English essay on Survival. Cast Away, Swimming Upstream.
Survival can be a human instinct that may be needed anywhere, anytime. The narratives in the film ‘Cast Away’ directed b...
“Just keep breathing. You don’t know what the tide will bring in tomorrow.” Survival can be a human instinct that may be needed anywhere, anytime. The narratives in the film ‘Cast Away’ directed by Robert Zemekis, The film ‘Swimming Upstream’ directed by Russell Mulcahy and the article ‘How I gave my right arm to save my life’ highlight the extreme nature of survival through the characters, their qualities, themes and experiences explored in the stories. It is evident that the characters and their qualities can influence whether they survive or not. For example, the film ‘Cast Away’ portrays Chuck with numerous qualities. He survives through skills such as time management and this is illustrated when Chuck keeps track of the months and their wind patterns, allowing him over a period of four years to use the raft and be rescued. As well, this takes perseverance. Not only in this instance, but also when Chuck persists in creating a fire. This is important as it not only keeps him warm, but also allows him to cook his meals. Furthermore, his hopeful nature allows him to continue his journey of survival. Tony, the main protagonist from ‘Swimming Upstream’, also shares the quality of hope. Tony hopes for his father’s respect and it is through his swimming that he achieves this respect. Additionally, Chuck finds hope in the Angels Wings on the Fed Ex box. Even though their hopes are different, they are both used for a similar purpose, to pull them through their struggles to a better place. In addition to the qualities of hope and perseverance, the quality of courage is evident in both Aron from the story ‘How I gave my right arm to save my life’ and Chuck due to their need to survive. They both have the courage to sacrifice and challenge both their mentalities and their bodies. In one instance, this is demonstrated when Chuck finds himself in the situation where he needs to force his tooth with an ice skate out for his better comfort and survival, but to force the tooth out, it takes a lot of pain and courage. When he takes the tooth out, we can see that he has been through a lot of pain as the blow knocks him out, and that his courage is evident with the sacrifice he has shown. Aron also shows this quality, as he amputates his right arm with a blunt pocketknife to survive when a boulder crushes it. Even though it involves a lot of pain, he went ahead, breaking his bones and then cutting though the tissue and nerves. This was important for his survival as it not only frees him from the boulder that had been pinning him down, but it allows him to obtain the water and nourishment that he was lacking from 5 days of isolation, starvation and dehydration. The qualities in the characters reflect their survival and their experiences, showing the responder what the need for survival can do to a person depending on the qualities possessed.
Along with qualities, there are numerous themes that are apparent in the stories of survival. One theme that is common between all three of them is isolation and how it affects the main characters. Aron, Chuck and Tony, the principal characters of their stories, are portrayed as entirely isolated, and despite their different backgrounds and different living conditions, they experience similar loneliness and despair. The theme of isolation is especially similar in the case of Chuck and Aron, as they are both physically isolated from society – Chuck being deserted on an island and Aron being trapped under a boulder, whilst Tony is mentally isolated from the one he cares about – his brother. For Chuck, this fact is displayed not only of a panning shot of the island being deserted, but also in a sudden realization with him saying, “That's a search area of 500,000 square miles. That's twice the size of Texas. They may never find us.” Chuck, in saying this, retains his hopeful quality, through the use of the indefinite ‘may’ instead of ‘will’, although the fact that he is isolated is indeed inevitable. He eventually succumbs to his loneliness, and creates “Wilson”, an imaginary ‘friend’ in the form of a volleyball that provides him mental support, reflecting the extreme outcomes of isolation. Unlike Chuck, Tony is mentally isolated. Due to his extremely unstable relationship with his father, Tony loses his companionship with his younger brother, and with the use of flashbacks, this is emphasized in the film, showing the contrast between their past and previous relationship. Tony, as a result of this, only has his mother to talk to, and she is not always there for him when he needs it most. He is therefore isolated, not in a physical sense, but in the sense of knowing that he will not be listened too and is ‘worthless’ to his father. Even though there is extreme isolation in the texts, another theme dealt with is that of power, or better said, the lack of. Even when no governing human force is affecting Chuck or Aron’s decisions due to their isolation from civilization and therefore society, the forces of nature, in which they are battling against, renders them powerless. This is emphasized when Chuck, who has come to such a poor mental state to commit suicide, attempts to hang himself, but even he does not have the power to do that, and he himself explains this to a friend when he returns to society, stating, “I couldn't even kill myself the way I wanted to. I had power over nothing.” In saying this, Chuck allows the responder to fathom the reality that when going through survival, even nature can take the power of death away from a person, and leaving them in between what can be seen as “a rock and a hard place”, in which the person can decide to die in an unpleasant way or to not die and endure tediously for what may be seen as a life with out purpose. The themes in the texts express the quest for survival, as they usually reflect unpleasantness, despondency and despair associated with it. As well as the themes and qualities, experiences throughout the texts play a
prominent part in the characters quest to survive, as they both weaken and strengthen them physically and mentally. This is manifested in the case of Aron, as when the boulder came crashing down upon his arm, he is weakened physically, but is strengthened mentally, proving this when he amputates it later on. This sudden strengthening of the mind is one that pulls Aron away from the reach of death, but instead, towards a positive goal, which is to find a hospital. Additionally, an experience that Chuck undertakes is dragging the deceased pilots corpse out of the ocean to ultimately gain resources. Chuck challenges his mentality by overcoming the perturbation associated with being in such a close proximity with the grotesque looking corpse of the pilot and subsequently gains resources successfully, and these help him to survive. Experiences such as these explore the nature of survival as they display the courage and the need to eliminate fear to survive. Without doubt, it is evident that the stories explore the nature of and quest to survival through the characters of Chuck, Aron and Tony, their qualities such as hope, perseverance, courage and time – management, the themes such as isolation, and power and the experiences that both weaken and strengthen them physically and mentally. Through the literary and film techniques used to portray these, it is certain that survival can be a human instinct that may be needed anywhere, anytime.