During the course of The Way Back, when the company is traveling through the Gobi Desert Mr. Smith seems reluctant and unable to go on and is about to give up and die (maybe also in part because of Irena's death, to whom he developed some kind of fatherly sympathy). But one night Janusz talks to him (forgive me for not recounting it word-accurate):
Mr. Smith: Just leave me here. But you can't do that, no?
Janusz: Listen Mister, you know for now I don't even know your forename, but I know your son's name.
Mr. Smith: Irena told you?
Janusz: Yes. May I say it aloud?...David.
Mr. Smith: From saying his name he won't return. Why do you do that? You want to give me back my will to live? Keep me from giving up?
Janusz: Do you want to give up?
Mr. Smith: Some people in the camp thought death means freedom.
Janusz: Why didn't you then just kill yourself?
Mr. Smith: It was a kind of resistance, and being alive was my punishment.
Janusz: What do you mean, punishment for what?
Mr. Smith: I brought David to Russia.
Janusz: So nobody can forgive you and you can't forgive yourself.
Mr. Smith: Irena told me they tortured your wife and she testified against you...They did this to my son, too. Then shot him in the head.
Janusz: My wife is still alive, she was released later, that much I came to know. But she will never be able to forgive herself what she did. Only I can do that. She'll torture herself like you did. You now understand why I have to return? Theres only this one way!
After this the next moring he is ready to move on and filled with new motivation it seems (and carries on till the end, or till Tibet at least). But I wonder what really convinced him to go on. Janusz's story about his wife could also have had the contrary effect of giving Mr. Smith peace and redeeming him of his punishment through survival, yet this wasn't the case. But his son was still dead and he had no place to go, which is again clarified in Tibet when he is planning to get smuggled out to the U.S. over China, which isn't really his "home" though and the ultimate goal of his journey:
Zoran: What do you want to do Mister? When you get home.
Mr. Smith: "Home"?
Zoran: Build metros?
Mr. Smith: Nothing for a while.
Or was he merely impressed by Janusz's story/motivation and didn't want to leave him alone? What really was it that convinced him to carry on with life and with their exhausting journey? (While it may very well be that there wasn't much more to it than a motivating speech by Janusz, I'd still like to know if there is anything more to make out of his character and his motivation to carry on.)