.

  •  Goes back to the active voice when he tries to free himself “I brace my thighs”.

  •  “Then, silence.”, “But I’m stuck”, “Nothing.” The short sentence creates suspense.


  • “The backlit chockstone falling toward my head consumes the sky”


  • He uses mathematical and expert terminology as it gives the reader a clear vision of his environment and how he is. It tells us that he’s very conscious of his surroundings.

  • The word “claustrophobic” builds suspense and makes the reader feel quite nervous about the situation however Ralston isn’t apprehensive in any way.

  •  “Controlling the counterpressure”- alliteration, quite a factual paragraph. It is descriptive.

  •  “Dangle off”- builds suspense

  •  “Stemming across the canyon at the lip of the drop-off” - it is a nice description

  •  “I traverse”, “I press”, “I kick”, “I lower”-he uses an active voice

  •  He repeats the word “dangle”- creates a sense of vulnerability

  •  “Instantly”- temporal expression

  • “Instinctively”- he isn’t in control anymore (is more reactive)

  •  “Time dilates”- he is in shock,

  •  Use of listing creates an idea that everything happens quickly. “Rock smashes”, “crushes”, “ensnares”, “tearing”- harsh verbs to emphasise the pain that he will go through.

  •  “I stare”- language choice- he is in shock.

  •  “Good God”, “Grimace and Growl”- alliteration and the sound that he’d probably make in pain

  •  “Anxiety has my brain tweaking”- passive voice.

  •  “Adrenaline-stoked mom lifts an overturned car to free her baby”- clinging onto a fictitious story- shows his desperation

Effect on the reader

  • The anthology has a strong effect on the reader. The anthology is very emotive and allows the reader to reflect on our careless nature in life as we, as humans, can sometimes be complacent. It shocks and engages the reader. The imagery in the anthology appeal to the senses.

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