Appropriations Essay- Robinson Crusoe and Cast Away
Question: “Texts are inevitably a reflection of their particular historical, social and cultural contexts.”
Appropriation is the translation of elements of one text into another, in which the old elements are transformed to suit the responders of the new social context. Texts are inexorably a replication of their particular historical, social and cultural frameworks. Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719) and Robert Zemeckis’ film appropriation Cast Away (2000), illustrate a shift in values, attitudes and beliefs. The concepts pervading the texts include: optimism grounded in faith of a Christian God versus optimism grounded in human relationships, mastery of environment versus existential despair and isolation, unwavering belief in human technology versus awareness of limitations in technology, and human resourcefulness and ingenuity.
Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe positions its protagonist as a colonizer - a man who defies his father's incitement, instead embarking on a sea venture in the hopes of gathering significant wealth from participation in the slave trade. Lost in the Caribbean, Crusoe redirects his spirit of acquisition to transform his island, and its eventual inhabitants, into a British colony, with himself as its governor. Defoe illustrates Crusoe’s clear optimism grounded in faith of a Christian God- “I am alive…not starved…no wild beasts…But God wonderfully sent the ship on near enough to the shore...” (Page 54). Defoe makes use of a descriptive list to emphasise Crusoe’s realisation that his sanguinity is ultimately grounded in his faith of a Christian God and spiritual simplicity. Crusoe’s belief in the role of Providence in determining his faith and redemption reflects the evangelisation of ‘primitive’ cultures in 17th century Christian society context. Defoe further conveys Crusoe’s optimism grounded in faith of a Christian God through the effective use of metaphorical language in comparing Crusoe to a dog to highlight Crusoe’s initial despair - “When again I was shipwrecked, ruin’d and in danger of drowning on this island. I was as far from Remorse, or looking on it as a Judgment; I only said to myself often that I was an unfortunate dog.” Crusoe later reflects on his situation, seeing it as a gift from God and not of punishment.
Robert Zemeckis's film appropriation, Cast Away, clearly based on Defoe's novel, refigures the foundational cultural of Robinson Crusoe set in modern day global consumerist society. Cast Away features the protagonist, Chuck Noland, whose job as a Federal Express executive involves overseeing the company's expansion into new markets. After a plane crash strands Noland on a deserted island much like Crusoe's, Chuck must spend four years shipwrecked before escaping back to civilisation. In contrast to Crusoe’s faith in a Christian God, Chuck’s optimism is grounded in human relationships. In the establishing Shot, Zemeckis makes effective use of a framing device and symbolism to represent a major catalyst in Chuck’s life. Through the use of a panning, wide angle, long shot, the protagonist is portrayed as a ‘crossroads’ physically and emotionally. Chuck’s island journey will force him to reassess his initial materialist values in order to discover the importance of human relationship, conveying the humanist values of the increasing secular 20th century society. In the initial FedEx factory scene, Chuck’s initial preoccupation with material success over human relationships is portrayed through the use of high modality, metaphorical language in conjunction with rapid camera movements to convey a sense of urgency and obsession with time and money- “Time rules over us without mercy-not caring if we are healthy or ill…Time is like a fire-it can either destroy us or keep us warm…cause we live or we die by the clock… and we never ever allow ourselves the sin of losing track of time.” The motif of clocks throughout the...
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