Two of Cast Away’s most notable scenes occur when Chuck is in the caves, with a fan theory revealing a link between them and Kelly’s life at home.
Chuck’s Cast Away scenes in the cave have long been subject to speculation, with one fan theory explaining that they have incredibly symbolic meanings related to his girlfriend. While on a cargo plane for packages from FedEx, Cast Away’s Chuck is stranded on an island for four years after the plane crashes into the ocean. Tom Hanks’ character gradually slips into delirium through the perils of lone survival, with his will to keep going largely due to his love of life and his girlfriend, Kelly Frear (Helen Hunt).
While Chuck was missing for 50 months, Kelly abandoned hope of seeing him again and married his old dentist, Jerry, with Chuck returning home to devastatingly discover the new couple has a young daughter. While it’s unclear how the timeline of events back in New York compares to Chuck’s passage of time on the island, Cast Away suggests that while Kelly was beginning to move past Chuck in her life, he began inhabiting the film’s notable cave. During Cast Away’s cave location scenes, Chuck Noland begins losing the light in his flashlight, has complete conversations with the volleyball Wilson, and extracts his abscessed tooth with an ice skate.
Two of the most important cave scenes occur when Chuck’s flashlight dies and later when he extracts his tooth, both of which are theorized to symbolize the end of his relationship with Kelly. Reddit user the_vico suggests that the first cave scene when Chuck’s flashlight dies is the moment when Kelly gave up on finding Chuck and decided to move forward with her life, thus the light dying on their relationship and her hope of ever seeing him again. The theory also speculates that Cast Away’s next cave scene in which Chuck removes his tooth after such unbearable pain represents Kelly officially letting go of Chuck by marrying Jerry the dentist. The Cast Away story theory explains that the melancholy ending of the cave scene after such violent pain of removing the tooth parallels Kelly’s inner struggle with the pain of finally having to move past Chuck even though she still loves him, as Kelly removes Chuck with the help of a dentist.
The theory also proves that Chuck and Kelly breaking up was inevitable, no matter how much they loved one another. Chuck was a workaholic obsessed with mastering time who put his career with FedEx ahead of spending much-needed time with Kelly, who was still trying to find her way in the world. Although his future with Kelly was arguably dead shortly after he arrived on the island, the hope of seeing her again was what kept Tom Hanks’ character going, even if that didn’t mean they could end up together. The pain of losing Kelly before the end of Cast Away was always there for Chuck even subliminally, so although he wasn’t directly neglecting her for years and allowing their relationship to fade, he felt the path of their doomed romance as two major roadblocks in his survival on the island – in this case, no more light and an unbearable toothache.
Cast Away is notable for its bittersweet ending, with the symbolism of the cave scenes going to show that the signs of Kelly moving on were there all along. Although Chuck’s love for Kelly saved him on the island, their relationship was as dead as the tooth that desperately needed to be removed, no matter how painful it would be or how long he could try to prolong it. Cast Away‘s FedEx employee finally recognized the importance of slowing down in life and appreciating those around him after being stuck on an island for five years, with Cast Away’s ending proving that even though he and Kelly loved each other, his race against time would have seen him lose her.
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