Institution of Affiliation
ENG 120: Current Themes: Apocalyptic Fiction
Literary analysis essays
Station eleven is an audacious, darkly glittering novel (Mandel, 2016) that is about art, ambitions and fame that is set in the eerie days of civilization collapse, from the author of the three highly acclaimed previous novels. The novel is written by Emily St. John Mandel. On one snowy night of a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies on the stage during the production of the film king Lear. Some hours later, the world as it is known begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in the time from the actors early days of the film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theatre troupe that is known as the travelling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains this suspenseful, spellbinding, elegiac novel charts the strange twists of the fate which connects five people that is the actor, the actors first wife, the man who tried to save him, a young actress and his oldest friend with the travelling symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet. Sometimes terrifying and sometimes tender, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustains us, the ephemeral nature of fame as well as the beauty of the world as we get to know it. The novel Station Eleven is mostly dominated by six major characters to whom all are connected to one another as well as the secondary characters.
Arthur Leander, a famous actor is the first to whom we are introduced to in the novel. The character can be described as pretentious as well as self-absorbed. Throughout the novel, he was married to three women and he is always unfaithful to them and this could be caused by his self-absorption character as he tends to care more about himself rather than the women to whom he is engaged to as his wives. Arthur is connected to almost all the characters in the novel.
Arthur is an extremely successful actor who dies of a heart attack on stage the night of the Georgia Flu outbreak (Byrd, 2017). During the production, Arthur was a mentor to Kirsten who witnessed his death. The novel describes his early days struggling in Toronto with his friend Clark Thompson and his rise to fame and celebrity in the Hollywood where Arthur marries and divorces thrice. Arthur’s first wife was known as Miranda Carroll who happens to originate from the same island as Arthur. The second wife was Elizabeth Colton, she is the mother to Arthurs’ child Tyler. The third wife goes by the name Lydia Marks. Towards the end of his life, Arthur comes to regret his actions and stops valuing his possessions. During the weeks before his death, Arthur decides to move to Israel and discard his older life so that he could be closer to his son. Of course, the Georgia flu could have prevented this from happening if he hadn’t died of heart attack.
In the novella Station Eleven, Arthur Leander is depicted as a symbol of continuity. In her critically acclaimed post-apocalyptic novel, Station Eleven, the author Emily St. John Mandel undeniably exerts her literary prowess as if exemplified in the many parallelisms that she draws between her work and that of such contemporary pieces as those of William Shakespeare ‘King Lear’. Out of the many faculties to which Mandel uses to illustrate the similarities, the most substantial can be obtained in the characterization of Arthur Leander, to which Mandel personifies the overarching theme found in Shakespeare’s playwright which is that of the conceptualization of the great chain of being.
Popularized by the Greeks, through both Plotinus and Plato, the ideology argued that everything in the known multiverse had its own place in a divinely composited hierarchical chain that was preordained by God for the intended purpose of creating order and connectivity among all the things, with a strong emphasis placed on the continuity and correspondence linking all the things. In the case of King Lear, the notion was demonstrated in the way in which the foolish king connected all of his characters and events within the drama and ultimately in the way that his actions lead to the disorder amongst his kingdom. In a similar case, Mandel’s plot driven novel follows in the Shakespeare’s footsteps in the many relationships that manifest between the character and the events through their association with the deceased Arthur Leander. The most obvious demonstrations of this is found in the protagonist Kirsten Raymond and her fascination with collecting Arthur Leander memorabilia in the collapsed society in which she finds herself apart of as well as in in the various contact zones that are central to the main conflict of the book, all of which bond together through some affiliation with his character. With everything being kept into consideration, Arthur Leander is one of the most important characters in Station Eleven (Mandel 2016). The fact being substantiated in the way that Mandel leverages his characters as a means to interconnect the different characters, contact zones and with them, the events in the novel and thus personifying the great chain of being.
One of the most brilliant affirmations of how Mandel intertwines all the characters within the novel through the main character Arthur Leander, is found in the peculiar characteristic that is demonstrated by Kirsten Raymond. On a microscopic level, the behavior demonstrated by Kirsten serves as a means to cope with the new reality that she found herself apart. However on a larger scale, the incident acts her with the way the society use to be at a time that Arthur Leander was alive and everyone who was associated with him when he was alive. The fact is further bolstered in the Station Eleven comic strips that are her higher prized possessions. The artefacts created by Miranda, Arthur’s first wife unifies Kirsten to Arthur and it is through him that his wives as well as his child Tyler and in a domino effect like manner, the various groups within the work such as the travelling symphony, the people at St. Deborah by the water and the group found at the museum of civilization.
Even more profoundly, through employing the stagnant character, Jeevan Chaudhary, a journalist who followed Arthur Leander (Mandel 2016), there are very serious implications that he took the photographs in the magazines she clings so much passionately to, that of the stories central characters. There is unquestionably both a correspondence and a continuity between all characters in Mandel’s work of all that is depicted in the simple action of Arthur giving a small child a cartoon strip to which the novel obtains its name from. While Kirsten’s fixation on Arthur Leander memorabilia provides ample evidence as to how Leander’s character acts to personify the great chain of being, the amalgamation between contact zones and events, namely found in the museum of civilization that was previously identified as Tavern city airport and the central conflict at St. Deborah by the water, through his character, further strengthens the stipulation.
In her article, “Arts of the Contact Zone,” Mary Louis pretty defines a contact zone as a social space where cultures meet, clash and grapple with each other often in the context of highly asymmetrical relations of power. In regard to Mandel’s novel, Station Eleven, the two major contact zones within the work occur at the museum of civilization, immediately after the society’s collapse and at St. Deborah by the water. Throughout her work, Mandel beautifully encapsulated the notion as it is seen in Kirsten’s fascination with Arthur Leander memorabilia and the ways she so effortlessly interconnected the different contact zones and even inside her works. That being said upon an in-depth reading of Station Eleven one can’t help but reflect on the many ways that we all seem united with one another in the overall fabric of humanity and thus showcasing as to why it is difficult to survive alone.
The reason as to why Mandel has used so many characters is that she could achieve the continuity that evident in the whole novel. Arthur Leander, being the main actor in the novel is connected with almost all the players and thus ensuring that there is continuity within her story. The large cast of the characters in the novel Station Eleven helps the author achieve and communicate her intended message to the audience through giving each of the characters a unique but a correlated character to what is being addressed. The main issue of that Mandel brings out by introducing a character who has many wives is to indicate how people can’t be such independent on their own and need a companion to make their lives better. In order for the mankind to ensure their continuity, it is prompted that they get married to have kids an issue that is so much open in the novel of continuity. In addition however, the issue of divorce is present in the novel by Arthur Leander who divorces his first wife an indication of how life isn’t a smooth journey and that proper choices need to be made for a successful life. It’s also evident that no matter how one is successful, he or she is full of fouls that make their lives to get based on regrets.
Mandel, Emily St John. Station eleven. Éditions Rivages, 2016.
Byrd, Merry. “Siblings and Survivors: The Post-Apocalyptic Worlds in Edan Lepucki’s California and Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven.” Femspec 17.2 (2017): 71.
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