Cast Away: A Film of Great Humanity Essay

Tags: film photo stress

Total Length: 1011 words ( 3 double-spaced pages)

Total Sources: 4

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Cast Away: A Portrait of the Human Condition under Extreme Stress

Human beings under extreme amounts of stress will engage in some of the most fascinating behavior, though behavior that exudes a certain commonality emerging within the human condition. Scholars of human behavior manifesting within extreme circumstances have looked at survivors of the Holocaust, refugees, war prisoners and others in comparable situations and examined how common patterns of behavior will emerge when a human being is under extreme stress. This paper will discuss some of the major themes of the human experience as demonstrated in the film Cast Away by Robert Zemeckis (2000).


The film Cast Away revolves around a work-obsessed executive at FedEx named Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) whose plane crashes over the Pacific Ocean when he is on his way to Malaysia for work (Zemeckis & Zemeckis, 2000). Noland ends up being the only person who lives through the plane crash, ultimately washing ashore on an island, vacant of all human life. The bulk of the film chronicles Noland’s adventures and discoveries as he navigates life alone on the island, coming to grips with both spiritual and physical discoveries (Zemeckis & Zemeckis, 2000). Noland’s initial attempts to sail away and find help are futile, so he reconciles himself to learning how to survive on the island, via building fires, fishing, and even removing a rotten tooth with an ice skate among other survival tasks (Zemeckis & Zemeckis, 2000).

Motivations of the Character

One thing that Nolan does while he is on the island is that he keeps the final gift from his girlfriend, Kelly Frears, (Helen Hunt) in a prominent position, and constantly refers back to it. This gift is a pocket watch with a picture of Kelly on the inside The motivation of the character in this instance is clear: he is using the photograph as a means of providing comfort and memory to himself. This is something commonly done during the process of grief or bereavement and is well documented. The purpose of the photograph is to help the person remember, and to help the person looking at the photo better develop a more comfortable relationship with their current absence and lack. The photo helps in maintaining a sense of the continuing bond, despite the distance between them (Riches & Dawson, 1998).

Another similar dynamic at work throughout the film, is the creation of “Wilson”, Noland’s “friend” which was created by inscribing a face in blood on a volleyball that survived the crash Just as the constant looking at the photograph of his girlfriend helps Noland to better cope with these sense of isolation by reconnecting with his past, the….....

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Barrett, J. L., & Johnson, A. H. (2003). The role of control in attributing intentional agency to inanimate objects. Journal of Cognition and Culture, 3(3), 208-217.

Luczak, H., Roetting, M., & Schmidt, L. (2003). Let's talk: anthropomorphization as means to cope with stress of interacting with technical devices. Ergonomics, 46(13-14), 1361-1374.

Paton, M. (1990). A reconsideration of Kant's treatment of duties to oneself. The Philosophical Quarterly (1950-), 40(159), 222-233.

Riches, G., & Dawson, P. (1998). Lost children, living memories: The role of photographs in processes of grief and adjustment among bereaved parents. Death studies, 22(2), 121.
Zemeckis, R. (Director). (2000). Cast Away [Motion picture]. USA: Fox.


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