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"Cast Away": Living with Purpose

In the movie Cast Away, Chuck Noland, a FedEx systems troubleshooter, played by Tom Hanks, is stranded on a South Pacific island, the sole survivor of a company plane crash. The film tells the story of the next four years of Noland's life. Apart from Spartan protection and a supply of coconuts, the island provides little else to its new inhabitant. But in Robinson Crusoe style he learns to survive in a setting that starkly contrasts his "it's a sin to lose time," consumer-driven world.

Those four years begin as Noland wakens to the sound of the crashing sea upon his new tropical island home. Noland, sitting in the sand, unpacks a handful of FedEx plastic-wrapped packages that survived the crash and floated to shore—video tapes, a pair of ice skates, an evening gown, and a volleyball. He opens all the packages except one. The one medium-sized cardboard box, identified only with a pair of angel wings, remains sealed for the four years Noland is cut off from civilization.

Eventually Noland sails from the island and is picked up by a ship. At the very end of the movie, Noland escorts the unopened box up a dusty Texas farm road. He knocks on the door of the house, but no one answers. He leans the weathered box against the door and leaves a short note. "Thanks," he writes, "this package saved my life."

With that note, the meaning of the mysterious box is revealed: we cannot really live without purpose.

Elapsed Time: The first scene on the island is about 15 minutes into the movie. The final scene ends the movie.

Background: Cast Away is rated PG-13 for intense drama.

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