The castaway is seen as a hero, a person who finds himself/herself in an extremely difficult situation where isolation is guaranteed, but survival is not.
Self-reliance is a characteristic that a castaway must have in order to maintain both physical and mental health. Our instinct as human beings is self-conservation and survival. But isolation is not a human instinct, as we are social creatures.
In 1719 Daniel Defoe (1660 – 1731) published his great work, Robinson Crusoe, a tale of adventure which was very successful. Robinson Crusoe is probably the world’s most famous castaway. Daniel Defoe was inspired by the true story of Alexander Selkirk (1676 – 1721), a sailor and castaway who lived alone on an island 400 miles off the coast of Chile, and returned to England after four years.
Many writers and film directors have been inspired by Robinson Crusoe. In 1827 Johann Wyss published The Swiss Family Robinson, a story about a shipwrecked Swiss family on a desert island. Jules Verne, the famous French author, wrote The Mysterious Island (1874), about a group of friends stranded on a desert island, who struggle with Nature in order to survive.
The Robert Zemeckis film, Cast Away (2000), starring Tom Hanks, was inspired by Robinson Crusoe. Let’s take a look at some of the similarities and differences. Both men find themselves alone on a desert island because of an accident: a shipwreck and a plane crash. And both men are able to take with them some supplies necessary to their survival. Optimism, courage and self-reliance are characteristics that both Robinson and Chuck Nolan possess, which enable them to conquer Nature. Loneliness and isolation greatly bother both castaways, and they try to follow daily routines to organize their lives. At the end of the story, both men are rescued and return to their country.
Robinson Crusoe takes place in the 17th century, while Cast Away takes place in the late 20th century, and this is the first big difference. A shipwreck and a plane crash are two different kinds of accidents. Robinson has a dog, some cats and parrots, while Chuck Nolan is completely alone. After many years, Robinson finds the native Friday, another human being, who becomes his friend. Chuck Nolan is desperately alone and finds a volleyball from the supplies of the plane crash. He decides to create a friend! He paints a face on the volleyball and gives it a name, Wilson; he talks to Wilson and has conversations with him! Wilson becomes an important part of Nolan’s life; this shows man’s extreme need for communication with another person—even a virtual one!