Kevin Morgan Institution of Affiliation
April 24, 2018
Current Themes: Apocalyptic Fiction
Station Eleven is an audacious, darkly glittering novel (Mandel, 2016) that is about art, ambitions, and fame that is arranged during the eerie days of civilization downfall. Emily St. John Mandel is the writer of the Station eleven novel. On one frosty night of an eminent Hollywood actor collapses and dies on the stage during the generation of the film King Lear. Progressing back and forth, during the periods from the actor’s initial days of the film actor to fifteen years later, when a theatre crew known as the Traveling Symphony, wanders about the wasteland. The incidence remains spine-tingling, spellbinding and the mourning novel maps the bizarre twists of the fate connecting the five individuals. The five people include the main actor who is Arthur Leander, the actor’s first wife, the man who tried to save him, a young actress and his oldest friend with the Traveling Symphony, captured in the midst of a deadly self-proclaimed seer. Occasionally terrifying and sometimes delicate, the novel ‘Station Eleven’ narrates a story relating to the relationships to which maintains us, the short-lived type of fame as well as the beauty of the world as we get to know it. The novel ‘Station Eleven’ is mostly dominated by five 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 dies of a heart attack during the Georgia flu outbreak while he was on stage and he was a successful actor who had taken over the Hollywood (Byrd, 2017). Kirsten witnessed the death of Arthur as he was her mentor during the production of the play. Mandel describes Arthur’s life during his early days struggling in Toronto accompanied by his friend Clark Thompson and his struggle to fame and celebrity. During his stay in Hollywood, Arthur married three times marrying Miranda Carrol as his wife to whom they had come from the same island. Elizabeth Colton was the second wife and the mother of Tyler, Arthurs, son and later married Lydia Marks as his third wife.
In the novel ‘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.
Greek popularization, through both Plotinus and Plato, the ideology argued that everything in the known multiverse had its place in a divinely composited hierarchical chain. The chain 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 her 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 are 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 artifacts that were created by Miranda, Arthur’s first wife unifies Kirsten to Arthur. It is through Arthur 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 Traveling 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 too, 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 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 (Lu, 2014). Regarding 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. For the humankind 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. Also, 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.
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.
Lu, Min-Zhan. “Representing and negotiating differences in the contact zone.” A Language and Power Reader: Representations of Race in a” Post-Racist” Era (2014): 231.
Mandel, Emily St John. Station eleven. Éditions Rivages, 2016.