Study Guide

Into Thin Air Foreignness and "The Other"

By Jon Krakauer

Foreignness and "The Other"

For over five hundred years, the proud Sherpa people have called the area around Mount Everest home. The community first entered the Himalayas to flee persecution and quickly fell in love with the beautiful region—a region that remained in blissful isolation for hundreds of years. That all changed in 1921 with the first British expedition to Everest, which employed several Sherpa climbers as part of the team. Over the next century, Sherpa culture became increasingly tied to the booming climbing industry, which, though benefiting them in many ways, also revealed deep-seated prejudices in the hearts of many Western climbers. The climbers in Into Thin Air might technically be the foreigners, but they often treat the Sherpa people as the "Other." Ugh.

Questions About Foreignness and "The Other"

  1. Does the commercialization of Everest help the Sherpa community? Explain.
  2. What are examples of racism/nationalism toward Sherpa climbers?
  3. How does the Sherpa community's view of Everest differ from outsiders' view of the mountain?
  4. Should Fischer have hired a helicopter for Ngawang immediately? Why or why not?

Chew on This

Although it certainly comes with its costs, the commercialization of Everest ultimately helps the Sherpa people by giving them a reliable source of income.

Although it certainly comes with its benefits, the commercialization of Everest ultimately hurts the Sherpa people since they comprise a greater share of the mountain's casualties than any other group.