One of the most compelling aspects of The Martian, whether the form is that of a novel, game, or movie, is the conflict between Mark Watney and his hostile surroundings on Mars. However, this theme of man vs. nature isn’t uncommon. As Ong discusses in “Writing Restructures Consciousness”, with the advent of the written word came a greater risk of authors being unduly influenced by other works. One aspect of this influence in intertextuality, which is definitely present in The Martian. In fact, the work itself directly references literature like Robinson Crusoe.
Of course, the plot itself is original, which is good for more reasons than one. Not only would a recycled plot be incredibly boring, but writing is a product of the culture and time period in which its author resides. Man Friday in Robinson Crusoe is a prime example of this – belief in Social Darwinism and European imperialism were prevalent during Daniel Defoe’s lifetime and that’s reflected in the dynamic between Crusoe and Friday (see a comic here). Mark Watney, on the other hand, lives in a much more progressive time (as do we) and is stranded on a planet rather than an island (Martian natives wouldn’t really make sense in the context of the narrative). He is completely alone on Mars, especially without Pathfinder, and this solitude affects the way that The Martian plays out. Watney writes his logs because he wants to record his experiences in case he doesn’t survive, and its conversational style is probably due to the fact that he has no one else to talk to.
Additionally, Mark Watney’s desire for communication supports Ong’s statement about secondary orality that”we are turned outward because we have turned inward”. Watney certain has turned inwards – he’s the only person on an entire planet, trapped with his thoughts and a collection of 70’s paraphernalia – and that increases his desire to communicate with other humans. At one point, Watney debates going to get Opportunity, not only because he wants some information from NASA, but also because “I’m sick of being on my own!”
Luckily, he won’t be on his own much longer.