Into Thin Air

Into Thin Air Metaphors and Similes

"Sheer rock buttresses seamed with ice pressed in from both edges of the glacier, rising like the shoulders of a malevolent god" (pg. 79) (Simile)

Here Krakauer uses figurative language to invoke the high degree to which mountaineers can find Everest oppressive: like a malevolent god, Everest is a nearly incomprehensible force of nature that takes life indiscriminately.

"The wind kicked up huge swirling waves of powder snow that washed down the mountain like breaking surf, plastering my clothing with frost" (pg. 125) (Simile)

This use of simile is particularly effective because it unifies the natural forces of Everest with other sorts of powerful, natural forces: namely, those of the ocean. The reader is thus invited to consider both mountains and oceans as instances of a personified Nature exercising her power over humanity.

"A few seconds later the helicopter was airborne, flitting past the West Shoulder of Everest like a freakish metal dragonlfy" (pg. 264) (Simile)

Once again, Krakauer uses figurative language to invoke nature imagery, but this time he applies the figurative language to a helicopter, a decidedly unnatural object. The bizarre image of a "freakish metal dragonfly" drives home how out-of-place the human presence of a helicopter is on the natural face of Everest.

"As I struggled groggily up from the depths of my troubled reverie like a drowning man rising to the ocean's surface, it took me a minute to notice why Stuart was so worried" (pg. 253) (Simile)

Here Krakauer again invokes ocean imagery, tying the sort of perils man faces in the ocean to those he faces on Everest.

"Ascending Everest is a long, tedious process, more like a mammoth construction project than climbing as I'd previously known it" (pg. 73) (Simile)

Krakauer's simile here emphasizes that, contrary to what the casual climbing enthusiast might think, climbing Everest is more of an arduous project than it is a vacation or guided diversion.