NEW THEME! Cast Away, Locked Away, Tempest Toss’d

A lot of literature based on this theme is very close to utopian/dystopian literature: tales of utopian islands hospitable to castaways, people locked up in such horrifying circumstances that their world shrinks to dystopia. Here’s a reading list:

THE ODYSSEY–the ultimate castaway tale

Shakespeare, THE TEMPEST–the magical isle that at least one castaway envisions as Utopia

Defoe, ROBINSON CRUSOE–or is THIS the ultimate castaway tale?

Various CAPTIVITY NARRATIVES from the Americas–with various attitudes/perspectives from captors and captives

Levi, SURVIVAL IN AUSCHWITZ–is the concentration camp the ultimate dystopia?

Atwood, ORYX AND CRAKE–what if the whole destroyed world is your prison? (and to follow it up, try the sequel, The Year of the Flood)

About janewiseman

a retired college professor interested in imaginary worlds of all types.
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13 Responses to NEW THEME! Cast Away, Locked Away, Tempest Toss’d

  1. Paige Gwynn says:

    Robinson Crusoe Journal:

    In Robinson Crusoe, many people believe that Crusoe is justified to kill, enslave, and take the possessions of the Others – the cannibals and Friday – because he is a Christian. However, I take the view that he is the Christian Everyman put into a situation where he is forced to question what he was brought up with and reexamine it in light of Christian principles. I believe that no one is more superior to someone else. Just because Crusoe has Christianity views does not make the Others lesser people than him. Some may argue and say that what the cannibals are doing is worse than what Crusoe is doing, but who is he to decide what is right or wrong and offer a punishment for it. When thinking about Friday, I wonder how he can claim to love and care for someone and yet make him his slave. Crusoe tries to teach Christianity to Friday, who at first does not understand and asks many questions. After referring to Friday’s people as “blinded, ignorant pagans,” he says that by teaching his slave the gospel, he himself is becoming a much better scholar in the scripture knowledge. It is ironic that he believes he is becoming a better Christian by enslaving another man. Usually enslavement of another human being is forbidden and yet Crusoe and many others twisted this around to justify their actions. Maybe in a different century this would have been normal, but in the 21st century, it is cruel and unusual punishment.

  2. Janice Small says:

    Robinson Crusoe Journal:

    Xury and Friday are two foreign people to Robinson Crusoe. They both earn Crusoe’s love and trust. However, since Friday spends more time with Crusoe, his bond becomes deeper and stronger with him. Crusoe’s true attitude toward both Xury and Friday is that he feels superior to them. They are his servants and he believes that he is their king. Crusoe holds this attitude because this is all he knows. He was brought up with his beliefs and probably didn’t personally know any other foreigners before this. We know this because he treats them this way and even sells Xury to slavery. He refers to Friday as a creature rather than a human.
    Our present-day views are different than the views Defoe thought he was imparting to his readers because we are more accepting of different cultures. Also, Defoe seemed to believe that White Europeans were superiors to all other races and shaped Crusoe to act that way. This is similar to The Tempest because Caliban was treated this way by Prospero as well because he was a different, unrecognized race. Caliban is treated and refered to as a creature in The Tempest as Friday is in Robinson Crusoe

  3. Lachlan Hargis says:

    5. In the Odyssey and the Tempest we see themes of the protagonists’ journey over many years of being castaway, and their character transformation, them discovering who they really are, these same things crop up in Robison Crusoe early on in the book. He starts out as a middle class man in England, not rich or poor, who yearns for adventure, and against the wishes of his father he decides to become a merchant on the high seas. Over the course of the next several chapters he pursues different capitalistic endeavors before being captured by Moorish pirates which sets him off onto another series of adventures, one of which he becomes a planter in Brazil. Then in chapter 5, he is marooned on a deserted island, with no sign of his crew. From there onward he is forced to survive on his island all by himself. This is different from the Odyssey and The Tempest because they aren’t marooned alone, Odysseus has either his crew or the natives to keep him company of sorts and Prospero has his daughter Miranda. For Crusoe, he has to fend for himself, building his own shelter and finding his own food. But the real change in his character comes from the isolation, being alone on this island may cost him his very humanity, having him resort to savagery, this is something our other characters didn’t have to worry about as much. After he recovers from his illness, he reflects on his earlier misdeeds in life such as selling Xury into slavery so coldly, this resolves his will and maintains his humanity.
    Next though his identity comes into question, where at first he described himself as “poor miserable Robinson Crusoe” but later we see that his is very resourceful and resolute when it comes to enduring the many hardships of the island. He also sticks to his Christian promises more than he had done in the past times he had turned to god for help or thankfulness. In The Tempest, Prospero doesn’t change to this degree, having really become more attached to his daughter and to magic than anything else. Odysseus resists change, wanting only to get home to his son and his wife, he attempts to resist many temptations such as staying on Claypsos island forever with her.

  4. Kirkland Brown says:

    Robinson Crusoe Journal

    Crusoe’s life could be described as a carousel that never slows, nor stops. He proceeds to go against his parent’s wishes by setting sail and becomes shipwrecked. His mood has plummeted from the excitement of going out to sea to almost drowning and now being stranded on an island. Then he tries to leave and is once again tossed back to the island. Crusoe has had to handle all of this controversy by himself but he soon learns that he is not alone. Although he is older, (I’m actually not sure how old he is), he seems to possess the emotional mindset of a teenager. He feels all alone and feels that he can do everything by himself and doesn’t need anyone to help him. When he finds a footprint in the sand he is, “…Thunderstruck, or as if I had seen an Apparition,” (pg. 112). He feels threatened as soon as he sees signs of another life on the island. He searches the entire island and finds nothing else. This clue immediately changes his mindset of survival. Before, he was simply battling the elements of the island and staying fed. Now, he would have to deal with another living thing! He describes being “confus’d” and “terrify’d to the last Degree,” (pg. 112). He suddenly becomes paranoid and cannot walk without wondering what is taking place behind his back. His emotional roller coaster goes from being shocked to paranoid and wondering what could be out there. He did not sleep the next night and even becomes embarrassed because he is so scared! This is another example that shows me he is not yet matured because he is worried about how he would be perceived because he is scared! After the shocked and paranoid stages, he now becomes inquisative and wonders what this “thing” could be. After convincing himself that it was the devil, he decides it has to be even worst…a savage. I like how Defoe describes every emotion that Crusoe has so vividly. He makes a reader feel as if they are discovering the track themselves and going through this time as he is! In response to all this he turns to God, and questions why he may put such a creature on the island. He prayed and read his bible. Then he gained more courage and made his way down to the shore after convincing himself it was nothing more than his own footprint. He began planning a new fortification around his cave already by planting more trees and making it more dense. If anything, the footprint had made him aware of how fragile he was on this island by himself and that he needed to be prepared for anyone else that may be there.

  5. Paige Gwynn says:

    TEMPEST Journal Entry 2:

    One of the most important and interesting observations that I had while watching the 2010 film adaptation of The Tempest by William Shakespeare was the differences between the way a stage production can handle a story and the way a film can handle a story. At the beginning of the film during the shipwreck, we are also able to see brief scenes of Miranda running on the beach. This is known as intercutting, which in common in the world today, but a stage production does not have this ability. The audience must assume that Miranda is running to her parent because she has seen the storm destroying the ship. Film has evolved over the years to become more modernized and more technologically advanced where many gaps that a person reading the play would have had to fill in with their imagination are explained and given throughout the film. Examples include the lab where Prospero/Prospera does her magic, Ariel actually being an “airy” creature, the dance of the goddesses, and the dogs chasing Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo. On the other hand, the mystery of how one may interpret the play is taken away. One of the biggest changes that was in this film adaptation was changing the main character from a male to a female – Prospera. In Shakespeare’s time, this would have been frowned upon because women participation in play productions was blasphemous. However, by changing this tiny detail it slightly changes the play and raises certain questions – did her brother banish her to the island because he felt intimidated? Did he not think a female could be duke? I truly believe that had this been filmed in any other time, this movie-medium would not have worked. Nonetheless, it was successful because it was presented to a 21st century audience, who are slightly more open-minded because we have been exposed to it for many years, rather than a 16th century audience.

  6. Janice Small says:

    Tempest Journal Entry 2:

    I think the most important observation of the three categories is the difference between the ways different people perceive Shakespeare’s text. For example, the way people think the island that they are all stuck on looks. When I was reading the play I pictured the island looking differently than the director of the film chose to portray it. I am sure that everyone has their own idea of how the island is supposed to look. Another thing is how the characters look, dress, and act. I pictured the characters differently than they appeared in the movie. I didn’t expect them to be dressed the way that they were too. Their clothes looked more modern than I thought they would. Another thing is how Caliban is portrayed and by who. The play described him as some type of creature that looked like a fish but the movie made him look more like a human.

    • Kirkland Brown says:

      The 17th century was a time of discovery. Shakespeare introduced a new way to write and produce plays to the world and Jamestown was founded in the “New World”. With this discovery, the English thought they would be able to land in the Americas and find diamonds all over the ground, and the Native Americans were seen as threats. This foreign land was uncharted by any European and nonexistent to the majority of the world! Now, Europeans began to grasp onto the idea that people could sail away and start a new life in the Americas. Eyes began to open! In the 21st century we know about America, in fact, the United States accounts for more than 3.13 million people of the world. Now, thoughts about the world have moved to other “worlds” in our universe! Technology is changing every day and our discoveries have moved out into the universe. The middle ages were coming to an end in the 17th century and views on the world were changing. Religious thoughts and scientific discoveries were being studied, also an advancement in literature (shown by Shakespeare). As the 21st century progresses I believe that there will be a shift from distinct religious groups and distinct ethnic groups, to a more centralized understand of one another. The world is only so big and there can only be so many discoveries, but the changes in the perceptions of the world will come intellectually instead of physically. A major difference in the way The Tempest is produced on a stage in The Globe and by a movie production, is the special effects. On a stage there are limited props, if any, and scenes cannot jump around as they can in a movie. On a stage the production would be much more personal, as viewers were up close and personal. Shakespeare productions on stage in the 21st century do not compare to how they were presented in the 17th century. They speeches and commentary is much more important to a Shakespeare production on stage as opposed to a movie. The Tempest on film was a great presentation and was able to set up the story differently because of the cutting between scenes that is not available on a stage. The special effects presented in the movie were amazing and helped the plotline. In terms of Ariel, in the movie the director was able to use a computer and graphically insert the character as opposed to an actual actor in the play. I did not really understand what the third question was asking but I interpreted it as how a regular person may interpret the text. The Shakespearian text is very hard to understand. Sitting down and reading the text as a book is very difficult because the action is not played out and actors are not seen. So, it is incredibly important to act out the text because the characters and speeches will get mixed up if it is simply read as a book. Having subtitles explain the text also helps as we read along. My most interesting observations is how many ways you can interpret Shakespeare and how they are all different with the different ways. A reader will get a totally different interpretation of the work as opposed to watching the play on stage as we did from watching the movie. The work unfolds differently with all three medias, which makes Shakespeare so great.

  7. Paige Gwynn says:

    Journal Response #2: Question 3

    In our world today, many readers view castaway stories like The Tempest as a metaphor for the way art works. Art includes but is not exclusive to music, drama, dance, fictions of all types, and visual arts. Most people generally see art as being the outcast among other things; it is secluded from other things. Often many people, including myself, retreat into some realm of the imagination where they are able to isolate life’s big questions from the clutter and noise of the life surrounding them; it is almost as though they are finding themselves – the people they are or the people they can become. It also allows us to explore the answers to life’s big questions by ourselves so when we emerge back into the “real world,” we come back better equipped to face reality. Shakespeare and other playwrights of theatre often used their plays to have a different approach on being “cast away.” Normally, art such as music and visual art is a solitary experience of an individual. It is up to the individual alone to determine or interpret how the art is significant to life. However, theatre is a communal experience; all of the things that usually occur while the individual is alone occur with many other people around them – some are strangers while others are not. A significant example to me is how Shakespeare named his theatre The Globe. I think he named it this because even though you are around others, you could not be further away from them. The theatre is a world within a world; this is often how he would like to write his plays – a play within a play. What the person to your left is thinking about in their mind is completing different from what you are thinking. It is almost as though we are ignorant of our actual surroundings and those around us, but on a deeper level, we develop a better understanding of it. We discover who we are as a person and in a way who the others around us are also, because most likely they would not watch a Shakespeare play if they did not want to understand why he wrote it. While I am not a fan of theatre, I often find myself being “cast adrift” or “castaway” in fiction and music. Depending on my mood, whether I am happy, sad, or angry, I choose between those two arts and lock myself in my room where no one can bother me; I am isolating myself both physically and mentally. I immerse myself into that piece of art, becoming the characters or becoming the song, and I ask myself all types of questions – why am I upset? Was the person who wrote this going through something similar? What’s the back-story and how does it relate to my situation? This could go on for as little as twenty minutes, but sometimes as long as three hours. However, it seems as though my mind knows when I have had enough time to retreat and when it is time for me to return. Every single time, I am calmer and can thing more rationally and I realize that I learned something about myself that I did not know, while also learning something new about the piece of art. Even though I was so close to the rest of my family in the literal sense, it felt like I was miles apart from them figuratively. I think this is similar to The Tempest also. Even though they are cast away on the same island, they are worlds apart from each other – they are isolated on the most isolated piece of land on the earth or “globe.” It almost seems as though Shakespeare intertwined his way of thinking and writing into the setting of the play.

  8. Kirkland Brown says:

    The Tempest Response

    As you mentioned in the question, Caliban is the successor to the rulership of the island because he has been there long before Prospero and Miranda. However, Prospero being a human, and humans always feeling as if they need control over everything they discover, takes over the land Caliban “ruled”. This way of thinking has been present through the centuries, beginning with the English and their travels. When the Pilgrims settled in the “New World”, they claimed it as theirs; hence the name New World. Even though they were met by a culture that had inhabited the continent way before anyone from Europe thought about finding new land. This is the same attitude that Prospero takes when he and Miranda are placed there. An example of this is found in act I, scene II, and around line 336. Prospero has commanded Ariel to approach Caliban as Prospero wants to make him his slave. Caliban states, “I must eat my dinner. This island’s mine, by Sycorax my mother, Which thou takest from me. When thou camest first, Thou strok’st me and made much of me, wouldst give me” (line 336-339). Caliban is telling Prospero how he took the island away from him and even after Caliban showed him around and was welcoming to the magician. “Cursed be I that did so! All the charms Of Sycorax, toads, beetles, bats, light on you! For I am all the subjects that you have, Which first was mine own king. And here you sty me In this hard rock, whiles you do keep from me The rest o’th’ island” (lines 340-350). Caliban now curses Prospero and tells him that he regrets ever aiding him. He then tells him how Prospero was his first king and now he is all locked up. This is an example of the way Native Americans were treated as settlers came across them. Some even helped colonists and then were betrayed by them. This text is in fact a cultural document if examined closely!

  9. Kirk Werth says:

    The Tempest
    This would relate to being Shakespeare’s final farewell because in the play, Prospero gives up his magic. People relate this to Shakespeare because they see his artwork as a play write as a certain type of magic. When Prospero gives up his magic, it is like Shakespeare giving up the stage. This would make sense if it was meant to be Shakespeare’s farewell. To be able to go back and resume his dukedom he must give up his power over the island and the people who inhabit it. Since he did not do a good job of ruling the first time around, he may feel like he can do something different a second time. Also, he has some experience ruling now, so that could help him out. The ability to go back and take his dukedom back up is a big factor in why he decided to give up his magic. He wants to resume somewhat of a normal life and giving up his powers are just a stipulation of that. He is willing to do that because he wants to be off of the island that he has been trapped on for so long. He has mainly used his power for harmful things and to get what he wanted. He changed the winds so that the boat would crash and he uses his powers to keep Ariel under his control. He gets what he wanted when the boat crashed into the island.

  10. Janice Small says:

    Second Journal Response: (The Tempest)
    Question 5:
    Gonzalo imagines the island as his perfect world and says the grass is “lush and lusty” and green, when it is actually tawny according to the others. Gonzalo says that if he were the ruler of the island he would “Execute all things; for no kind of traffic would I admit; no name of magistrate: Letters should not be known; riches, poverty, and use of service, none: contract, succession, bourn, bound of land, tilth, vineyard, none. . . all men idle, all; and women too, but innocent and pure; no sovereignty”( Act II, Scene I). I believe he is saying that there will be no class differences, no one will have to work and no one will have power over anyone else. He also says there would be no weapons and that nature would continue to produce food in abundance to feed his “innocent people”. The other lost mariners laugh at him while he describes his perfect world. Gonzalo views the island as a beautiful place and a blessing because they were lucky enough to make it there instead of dying at sea with their wrecked ship. Caliban also sees the island as a beautiful place but regrets being usurped by Prospero. Caliban says he regrets showing Prospero the “fresh springs, brine-pits, barren place and fertile”. Caliban knows the island well and knows how to appreciate it for its beauty. On the other hand, Prospero sees the island as a curse because he is stuck there against his will and is being kept from his land and being treated like royalty. This is important to us as readers because it allows us to see the true beauty of the island rather than imagine some terrible desert island as we would do if we just had the accounts of Prospero and the other lost mariners.

  11. Lachlan Hargis says:

    In the Telemachia as it is called, the three main characters the story revolves around are the hero Odysseus, his beautiful wife Penelope and their son Telemachus. These three characters are the most important in the story and their actions shape the entire series of events.
    Odysseus is the hero of the story; he is the man that came up with the plan to use the infamous Trojan horse at the battle of troy. Known as a wily tactician, he not only has brawn but the brains and whit to match. He is the embodiment of what all Greek men should strive to be. His whole goal is to return to his home of Ithaca to his wife and now grown son Telemachus. He does however have an uncanny ability to conjure up great lies in order to achieve his goals, such as when he lies to protect his identity. This is a characteristic that we would not what we usually associate with an epic hero.
    Penelope is Odysseus’s wife, known for her incredible beauty. She is tasked with the management of Odysseus’s estate while he is away, which comes under fire from a group of male suitors who wish to wed Penelope and inherit the land. Penelope is in a tough spot because the suitors put much pressure on her to marry one of them; staying at her house and eating their food day in and day out. She can be very clever as she is with the contest to confirm that the beggar is in fact Odysseus. The challenge is to string up his bow and shoot it through a dozen axes, knowing that only Odysseus would be able to do it.
    Telemachus is Odysseus’s son who was a mere child when Odysseus left for Troy. At the start of the story he is on the brink of manhood, being 21 years old, he must find news of his father and expel the suitors from his house. This proves to be difficult because they see him as just a boy and they believe Odysseus to be dead. He goes to his uncle Menelaus for news about his father setting him off on a journey for the truth. This is a true coming of age story for Telemachus who proves to have his father’s whit and courage. He always keeps a cool head even when faced by a troop of angry suitors who he tries to banish from his house. He like Odysseus is favored by Athena for his wisdom and cleverness.

  12. Paige Gwynn says:

    Journal 1: Question B
    The gods are usually present in the world The Odyssey describes. More often than not, they appear before the people disguised as an animal, a stranger, or even a family friend. The goddess Athena has been known to do this many times in “The Telemachia,” or the first four books of The Odyssey. Usually, Athena appears in disguise to Telemachus to perform some important deed or impart some important piece of information. The first instance occurs in Book I. Athena travels to Ithaka so she can talk to Telemachus. She takes the form of Mentes, Odysseus’s old friend, and predicts that Odysseus is still alive and that he will soon return home. Afterwards, she says he must banish the suitors from his father’s estate and travel to Pylos and Sparta to ask for news of his father. This is the beginning of Telemachus’ journey into manhood and coming of age. Athena makes him realize he is no longer a child. A second instance is in Book II. While Telemachus is preparing for his trip to Pylos and Sparta, Athena visits the town disguised as Telemachus. While disguised as him, she gathers a loyal crew to operate his ship while he is on the journey. In Book III, there is a third instance. Athena, disguised as Mentor, gives Telemachus the encouragement that he needs to approach Nestor and ask him about Odysseus since Telemachus has little experience with public speaking. This helps both of them learn more about what happened. Athena is willing to help Telemachus find Odysseus no matter what, even incurring the wrath of Poseidon, because of her love for Odysseus.

    Paige Gwynn

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