Author Archives: Gemanna

The Last Class Notes! We Made it!


As a refresher for the end of the course, please read Professor Belli’s blog post above this one: “Wrapping Up The Semester”. Some reminders for us all are:

  • Essay 2: The Handmaids Tale due tomorrow, Friday December 15th at 1pm. 30% of our grades! Please submit your essays through the dropbox link available in the “Assignments” tab
  • Reread and edit your essays before submitting them! When you believe you are finished writing, print the essay and read it aloud slowly to catch missed errors, (grammar and spelling wise), formatting and sentence quality. This is strongly encouraged by Professor Belli!
  • REMEMBER: Submit essay 2 as a word document! Not a PDF or anything else so that the professor can have access to it
  • A 1-page cover letter is REQUIRED! Essays without cover letters will not be accepted or given a grade. The cover letter must be a thoughtful and detailed reflection on the revision process of Essay 2. The cover letter is written after finishing the essay and should be the first page of the document
  • Course reflections are due in the dropbox on Tuesday, December 19th by 2:30pm! The dropbox link for handing this in is also in the “Assignments” tab. This is also our last official day of class!
  • Final course grades should be available on CunyFIrst by December 27th @ midnight! All grades are non-negotiable but feel free to email Professor Belli with questions regarding the breakdown of your grade, or even help for your academic future
  • Please review the writing resources available to you on the site! Use all that you can for great essays

Today’s Mini Essay Workshop


What is background info?

  • Short and to-the-point summary
  • Concise and relevant
  • Comes at the start of the essay, promptly following the introduction paragraph, (First body paragraph)
  • Background info may be included to explain certain claims and arguments within your body paragraphs.

“Summary is not bad, but just summary is bad.” -Professor Belli

More Reminders

-Margaret Atwood’s introduction of the book shouldn’t be taken into account in your essays, as it is Atwoods own interpretation of the novel.

-An introduction is an overview of your essay; not an overview of the novel. It is also known as your thesis paragraph.

-When citing quotes from the novel, only the number is needed! This means it should be : (4). Not: (Atwood 4).

*REVERSE OUTLINES ARE HELPFUL AFTER COMPLETEING YOUR ESSAYS! This is when you read through each body paragraph and create a topic sentence, (5-10 words), to sum up each paragraph.


Lastly, I want to wish everyone a successful finals week and a happy holiday season as we conclude this fall semester! Good luck to all! 🙂

The Story of a Century

Now that we’ve officially finished the remarkable novel of Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale is a piece I will hold close as a personal favorite. I feel that Atwood’s message is pertinent to the way a woman’s role is viewed in our society. For centuries, women have been censored and silenced; restricted of basic rights we’ve always deserved as they are human rights. The Gilead society mimics a time that actually once existed, aside from women being forced to reproduce for other people; it resembles a time where women had no rights to there own actions, body and mind.

A Handmaid is an exploited tool that is vital to the succession of Gilead. These women are reduced to their reproductive systems, hidden under red cloaks and stripped of their identities, as they are “soothing to the Eyes” in this way, (Atwood 212). Offred is a mere object in the eyes of Serena Joy, and this becomes most evident when she insists on Nick being the one to impregnate her, as the Commander is likely sterile. I find it funny how the word “sterile” seemed to be forbidden and not of use in this society, yet Serena promptly knew that this was the issue at hand. Serena Joy is basically demanding Offred to let herself be raped by Nick, in efforts to get her baby one way or another. She even metaphorically dangles a photo of Offred’s daughter in front of her as a bargaining or offering in exchange for letting a different man attempt to get her pregnant. Reading this scene painted an awful and vile picture of Serena, who seems to have absolutely no remorse for her actions. “Your time is running out”, Serena calmly threatens on 204, blackmailing Offred to do as she desires or be sent off to the Colonies. Offred giving in to this “deal” or agreement is also the result of her fixation on the fact that her daughter was alive and well, somewhere in this messed up aftermath.

Handmaids are truly of no value but at the same time have the highest value in Gilead, as they are held with priority when involving the child within them but frowned upon and treated like prisoners when they are not with child. Ofglen being replaced immediately following her suicide, (or so Offred was told), is yet another example of the value of a Handmaid: disposable, easily replaceable. “If your dog dies, get another”, (Atwood 187). Procreation is truly a business in this way, leaving Handmaids at the wrong end of the deal and at the bottom of this caste system Gilead has imposed on everyone. On 211, the Commander says the saddest thing regarding Offred’s placement in this system and the Gileadean rule over women with viable ovaries. “You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs…better never means better for everyone. It always means worse for some.” In order to fulfill the Gileadean rule, some have to suffer while the others merely neglect. This gave me a flashback of the short story of Omelas: a society where all people benefitted from the neglect and suffering of one child, who represented a group of minorities and those neglected in todays society. The Gilead society is righteous and religious but aware that what they are doing to these Handmaids is disgusting and utterly unjust; it is rape and exploitation of women with fertile reproductive systems.

Storytelling becomes more apparent in these final parts, and Offred’s attempts at hoarding her sanity and remembering her experience as it was is for the purpose of retelling her story; keeping a physical record of all she endured. The tapes discussed in the Historical Notes are Offred’s words and soul; her reconstruction and recount of it all. These tapes were now artifacts of the Gileadean era serving as a basis for the Professor and other historians analyzing a now ancient society. Through Offred’s eyes, just like us readers, the historians of this post-Gilead era are given a detailed story and experience of one Handmaid among the thousands that once were. Atwood provides this sort of peek into the future to show the end of such a terrible era, as a new one takes place and observes what was once Gilead: a culture of rape using the Bible as its justification. And even after being given a first hand account of the horror that Handmaids endured, these historians and Professors show very little sympathy or feeling for Offred’s encounters, as she is simply one story among the many Handmaids that existed. Our vision of Offred is suspended in the air, as we are given proof of her escape from Gilead but her whereabouts following that are unknown.

A Rat In a Maze

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood shows the future through a religious and corrupted lens where women who can reproduce are now national resources. Parts IX-X give us more of Offred’s life under the governments restrictions on her, specifically on her uterus.


Offred lives a strict, inhuman routine and is given an escape through her meetings with the Commander. She is bound to him by her womb, and he rapes her during these “special” Ceremonial nights, yet she finds comfort in their secret meetings that go against all household rules in this new era of Gilead. With each visit to his office she is inching closer to pieces of her former lifestyle as he lures her in with Scrabble games and forbidden magazines. These scenes with Offred and the Commander remind me that she is in fact a prisoner, and as a prisoner you would most likely give in to any small amounts of freedom. In this case, Offred gets to take a true breath outside of the involuntary lifestyle forced onto her. “To want is to have a weakness. It is this weakness, whatever it is, that entices me”, (Atwood 136). These blinks of liberty through ordinary Scrabble games keep her very expectant and enlivened, as she describes this feeling as being “naughty”. These meetings crack open a door to many broad possibilities: possibilities that can worsen her situation with consequences and setbacks or possibilities that can help her inch closer to something more, something closer to free. Even the Commander himself holding the least demeaning occupation in this new society bends around the restrictions and rules as he seems to be amused by providing Offred with forbidden alone time and literature.

The Maze

Offred is confined to the home of the Commander and her heavily monitored outings with her “twin”, Ofglen. Even with her newly found bits of release at night with the Commander, Offred is still a “two-legged” womb in the eyes of Gilead. “A rat in a maze is free to go anywhere, as long as it stays inside the maze”, (Atwood 165). Even with the breakthrough between her and Ofglen on page 168 when they figuratively strip themselves of their constant disguise through their eye contact, Offred was still obliged to her duty of reproducing. Whenever Offred and Ofglen set out on their surveilanced walks, their dialogue was completely rehearsed and aided to their characters; saying things like “God sent us good weather” and “Blessed be the fruit” as common conversation. On page 168, Offred and Ofglen cross an “invisible line” together as they break free from their constant cover up masked by the white wings that camouflaged them anywhere in Gilead. Through this revelation between these women, we see the silver lining of hope that exists beyond their connection. “You can join us”, Ofglen assures Offred on page 168, giving us context to other Handmaids who’ve come together despite their status. Though these women are bound to their red cloaks and their uteruses, they seem to have discovered their own loophole within each other, as who they now are in this sick society of Gilead brings them closer than ever in that they are enduring the same pain and unjust experiences.

Here is another screen grab from The Handmaid’s Tale Hulu series. I feel that including these photos gives a great visual representation to the novel. Depicted above is Offred playing Scrabble with the Commander.

Butter is Hope

The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood is unwinding and revealing the uglier side of a Handmaid’s life, exclusively through Offred’s thoughts and heartbreaking memories.


I think the saddest part I read from this week’s assigned parts was reading of how Offred stole a small portion of butter from her bland meal and moisturized her face with the melted remnants. She saved this small piece of butter in her shoe, smuggling it under the eyes she constantly feels and knows are watching her. This act symbolized the hopeful fire still burning within her; fueling her with small amounts of optimism that she would see the day she’d be thankful she kept her skin oiled and replenished. “As long as we do this, butter our skin to keep it soft, we can believe that we will some day get out…be touched again, in love or desire”, (Atwood 97). We also see “hope” in other forms; the hope and anticipation for a Handmaid to bear the Wive’s and Commander’s children and be “fruitful”; Offred’s hopes that her daughter is still breathing; the hope living within every Handmaid to never see red coming from their bodies, as this symbolizes failure. The color Red takes on a darker definition in this way as it alludes to a miscarriage of the fetus; a horrific result for any Handmaid.

“Cleansing” and Betrayal

Offered’s flashbacks of Aunt Lydia and her discrete encounters with Moira occur at the “Red Center” where the Handmaid’s are figuratively put into washing machines; reeducated and conditioned through religious views that prepare and resize them before taking on their new, vital roles in the Gilead society. These women are not only plucked of their old ways and forced into the constrictions that from now on would be permanently placed on them, but they are also programmed into being against their former lifestyles. Through these extremely religious teachings, they are instructed to repent, or “testify” regarding previous traumatic experiences like rape; taught to believe that women are the cause of men who rape. “Her fault, her fault, her fault”, the Handmaid’s chant as Janine recounts her past gang rape experience on page 73. This scene was sickening to read, as they were basically practicing “slut-shaming” and instilling within each other that being a women alone is cause for being raped. (“Slut-shaming” is a contemporary term that is defined in the Oxford Living Dictionary as: The action or fact of stigmatizing a woman for engaging in behaviour judged to be promiscuous or sexually provocative). Eventually these women succumb to the taunting shame and assimilate in believing that they deserved to be rape victims, as a way to relieve them of the brutal punishments for any women not willing to conform.

The Ceremony

Reading through the slow paced scene of the ceremony left my mouth agape as I couldn’t believe how they carried out the act of impregnating the Handmaids. Offred recounts almost every aspect of the scene as she acknowledges random details like the rug, the brass box near the Commander’s chair, the distinct aroma of tobacco that drifts into the “sitting room” along with the Wife, who Offred always refers to by Serena Joy; solely in her thoughts of course. I believe this is Offred’s way of preparing for the act that was to follow; the pleasureless act of fornication, (barely), between Offred and the Commander. While this act was absent of intimacy completely, it also wasn’t rape: “Nothing is going on here that I haven’t signed up for…This is what I chose”, (Atwood 94). The Wife fulfills yet another purposeless position as she sits opposite the Commander near Offred’s head, grasping her hands. This was “serious business”; no feelings or personal attachments. Procreation is now a large business and the Handmaid’s were the workers; volunteered unwillingly and exploited for what they were able to do with their bodies. Treated exactly like “containers”, the value they held only existed inside them; specifically in their wombs.

Below is a better explanation of the term “slut-shaming” for those who were unfamiliar with the context of it:

“Some examples of circumstances wherein women are slut-shamed include violating dress code policies by dressing in perceived sexually provocative ways, requesting access to birth control,having premarital, casual, or promiscuous sex, engaging in prostitution,or when being victim blamed for being raped or otherwise sexually assaulted.” 

Cited From:

Wikipedia contributors. “Slut-shaming.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 3 Nov. 2017. Web. 7 Nov. 2017.

Blessed Be The Fruit

Here we go! The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is a reading I think we all discreetly dreaded beginning being that the text is more rigid; rich with vocabulary. I can now say that it’s actually quite a page-turner, as I find myself more and more drawn to this backwards and unjust society, or the Republic of Gilead as Atwood names it. These women; Handmaids, are literally objects; vessels kept around for the sole purpose of procreation. In Atwood’s world, time seems to have undone the work generations of women have fought for; rights that truly belong to any human at birth and for the duration of their lives. The right to think freely, act freely and simply BE seems to have vanished from any woman with the ability to reproduce. Atwood paints a vivid picture of a very possible future with this record from Offred’s point of view written during a time of political and religious turmoil.

A Handmaid, at a glance:

There is no question how little this society wants to see of any woman. Within the first chapter, I instantly compared Offred’s routine details to that of a prisoner. They were being controlled by the very own law; exploited for their reproductive capabilities, prohibited from free will and any kind of self-expressive lifestyle. The very clothing they wore was a blood-red, highly distinguishable uniform.”Everything except the wings around my face is red: the color of blood, which defines us. The skirt is ankle length…the white wings too are prescribed issue; they are to keep us from seeing, but also from being seen”, (Atwood 8). Through Offred’s thoughts, we can feel the hands of a suppressive government that held tight restraints on every aspect of her. Her mind is possibly all that she has left, as well as memories of her former lifestyle where short skirts, makeup and loose hair was a norm; some of the many liberties of a free woman. These women were repurposed as baby-making machines; no longer human, no longer allowed to act like one. The encounter with Offred and the Guardians on page 22 shows the true constrictions on their livelihood and natural human instincts. With just seconds of eye contact that was barely allowed, Offred internally rages with sexual temptation since she is restricted from expressing such feelings.

“Of-fred”? “Of-glen”?

These names themselves suggest that Handmaids are literal property, belonging perhaps to the man for which they will reproduce, or someone deeper we have yet to discover. As we conclude chapter one, we learn that these women exchange names inaudibly by watching each others mouth movement: “Alma. Janine. Dolores. Moira. June”, (Atwood 4). This chapter seems to be a flashback to the origin of Handmaids before they are Handmaids, as they still have their own names; not attached to a “Fred” or a “Glen”. This reminded me of marriage; the way married women are often renamed “Mrs. (Husband’s Name Here), as if a woman is the physical property of a man once a paper is signed. I was also reminded of how poor the circumstances of marriage were surrounding the times before women received many of our rights; a time around the creation of “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and “Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin. Women were seen almost equivalent to purchased land, as they were tied to their owners, (husbands), by a signature on a marriage certificate. Women during this time were manipulated and controlled; often birthing several children while mainly staying home, as jobs that hired women were scarce.

Wives VS Handmaids

As for the women who cannot reproduce in these times, the Wives lead task-less, easy going lives as they are lacking of the vital ability to have their own babies. The fact that a Handmaid goes through 9 months with child means nothing to the Wives, as the situation is described as a “business transaction”, (Atwood 15). The Handmaids and Wives are furthest from friends and they seem to envy one another’s lifestyles: The Wives envy the Handmaid’s for being capable of breeding and the Handmaid’s envy the Wives for their effortless routines. Besides the endless knitting the Wives seem to be accountable for, there was basically nothing else. “It’s good to have small goals that can easily be attained”, (Atwood 13). I would assume the Wives are also jealous due to the sense of purposelessness they must feel in a society where Handmaids are held with priority.

This is a photo from the critically acclaimed Hulu series based from the novel. “Your body is no longer your own.”



To Survive and To Thrive

Here are my first three paragraphs of what will possibly, but not surely, be my essay for Station Eleven. 

Surviving in this world is held as a number one priority for anyone; it is why we wake up each morning/night and set off on our routines for work and/or school, which provide us with the funds to survive. But solely surviving can’t be our only tasks as evolving human beings living on such a wondrous planet with endless possibilities; we create, invent, innovate, enlighten, and inspire others. In Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel proposes a world in which modern day humans acclimate to a post-pandemic environment. With the regress of civilization in effect, Mandel presents the essence of what it truly means to survive through the actions of different protagonists like Kirsten and Clark. Mandel probes the significance behind the statement “because survival is insufficient” by instituting a newer meaning: surviving is preserving.

After the prominent fall of mankind caused by the Georgia Flu, the planet is an empty shell of abandoned structures, cars and homes. The majority of Georgia Flu survivors have maintained the mindset of simply surviving and remaining alive, while a group of former musicians, actors/actresses, and artists come together and form The Traveling Symphony in efforts to enlighten the darkness that now existed around them. “Survival is insufficient” is first seen on Mandel 58, as these three words are the prime definition of what the Symphony stands for. These people have dedicated themselves to what beauty and humanity still remained of their previous lives, keeping works of Shakespeare alive after the restart of time and life as they knew it.

The repurposing of buildings and items is very prevalent in Station Eleven, but what Clark initiates on Mandel 254 signifies his version of putting deeper meaning into the words “survival is insufficient”. With its first pieces being a seemingly useless iPhone, a couple of identification cards and an Amex, The Museum of Civilization is born and brought to life. These items were now artifacts of a historical point in time when they were held to high value. “He stood by the case and found himself moved by every object he saw there, by the human enterprise each object had required”, (Mandel 255).



I am not one to plan an essay out for weeks ahead, and I am still contemplating changing my thesis and title as well. My body paragraphs will be much fuller once I work on my actual essay but I don’t think its fair for an “outline” to be perfect. My second idea aside from providing pieces from the novel that show how surviving is insufficient, was to make this essay about how loss institutes new and innovative beginnings, or how loss gives survival a new definition. Aside from my indecisiveness, this draft is subject to change completely and I am still trying to find a thesis I can stick with and pull multiple pieces of evidence from the text for.

A Future Redefined: The Beginning After The End

It seems as though we have finally caught up to the answers of all our urging questions regarding the whereabouts of certain characters in Station Eleven. Characters like Clark, Elizabeth, “The Prophet” and even Arthur in the final moments before his demise are shown through a more recent lens in parts 7-9 as we are front row, witnessing the spread of the outbreak from an ordinary airport that would soon serve as a significant symbol of the recommencement of humanity.

During this particular section of Emily St. John Mandel’s amazing novel, I found myself unable to take breaks as I subconsciously knew that this would be the end of this apocalyptic novel i’ve  been so invested in. We spend much of part 7 in Severn City airport as the last planes to ever fly  land on the tarmac, and as chaos slowly grows more profound around Clark and Elizabeth. Clark is witness to the final hours of normal civilization and all of life’s smallest privileges seem to flood his thinking; “The last time I ate an orange…The last time I boarded a plane that hadn’t been repurposed as living quarters, an airplane that actually took off”, (Mandel 231). As with nearly everything, we always tend to yearn for things most when they are absent or no longer available to us. Even the smallest things like his call to Miranda on her last day of life had now haunted him; that something that was once as simple as pressing a pixelated button on a fragile, glass screen was now seemingly gone forever. Humans have grown so accustomed to speaking with someone miles away through our miniature, electric square devices and the Georgia Flu resulted in a regress to a time none of them had ever known: a pre-technological age. “The increasing brilliance meant the grid was failing, darkness pooling over the Earth. I was here for the end of electricity”, Clark realizes on Mandel 251. “Time had been reset by catastrophe”, and Clark and Elizabeth were among the few hundred survivors left in their new home that was Concourse B in the Departures terminal of this airport.

And now that we’ve all finished this wonderful piece, I can finally exclaim: THE PROPHET IS ARTHUR’S SON, TYLER! I was in such disbelief, and still am when I followed the path of this young, odd boy that hadn’t had much of a presence in the novel until he is seen shouting bible verses at the quarantined airplane that landed sealed at the farthest end of the tarmac. The hunger for electric connection and phone service is still evident when people become aware that they are surviving the end of civilization with Arthur Leander’s very own son, but have no way of providing evidence. “I wish I could tweet this.. you know like, ‘Not much, just chilling with Arthur Leander’s kid at the end of the world”, (Mandel 242). Tweet to who, your presumably dead social media followers? In a time where everyone these people have ever known and loved were most likely already consumed by the Georgia Flu, these people wanted to tweet! This in my opinion was Mandel’s way of mocking the way our generation attends to crisis and turmoil; just share it with all your friends! These people’s dire need for their phones to work wasn’t for the possibility of contacting family, but for the access to the world wide web they once held at their fingertips.

The Museum of Civilization is first brought to our awareness when a young runaway named Eleanor from the eerie cult town of St. Deborah by the water is desperately running toward it, seeking refuge within the Symphony. We also conclude that Clark catalyzed this museum with its first pieces being such simple items as an iPhone, a laptop and a few identification cards behind a glass in the Skymiles Lounge. These items were small footprints; pieces and remnants of a life that no longer existed, a life that once held these items to high value. Things that once held mass importance to our daily routines and were now utterly useless were now artifacts and reminders of a more complex time before the restart of humanity. This museum was Clark’s definition of “…because survival is insufficient”, as the preservation of the arts and music was Kirsten’s and the many others in the Symphony. Surviving in these times meant nothing if there was no attempt at progression; spreading knowledge and light through music, poetry, performance. The Prophet and his cult followers strongly believed that they were the light in these dark times but truly were the opposite, leading civilization on a destructive path designed by contagious insanity. The Symphony, Clark, and even Jeevan were the light; preserving the pieces of the past left available to them and reigniting the flame of humanity by defending what once was, as they paved their paths into a future redefined.

Anonymous, Pure Self Expression

Why do I write? The question itself sounds like “why do I read? or listen to music?”
Writing has always been a release of the thoughts in my mind that aren’t the same if just spoken, an urge when I am inspired; it feels as though there’s an overflow of words rushing to the paper sometimes. I’ve been writing personally and freely since the 5th grade, when I was introduced to the world of literature, after getting lost in the different lives and worlds of books and after I had read and collected enough Junie B. Jones stories to come to the conclusion that I desperately wanted to write my own!

During the designated free writing time given to us after recess for 10 minutes, I felt the most freedom just recollecting my thoughts in my notebook. I remember once recollecting my morning in a free write and I wrote, “The sun spilled like orange juice over my pillow and onto my ruffled bedsheets”. I didn’t think much of it but my teacher loved this sentence so much! I can also still recall the sweaty palms and hand aches induced by my excitement to get all my words and short stories down. My first ever hand written chapter book was a science fiction novel about a group of gifted seniors in high school who got together every New Year’s Eve to stop the sun from scorching the planet. They’d all been born with the same supernatural power to blow extremely strong winds that cool off the Sun’s surface! I went on to write dozens of short stories; some related to mystery, action, and even some from the perspective of fictional slave characters during the late 1700’s, as this was the grade I first learned about the slave trade that shaped America.

Today, I’ve written myself out of some of the darkest places in my life. From loss, heartbreak or even the happiest days of my life, my reflection and expression through writing has given me strength to not only push forward but inspire others. I believe this is also why I aim to be an English teacher; to help others reach inside for stories and words that already exist in them. To write is to share from within and create worlds, animals, people of all colors and shapes… all with just the ink in your pen or the lead in a pencil. Writing is an editable journey in which we delve into the depths of our creativity and piece together something meaningful and from the soul. I write because I am inspired, but I also write to inspire, and writing is sort of a never-ending chain of influence in this way.

Never Rains, But It Pours

Here we are! Parts 4-6 of this page turning, pulse accelerating, puzzle of a novel, Station Eleven. These 3 parts have been very thought-provoking and informative with regards to Arthur Leander’s life post the pandemic and the many paths that end or cross each other as the Georgia Flu swallows mankind whole.

The persisting themes we can sense as we read are definitely still survivalism, but also a sense of the significance of surviving. As Kirsten asks herself existential questions such as, “What did it mean to be yourself, in the course of such unspeakable days? How was anyone supposed to seem?”, (Mandel 140), I also as a reader found myself at a loss when imagining any sanity in the aftermath of the absolute end of civilization. As the Symphony begins to experience the perpetual disappearance of its members, the plot’s mood darkens and takes a twisted turn with Kirsten herself and her closest friend August losing contact with the group entirely. “Hell is the absence of the people you long for”, Mandel admits on 144, but then follows this statement with a seemingly contradictory question on 148 when Kirsten thinks, “If hell was other people, what is a world with almost no people in it?”. The world post the Georgia Flu is almost seen as an empty Heaven; almost entirely absent of humans and the machines all manmade that once were given life by man were now resting unmanned. This peaceful image of the post apocolyptic world reminded me of Kina’s unfavored point in class that life post the Georgia Flu was valued more.

Kirsten has conflicting and dissipating memories of her life prior to the end, giving her the realization that the younger you were during the pandemic’s origin, the less affected you are by the world that existed now. It is almost as though you are given a clean slate of a mind, barely remembering the luxury of cold air seeping through vents, (an air conditioner), or act of flipping a switch “and the room floods with light”, (Mandel 150). Kirsten’s difficulty in remembering if refrigerators had light inside brought back a flash of the first scene readers are given when Kirsten is a traumatized child watching death unfold before her, which is also the last day of the normal flow of life. Kirsten’s distant memory of her previous life allows her to mentally and physically adjust more efficiently to the only way of life there was now; survival and preserving what was left. We also see this in Alexandra; a very young Symphony member who relies utterly on the memories of the older members for merely an understanding of the kind of world that existed before her. There is nothing to reminisce if you never got to experience or live through it.

Mandel also brings us back to Jeevan and his way of coping with the fatal pandemic storm that was overhead, as his attempt of “waiting out” the flu was cut short along with the end of his food and water supply. It seems as though many people’s first instinct is to wait it out, as it was also Kirsten’s first action when she admits post pandemic in part of her interview with Francois Diallo that for the first time, “waiting seemed to make sense”, (Mandel 185). Waiting slowly but surely turns into survival as questioning what there was to wait for came into place. The air is thick with desperation and hope that the ending itself would end as Jeevan outlives the internet, the newscasters on television, and eventually his hope of survival in this vacated tower that reeked of death. Jeevan’s thoughts on Mandel 178 really had an affect on me as he realizes how much human presence mattered to all that occurred in the previous everyday world. “There had always been a delicate infrastructure of people, all of them working unnoticed around us, and when people stop going to work, the entire operation grinds to a halt”. Humans catalyzed the start of everything; planes, cars, buildings, stores, electricity… The absence of humans was the end of this continuous routine flow, which reminded me of our previous Ray Bradbury piece, “August 2025: There Will Come Soft Rains”. The gods were gone, and everything was frozen below Jeevan as the snow continued falling.

We jump to and fro from the vision of “iPhone zombies” and sleepwalkers to desolate lands and the fear of encountering other people. The coming across of corpses and skeletons in cars and in beds is the haunting reminder of the grand loss humanity has endured, and life on Earth barely succeeding with such a slow, faint pulse. The destination of Severn City seems to be a main point that will connect many and answer some of our bursting questions as we find out that Elizabeth and Clark were on the “twenty-seventh-to-last” flight to ever take off, (Mandel 224), headed to Arthur’s funeral in Toronto in the first hours of the pandemic but diverted to Severn City airport. Severn City is the destination of the Symphony as well, as they seek a larger population of surviving souls said to be sheltered in this very airport. The ending of part 6 reveals Miranda’s fate as she is engulfed in the news of Arthur’s death and aware the deadly virus that was now in her system. We are aware of how widespread this pandemic really was, as it originated in Moscow and was now apparently in Malaysia where Miranda was. These last moments of life for Miranda are full of light as people begin to disappear from around her, and as the world of Station Eleven flickered in her eyes just before her last sunrise.


The Aftermath: Year 20

We’ve arrived to part 2 of Station Eleven! Part 2 begins with author Emily St. John Mandel suspending us over a scene somewhere near Lake Michigan as we are introduced to The Traveling Symphony. This group trekked in temperatures of “106 Fahrenheit” and were made up of numerous actors and musicians who aided in preserving and keeping the culture of art and theater alive in what remained of their desolate, destroyed country. We can easily see the juxtaposition of part 1 and part 2, with Mandel placing us in the moments before the downfall of mankind and now showing us readers what was left of mankind; close to nothing. We are reacquainted with Kirsten Raymond who is a Traveling Symphony member, who wore “sandals whose soles had been cut from an automobile tire, three knives in her belt”, (Mandel 35). This line helped me visualize the rawness of the scene and how set back mankind was because of this epidemic; using remnants of a world they once lived in to survive in the world that existed now.

Even time itself had been stopped and restarted at Year 1, as we see Mandel mention that by Year Three “all the gasoline had gone stale…and you can’t keep walking forever”, (Mandel 37). The gears of mankind were grinding slowly but surely with the help of the Traveling Symphony keeping the works of jazz and orchestral arrangements and Shakespeare alive. This seemed to suit Kirsten’s future, as she stated in Part 1 at such a young age that acting was the thing she loved most in the world. This also made me question why she was given a small nonspeaking role in King Lear, the production she’d been apart of until the final days of normal life as she knew it. I cannot even imagine living through two eras of completely differing times like Kirsten did, as she can barely remember what a computer screen looks like let alone her own mothers face and her street address on Mandel 40. Interestingly, Kirsten has flashes of memory retaining Arthur Leander, “a fleeting impression of kindness and gray hair”, (Mandel 41). Kirsten remembering Arthur but scarcely remembering her own mother reveals the essence of those days and how much working in that production really meant to her. Kirsten also memorizes the rare comic books in her possession gifted to her by Arthur himself, which she holds very close as if it were the absolute  last piece of her life.

The quote on the bottom of chapter 8 really stood out while reading as it rang a similar sounding bell to the current situation Kirsten and the other remaining people were facing:

I stood looking over my damaged home and tried to forget the sweetness of life on Earth”, (Mandel 42).

With only ruins and pieces of the humanity they had once been apart of, they were left to face the emptiness of what was ahead; they were left on square 1 of life with only themselves as support. We are reminded of the destroyed civilization when the Symphony settles into a former Walmart store in Chapter 9, as they arrive in the elusive and quiet town of St. Deborah. The repurposing of these stores that once served as shopping centers and restaurants shows how the remaining humans got by; scattering and settling in groups in places that were once big, electric cities. As they played music announcing their entrance into the town, “the music drew almost no onlookers as they passed”, (Mandel 43), suggesting immediately that something was odd about this particular stop in the Symphony’s tour. They even adjust their normal performance of King Lear to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in efforts to correspond with the dreary, strange town they would perform for.

The Symphony’s motto also stuck with me, as it pertained to their sole purpose. “Because survival is insufficient”, (Mandel 58). Surviving the pandemic wasn’t enough for them, and spreading the arts and creativity of artists and authors from their world before the Flu was so significant to their existence. They took it amongst themselves to protect and deliver the artistic remains of humanity, as to not let it be forgotten with the restart of their world.

Religion is revived in the form of a Prophet, someone who seems to control the small town of St. Deborah as he darkens the mood of Chapter 12 suggesting the occurrence of the epidemic was “perfect”.

“Earlier in the day I was contemplating the flu… and let me ask you this. Have you considered the perfection of the virus?… The flu, the great cleansing that we suffered twenty years ago, that flu was our flood”, (Mandel 60). This prophet’s speech following the performance casts a shadow over everything, as he suggests that this tragic human downfall happened for a reason. There’s a mysterious foreshadowing as Kirsten and the Prophet seem to have an edgy encounter with a long stare that suggests something possibly sinister beneath the words of faith and light from the Prophet. As the Symphony exits the town as fast as they’d arrived, Kirsten admires her paperweight which was first given to her in Chapter 1 during the chaotic death of Arthur Leander. This piece of her childhood symbolized the world that had existed once; the world that was now barren and gone with the wind.