The Lesson in Castaway: Less Work, More Life

            As years go by, people change. How drastically they change depends on their experiences within those passing years. In the movie Castaway, directed and produced by Robert Zemeckis, the protagonist Chuck Noland, played by Tom Hanks, changes his mentality drastically after being stranded on an island for over four years. From being a time-praising workaholic, Noland becomes an experience-valuing person. Prior to getting stranded on the island, Noland was rude to others because of his work driven personality. He was aggressive towards his employees and did not care for their personal lives. He had poor social ability due to his work driven mind, unable to connect on a deep level with others around him. He was so busy and work obsessed that he never had time to appreciate everything he should have been grateful for. During the four years of being stranded on an island alone, Noland becomes less work oriented, improving himself as a person due to his newfound ability to appreciate life.

Noland has a lack of respect towards others due to his work driven mind. The movie begins by showing Noland’s aggressive personality at work. “Do whatever it takes,” said Noland, pushing his employees to deliver packages faster. He mentions the importance of time, which is typically a positive attribute to care about timeliness, but he obsesses over every second. When it comes to time, Noland has a slippery slope mentality that being late by half a minute will turn into a full minute, then will soon become late by days and will become indifferent from the American shipment companies, drawing comparisons to the US Postal Service. During his family gathering to celebrate Christmas, he has his pager out during dinner and leaves early in order to go back to work on time. Prior to boarding the plane, his girlfriend, Kelly, gives him a locket clock with a picture of her in it. In the plane, Noland thinks his plan to go to work and be back before New Year’s will run perfectly. Suddenly, the plane experiences extreme turbulence and ends up plummeting into the ocean. During the crash, Noland chooses to risk his life in order to grab the locket clock Kelly gave him and when he reaches land, the first thing he does is check the gift Kelly gave him. Noland does not know what to do next so he walks by the shore and dives back into the ocean to collect as many FedEx boxes as he can in order to be able to complete the shipment once he gets rescued. He looks into the ocean and finds the dead body of one of the pilots. He takes out the pilot’s wallet and notices the pilots name is Albert but he has been calling the pilot Alan for years. Noland proceeds to bury Albert but does not say anything afterwards because he does not know anything about Albert. After four years being stranded, he finally gets rescued and when he sees his friends and family again, he is a changed man. Although Kelly motivated him to survive and get back home, he is not enraged when he finds out Kelly has moved on and started a family without him. Instead, he calmly asks, “What’s your daughter’s name?” and then calls Kelly’s daughter beautiful. He tries to give back the locket clock she gave him because he knows it is a part of her family with great sentimental value. The decrease of his work load allows him to think about other people and therefore respect others more.

Noland’s obsession with work acts as a barrier that refrains him from interacting with others on a social level. When it is revealed that his friend’s wife has cancer, Noland does not offer emotional support. However, he offers to give the phone number of another doctor for a second opinion. Although he understands he should do something for his friend, he does not know what to do. It is clear he does not have a healthy social life because when he comes home, Kelly says, “You’re finally home”. This shows they have not seen each other for a long period of time, yet during dinner time, Noland constantly talks about work and checks his pager a lot. This seems to have become the norm within the family because when his family finally starts talking about their personal life, a person says, “Kelly was married before?”, showing the family lacks in sharing personal information. After the plane crash, Noland constantly opens the locket with the picture of his girlfriend and his way of thinking begins to change. From fishing FedEx boxes from the ocean to preserve and later complete the delivery of the packages, to opening up the boxes for survival, Noland shows a rapid shift in mentality. Although he struggled in social situations prior to the plane crash, he understands human interaction is essential for human survival. He draws a face on a volleyball using his blood and names it Wilson in order to have a companion. After four years, he finally snaps and becomes enraged at the fact he is talking to a volleyball. Noland throws the volleyball away in a fit of rage and instantly goes after it because he realizes how important it is for his sanity to have companion. When he tries to find his way back home again, he thinks about his relationship with Kelly. Before leaving the island, he writes on a rock stating he was there for 1500 days and writes, “Tell Kelly I LOVE HER”. A shipment boat finds him in the ocean and brings him back to his friends and family. Upon finally seeing his friend for the first time in over five years, he realizes his friend’s wife had died not long after everyone thought Noland died. Noland apologizes for not being able to support his friend although logically, it is not his fault he could not have helped. This shows Noland now understands how to interact better socially. Even though during the four years on the island he consistently thought of Kelly and how much he loved her, he does not get upset when he finds out Kelly had moved on. Instead, he apologizes for not coming back sooner. Since Noland is not required to focus on work on the island, he begins to understand social expectations. He becomes less socially awkward and less socially oblivious.

Prior to the plane crash, Noland was too preoccupied with work to realize the wonderful life he had. This is first shown when Noland exchanged gifts with Kelly. People typically wish to relax and enjoy the revealing of gifts as they enjoy each other’s company. However, Noland and Kelly exchange gifts in a car while Noland is rushing to catch his flight. When he gets stuck on the island, his hardships lead him to realize how lucky he was. In order to survive, Noland needs to hunt for food and collect rain water to drink. When he finally makes a fire after spending days trying to make one, he dances around in excitement. He mentions he used to hate going to see a dentist but now, he wishes there was one around because the aching of his tooth is unbearable. One night, Noland tries to draw a picture of Kelly on a rock because he misses her so much. This makes him realize how important she is to him. When he is finally rescued, his coworkers throw him a feast of seafood. After his coworkers leave, he looks back at the table full of food. When he was on the island, he had to hunt for every meal and would savour every bite because food was so sparse. Now he realizes how lucky he is to live in an urban area where food comes easily and often taken for granted. He walks across the hall to grab a lighter and makes fire by the simple push of a button. Comparing his life at home to his life on the island, he realizes what a lucky man he is. Since he finds out Kelly had moved on, he feels the need to talk to a friend. He mentions how he wanted to die on the island so he made a noose, which ended up breaking. At that point, he was breathing without hope since he did not think he would make it back home. When the tide brought in a sail for him, the tide also brought hope for him. Even though he came home to lose Kelly all over again, he mentions he is grateful she was with him originally. This shows his new positive outlook and that he is now more appreciative of the positive people and assets in his life. Now that he is no longer work obsessed, he says the way to get by each day is to, “keep breathing because tomorrow the sun will rise and you never know what the tide will bring”.

From being a time-obsessed working man to a serene, hopeful man, Noland clearly changes as a person during the four years he was stranded on an island. He now has more appreciation for the people and assets he has because he know what life is like without them. He improves socially as he is no longer focused on work. He also respects others more because he notices their importance and that social time is required to maintain his sanity. After being stranded on the island for four years, Noland changes drastically. The hardships he faces on the island allows him to think from a new perspective. This movie clearly shows how much a person can change under extreme circumstances. As years pass, people change depending on external and internal struggles in their life.

Related Articles


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please enable JavaScript to submit this form.

Comment moderation is enabled. Your comment may take some time to appear.


Hey there!

Forgot password?

Don't have an account? Register

Forgot your password?

Enter your account data and we will send you a link to reset your password.

Please enable JavaScript to submit this form.

Your password reset link appears to be invalid or expired.


Processing files…