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    Emily Mandel’s Novel “Station Eleven” Is a Traveling Through an Apocalyptic World

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    Imagine surviving an apocalypse. Emily Mandel’s novel, Station Eleven, takes a trip through an apocalyptic world and develops based on the minimal amount of people remaining after the pandemic. Traveling to and from different time frames, the book opens just before the Georgia Flu pandemic takes over the world, during a Shakespearean play where a famous Hollywood actor plays the lead role. The book takes the reader on a journey before the pandemic wiped out the population, and the life after with the few remaining humans. The preservation of art has a major impact on the storyline. A traveling paperweight makes its way through five different characters, and each character develops their own meaning of it.

    Many of the characters also have a connection to Arthur and he is still remembered after the pandemic and his passing. The survivors band together to form a performing group called the Traveling Symphony. Some characters encounter a Prophet who claims that rebuilding the new world will develop centered around him. After the pandemic, several people isolated in an airport begin to develop a civilization. Mandel develops symbolization of the post-pandemic world in Station Eleven, through a paperweight, books, and airplanes.

    While searching through a gift shop, before the pandemic, Clark comes across a paperweight. According to LitCharts, the paperweight “originates with Clark,” which means he had the first possession of it (Ginsberg 9). Clark creates a symbol of his own through the paperweight. He purchases the paperweight and begins the transfers throughout the novel. The book discusses him purchasing the object in the earlier parts, which allows the reader to connect him to the gift shop later in the novel.

    According to Station Eleven, Clark bought the paperweight from a gift shop to give to Miranda and Arthur for their third wedding anniversary (Mandel 99). This represents foreshadowing for later in the book when Clark gets stranded at the Severn City Airport. There, he creates the Museum of Civilization with all of the people left from the planes he flies into Toronto on. He bought the paperweight from a gift shop before the pandemic, and now he owns one in the post-pandemic world.

    Equally, this same beautiful glass paperweight with a storm cloud within it creates a multiple character connection throughout Station Eleven. According to LitCharts, Clark starts out with the paperweight, then gifts it to Miranda and Arthur. Eleven years after Miranda and Arthur divorce, she finds the paperweight and decides to return it to Arthur, just before the pandemic hit. Arthur did not remember where the paperweight came from and he did not want it so he gave it to one of the stage workers, named Tanya (Ginsberg 9). The paperweight has now made it to four different characters, linking them all together. It has also lasted for several years without getting lost. This shows how strong of a bond these characters have since the paperweight never went missing.

    In Station Eleven, “Tanya was giving Kirsten a paperweight” (Mandel 15). This concluded the character transfers of the paperweight. Kirsten survives the pandemic and keeps the paperweight with her throughout her journey with the Traveling Symphony. She does not quite understand the meaning of the paperweight, but she keeps it with her because she believes that it represents beauty. Over a span of at least thirty-one years, the paperweight transferred between five characters and created a symbol of connection and remembrance from the life before the Georgia Flu.

    Also, survivors of the pandemic remembered life before the collapse, by books. Station Eleven states that Kirsten loved to collect Dr. Eleven novels that were once written by Miranda. She collected these in her backpack that she carried with her everywhere and she broke into houses to rummage through bookshelves, looking for more of the novels (Mandel 66). Kirsten read the novels to attempt to remember some of the events from her childhood, since she had such vague memories from that point in her life. She likes to learn about her past and she thinks it will help her start to get the post-pandemic world back to normal.

    August, one of Kirsten’s friends and fellow members of the Traveling Symphony, also found interest in reading materials. According to LitCharts, he has a fascination with old television guides that he finds in abandoned houses and books full of different types of poetry (Ginsberg 9). August has a deep interest in technology, so learning about the channels to the pre-pandemic world helps him advance his technology knowledge. Finding different forms of applied artworks in houses after the pandemic, allowed the arts to stay alive. Books create a symbol of remembrance and learning.

    In addition, books also represent civilization slowly making a comeback as the years pass after the majority of the population is wiped out. In a LitCharts summary, it states New Petoskey has a library in their town that expands frequently with books from before the pandemic, and they create a newspaper to keep people informed (Ginsberg 9). Having a large collection of books in the library allows the people to read several materials from before the pandemic and gives them a better perception of the world.

    The newspaper helps keep the remaining survivors informed, in the new world. According to Station Eleven, the newspapers from New Petoskey discuss the members from the Traveling Symphony that went missing (Mandel 280). This reveals that the Prophet kidnapped the members after they performed in St. Deborah, which is an example as to how the newspaper keeps the people informed. Without the articles from the paper, the process of rebuilding civilization could have slowed down because the Prophet may have continued to kidnap and expand his cult. As a symbol of not only civilization, but safety as well, books play a major role in developing a new society.

    At the same time, the Georgia Flu spread rapidly throughout the world killing off the majority of the population in just days. LitCharts states that a plane landed at the Severn City Airport just after Clark’s plane landed, but nobody ever got off (Ginsberg 9). The planes contained ill people with the Georgia Flu. This shows how easily planes enabled the virus to spread, because without planes flying sick passengers all over the world, it may not have spread as fast.

    Station Eleven refers to a time when a plane full of ill passengers landed, and they all died in a short period of time before ever getting off. Clark comes to a realization that all of the passengers on board have the virus and they had to stay quarantined on the plane (Mandel 237). If any of the passengers left the plane, the virus could easily spread to all of the other people at the Severn City Airport. Keeping all of the passengers on the infected plane, quarantined helped to keep some of the last few survivors alive. Luckily, Clark, Elizabeth, and Tyler’s plane did not have any passengers ill with the Georgia Flu, but they watched the effects of the flu take over one of the planes. Airplanes allow the virus to spread on a larger scale and more rapidly.

    Furthermore, airplanes also brought a representation of efforts to rebuild civilization and remember the world before the pandemic. According to LitCharts, the remaining people used planes as an indication that civilization still existed (Ginsberg 8). Flying planes would mean that other people still exist in the world, since someone has to fly the plane. The pandemic survivors used flying planes as a symbol of survival somewhere else out in the world. Thinking of possible civilizations left in the world, could potentially bring some peace.

    Station Eleven also mentions Clark’s creation of the Museum of Civilization, which he runs from the gift shop in the Severn City Airport (Mandel 258). Clark uses the area to display all of the items and collectibles that the people who live at the airport have. The museum contains several objects such as electronics, clothes, car parts, collectibles, and more. With the display, people who wander their way to the airport to join the started civilization have a way to bring back some of their past memories from the pre-pandemic life. This symbolizes the past life from before the pandemic, and efforts to recreate a new world. Reforming the world in the airport after the pandemic shows survivors a ray of hope for their future.

    The paperweight, books, and airplanes all bring a representation of life after the pandemic through symbolization in Station Eleven. The paperweight not only foreshadows the Museum of Civilization, but it also creates a multiple character connection. Books bring back memories to characters trying to remember their life before the pandemic. They equally represent the efforts made to rebuild a civilization following the pandemic.

    Transporting people by airplane allows the Georgia Flu to spread at a rapid speed, however, the Severn City Airport creates a symbol of civilization with the opening of the Museum of Civilization. Mandel could have connected the paperweight to more characters since all of the characters connect in some way by the end of the book. She uses these symbols to develop the plot better in Station Eleven, which made the time transfers easier to keep up with. As for the books, they helped to reveal more about each character’s personality and past lives. Mandel developed the symbolization in the airplanes well by allowing characters to rebuild the afterlife with the remaining goods that they had.

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    Emily Mandel’s Novel “Station Eleven” Is a Traveling Through an Apocalyptic World. (2022, Nov 29). Retrieved from https://artscolumbia.org/emily-mandels-novel-station-eleven-is-a-traveling-through-an-apocalyptic-world/

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