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I was saved from a deadly descent into the jaws of death by two overhead cables, which yanked the car back from the chasm.

From an essay written by a native speaker.

The writer is talking about her experience of taking a cable car ride up the mountains. The writer feels scared as the car passes across peaks and over gorges.

Back: At a distance away. (According to Oxford dictionary)

Why does the writer pick "back" over "away" here?

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Both words convey the sense of moving away from the chasm. Back also adds a sense of direction, of the movement away being against the current sense of "forwards". Reading that, without context, it would suggest that the direction of movement immediately before that sentence had been towards the chasm.

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back

2a: to, toward, or in a place from which a person or thing came
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/back

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