Category Archives: People’s Choice Posts

To Live and Die by the Sword of Faith

After reading the last of Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, the final three parts made me think of a few things. The post-apocalypse setting of the world can transform people in various ways. It shows how humans react to a multitude of dynamic changes and what they’re capable of when pushed to or even beyond their physical and mental limits. The world following the Georgia Flu forces survivors to question their existence and doubt what they believe in. It’s in times of adversity, like the Georgia Flu, where people are defined by their actions and feelings before, during, and after the conflict.

Clark Thompson lives in two distinct dimensions. He exists in a world that’s within another world. As indicated in the text, “Toward the end of his second decade in the airport, Clark was thinking about how lucky he’d been. Not just the mere fact of survival, which was of course remarkable in and of itself, but to have seen one world end and another begin.” (231). His new home, the Severn City Airport, combines possibly the best of what’s left of the old and new realms. It’s a haven of hope and a refuge for remnants. It’s like a phoenix, rising from the ashes to not only rebuild civilization to its former glory, but also to adapt to the post-collapse world. The Museum of Civilization is an archive within the airport that contains compilations of artifacts from the pre-collapse world. Clark essentially becomes an archivist or archaeologist, the keeper of the former world’s history. The one artifact in the museum that has the most value to him is a newspaper that mentions his dear friend, Arthur Leander.

There’s no doubt that Arthur plays an integral role in the entire story. Everything about Arthur, over the course of his life, is made evident to readers prior to the Georgia Flu. His past sheds light on some of the other characters and unravels what lies ahead in the wake of the flu epidemic. Arthur is practically synonymous with Hollywood. He’s a very successful and popular (even renowned) actor in L.A. However, Arthur’s career precedes not only his family and friends, but also himself. During the final moments of his life, he feels guilt and sadness, regretting the mistakes and wrongdoings he made over the years. In that moment of reflection, Arthur attempts to make amends. One of the wrongs he tried to make right was build a better relationship with his son, Tyler.

Kirsten and Tyler are two opposites of each other. They have some similarities in common though. Arthur has had an impact on both of their lives. Although he’s Tyler’s father, Arthur is a friend and also a father figure to Kirsten. However, because Kirsten had more time with Arthur than Tyler did in their childhood, that could have determined the type of person that each became as an adult.  Both Tyler and Kirsten are about the same age, growing up in the aftermath of the Georgia Flu. From Arthur they each receive copies of the Station Eleven comic books, which were inspirational to them. One difference is that unlike Kirsten, who remembers little of her youth, “Whatever else the prophet had become, he’d once been a boy adrift on the road, and perhaps he’d had the misfortune of remembering everything.” (304). Even though both struggle to come to terms with the way things are in the post-collapse world, Kirsten’s outlook is more realistic than Tyler’s, which is more idealistic. Tyler never truly had a close-knit family or friends like Kirsten does with the Symphony. His mother, Elizabeth, and his religious associates guided him down a path of achieving optimism through pessimistic times and methods. Thus Tyler became the prophet. He sought to restore the world to what it was like before the pandemic. His ideas rested solely on creating an ideal utopia for the benefit of everyone. But the measures he took to try to ensure that were too irrational and extreme. Ultimately, Tyler (the prophet) paid the price. To sow what you reek is to live and die by the sword.

Part 8 made me realize that Kirsten and Tyler are dark reflections of each other. They’re the two opposite ends on the spectrum of light versus darkness or good against evil. Is it possible that if Tyler could go so far astray, could the same happen to Kirsten? Would she end up being like him if she didn’t have the fortunes that were absent from the prophet? These are questions that I feel are worth wondering about after reading the novel.

When its all said and done

 

In the interview with Francois in year fifteen that Kirsten was giving she is asking him a unique question, then answered “When you think of how the world’s changed in your lifetime, what do you think about?” “I think of killing.”(265)  We see that Kristen has killed people before to survive.Themes of death creates the intensification of the value of life, even the will to murder. Death shows our urge for our life to have purpose, to follow a higher power.

In the entirety of the the novel we see the affect death has on every character and even the setting, but the characters are affected physically and  psychologically.  François has noticed right after the interview that the symphony’s stories are the very similar. “Everyone else died, I walked, I found the Symphony. Or, I was very young when it happened, I was born after it happened, I have no memories or few memories of any other way of living, and I have been walking all my life.”(266) all the people who survived have had the same experience of walking and searching with death all around them. Each time death stared them in the face and they found purpose in the group and keep on the move because staying still is like death.

The survivors often wonder about why they survived they Georgia Flu, the gangs and other things and other people have died who had just the same amount of chance. Survival can move people to search for a higher power and some people far away from these ideas. Religion had a lot to do with the motivation of certain characters like Tyler and Elizabeth,  Elizabeth’s mental state has withered away from seeing the state of the world, Tyler on the other and is getting entrenched in the new testament. Elizabeth never had a chance cause the only person around couldn’t even help himself. ” I should have pulled her back from the edge. But it had taken everything he had to stay back from the edge himself, and what could he have done?” (261). Tyler the Prophet is a complex character because not much is said about him until the end of the novel, when you find out he is Arthur’s son it adds that complex layer of connections, Tyler being Arthur and Elizabeth’s child. What was the purpose for being the prophet? I guess his purpose was to find/create a purpose  because he was so into the idea of being “the light” and spreading “the light” that i think he lost the point, his purpose was supposed to fulfill him not keep him.

The story concludes with a theme that was lacking within most of novel, the theme of hope. Hope and purpose goes against the themes of the earlier parts of the book which is Death and Existentialism, with this we see that the Symphony develop positively as we move thru the book towards its end.  “but it is possible that somewhere there are ships setting out?” (Mandel 332) This quote show s that people all over are setting off to reconquer the land that was once theirs with hope of a new and positive life.

Class Discussion #6: “People’s Choice Posts” for ‘Station Eleven,’ Parts 4-6

Here’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for …

Read through all reading response blogs for Station Eleven, Parts 4-6, choose a favorite post, and explain your rationale for choosing it. Then share the post/excerpt/rationale by “commenting” here on this post. Don’t forget to link to the post you are citing (you can now hyperlink comments rather than just copying/pasting the URL: give it a shot!).

Comments should be made no later than Wednesday, 10/18, and the one with the most votes will earn the coveted “People’s Choice” honor! As always, I’m looking forward to seeing what you choose, and why. Happy reading 🙂

Life needs to be appreciated

When i was reading reading parts 4, 5, and 6 Station eleven i realized how much items people possessed before the Georgia Flu and the general appreciation for . It’s the little things we miss. There are several instances where we see people at their most vulnerable moments, moments where they realize just how small yet intrinsic they are to the clockwork that is humanity, moments where these people realize just exactly what it is they will miss about life moving forward. There are several references to the objects that characters in station eleven will miss I believe it’s a show of how meaningful things can become to us when they become attached to a certain emotion or memory.

There are many aspects of life and the the life of others that most people take for granted. “It was incredible. I almost want to lock the door behind us.” That’s what it would have been like, she realized, living in a house. You would leave and lock the door behind you, and all through the day you would have to carry a key” (Mandel.199). Kirsten is wandering out in the world with her symphony without a home, most people before the Georgia Flu had the luxury of actually living in a home.

In the first half of the reading,for the traveling symphony  to survive comes gains strength and comfort from each other to be stronger as one group. This is because surviving as a group is essential because people seem to be more in competition with each other instead of just helping each other. In the reading the group is trying to find time of when time was easier to live “we are always looking for the former world”(Mandel.130) they are looking for signs of life, signs of people who are left, and when day to day life wasn’t hard to live. In other words, life before the flu. This shows me that there is still hope because it symbolizes their motivation to find and understand the life that people lived before the Flu.

There is a sense of security attached to the objects that people have in our lives, these things reminding us that certain things in life are constant, and it is the withdrawal that shows the painful reminder of what once was. In the interview with Kirsten and Diallo, Kristin points out that “…it seem[s] like the people who struggle the most with it are the people who remember the old world clearly […] The more you remember the more you’ve lost.”(Mandel.195) Slowly, we begin to realize that these characters miss more than the objects,  it’s about feeling attached to those objects that they don’t want to ever forget. Also something interesting in this interview.

When Clark was interviewing Dahlia about Dan and she described how she thinks that Dan doesn’t like his job, she said “but I don’t think he even realizes it. You probably encounter people like him all the time. High-functioning sleepwalkers, essentially.” So he just seems to be moving through life without much clarity on his future.

The More You Remember, The More You’ve Lost

In parts 4-6 in Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel we see how things change. We see how things once were and how they are now.

Jumping straight to part 5, in Kirsten’s interview she says how she actually does not remember too much of how the world once was before the pandemic. She goes on to say that “doesn’t it seem like the people who struggle most with it are the people who remember the old world clearly?” (195) Basically saying that the ones who were young when the pandemic hit do not realize how much they have actually lost. If anything, the world before seems almost like a dream to them. Not being able to differentiate between reality and their imagination. They adjusted to the world now. Whereas, the ones that do remember are constantly stuck in their thoughts. Thinking of how once this street was full of children. There was internet. There was electricity. There was discipline, law and not as much fear as there is now in this version of the world.

Similarly, we return to Arthur and the moments leading to his death and after part 6. We have already gotten a taste of what the letters that Arthur has written to his old friend Victoria are like. Arthur takes it upon himself to prepare for what is to come. At this time we see that Arthur calls his ex-wife Miranda and they eventually see each other once again. Miranda who once thought she would never fit in and change herself for this Hollywood world is now focused on her appearance. Using her appearance almost as a shield to the outside world this time. “Those previous versions of herself were so distant now that remembering them was almost like remembering other people.” (206) No one can rip her apart, she looks to be of this “world” and of this community now. She did her best to no longer look like her old self.

There is also this friend, Victoria, who we do not know too much about either has changed in her own ways as well. We are introduced to her through the letters that Arthur has been writing to her all these years. These letters are mostly one-sided oddly enough. However, as we find out that this so called “friend” Victoria was now publishing his letters Arthur blames himself for it to get to this point. He believes that he deserved this, “I treated Victoria like a diary.” (211) Victoria would write back occasionally a couple letters and postcards and then it became more like a note being passed to inform him of her change of address. This childhood friend was now a stranger who did not write back, even Miranda felt sad upon hearing that. She lost sight of friendship, she valued money over that childhood friendship that they once had. Even though this was a result based off of her current living and financial situation it was betrayal nonetheless.

Lastly, we go back to Arthur. Someone who was portrayed to us as almost as such a horrible person has now shrunken to this man who is now accepting his past mistakes in a way. He begins to acknowledge how he treated others. He also gives Jeevan an inside scoop about the affair he was having but asks for twenty four hours before Jeevan even mentions this to anyone else. (172) He asks for this time as if he was going to try and do right by those that will be effected by this. This was coming from a man who has had an affair before. The marriage that was currently about to end was the result of an affair that he had previously. Ironically enough he could not find the courage to tell her about the affair he was having despite all the chances he had to tell her. (173)

I know there are much more important things going on in the story like the airplane and the airport and how it all connects. But the growth of the characters is also important. We see different sides of them all. The backstory to all of these people give us a better understanding of why they are how they are now or why they reacted in certain ways.

Class Discussion #5: “People’s Choice Posts” for ‘Station Eleven,’ Parts 2-3

EXTENSION TO F 10/13: IF YOU HAVEN’T VOTED YET, PLEASE DO 🙂

It’s that time again! Read through all reading response blogs for Station Eleven, Part 2-3, choose a favorite post, and explain the rationale for choosing it. Then share the post/excerpt/rationale by “commenting” here on this post. Don’t forget to link to the post you are citing (you can now hyperlink comments rather than just copying/pasting the URL: give it a shot!).

Comments should be made no later than Wednesday, 10/11, and the one with the most votes will earn the coveted “People’s Choice” honor! As always, I’m looking forward to seeing what you choose, and why

The “apocalyptic arc” and the “backstory arc”

Part 2:

Part two is basically the beginning after the end arc. And honestly..it’s not really all that special when compared to other post apocalyptic arcs. Society seems to have converted from a largely packed filled with people to pockets of smaller pocket communities who are formed in places like restaurants, gas stations, markets, etc.  Scavenging for materials have become the norm and the constant fear of other people who might want to hurt you and the ones you love for selfish gains have become a common thing. The overarching story was somewhat boring but  I will, however, admit that i liked being able to see Kristen, one of characters from part one after the 20 year time skip.  I’ve always liked those kinds of transitions. Kirsten was just another no name, and somewhat shy child actress but now, she’s a young woman who is part of a traveling theater group called The Symphony.  She’s now seen as a somewhat strong willed woman who has followed her dream to be an actor even after the apocalypse. Oh, and before i forget to mention. I still don’t understand her weird fascination with Arthur. He isn’t really much of a stand up or interesting guy when you compare him with the myriad of different other extremely famous actors you can compare him to. Why exactly is he considered extremely special to her anyway? The only reason i could think of would have to be because of the comics he gave her before he drew his last breath which she liked enough keep with her after all of these year.

Part 3:

Part 3 seemed to be a somewhat boring back story arc. It’s main story was about Arthur and his life to stardom from his humble beginnings. I’m sorry to say this but, this part wasn’t exactly interesting. Nor was it captivating. It basically went on about how Arthur and the people he met on his way to being a famous actor. One of the more interesting characters i somewhat liked had to be Miranda (she wasn’t interesting in the least but she at the very least was a tad more interesting than Arthur). She was a woman who lived a life that she was actually proud of. She had a job working at a shipping company which she genuinely liked and was creating a graphic novel called “Station Eleven” on the side. Miranda, however, didn’t have the best of luck when it came to the men she dated. Her first boyfriend, Pablo,  was an aspiring artist who constantly lambasted her for being part of the corporate system.  That relationship didn’t really last all to long before she ended up going out with Arthur who, at first, seemed like a genuinely nice guy. He even talked to her about her graphic novel. This relationship lasted for about 3 years until Miranda finds out, on her third wedding anniversary that Arthur was having an affair with Elizabeth (these two are still alive after the apocalyptic disease took hold and wiped out a good amount of civilization which, forebodes potential issues they both may have in the future. I really hope this doesn’t end up being true because it’s just going to lead down an annoying side story about two woman being annoyed by Each other because of Arthur and his bad choices. I’ll be extremely displeased if it boils down to “two woman have issues with each other because of past baggage and, because of this past baggage, either an argument happens or a full on fight happens” I really do hope it doesn’t come to this. I really don’t want to revisit a part of the past that i genuinely don’t care all that much about.

 

(after rereading my response, I’ve come to the realization that i sound really jaded about the story so far.. If this response annoys or puts anyone off from the story in anyway then i sincerely apologize.)

 

We Don’t Belong

In Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven we continue to get a taste of the present and past. Many things have changed from before the pandemic. Population has decreased. Communities have gotten smaller. Some places go on peacefully whereas some places have leaders. There is also constant fear among the people, not knowing what may happen now. The only thing that has not changed is the feeling of not belonging.

The Traveling Symphony ends up visiting a town that they have already been in the past. They have been wandering for many years, “traveling back and forth along the shores of Lakes Huron and Michigan.” (37)  This is just one of the many towns that does have a leader of some sort. This was once a place where you would see many children but now you only see two or three. Multiple families would be living in the fast food restaurants but now you see those same places boarded up. A armed guard can also be seen in the middle of the town, not like it was before. We are introduced to a man who we know as “The Prophet.” Not much has been said about him but it seems that he does run this place. His orders, his opinions do hold value to these people.

During this time Kirsten is looking for her friend who she finds out are no longer residing in this town. Kirsten comes across a midwife who informs her that her friend “rejected the prophets advances.” (51) She also tells her that her friend had to leave town and to stop asking questions and leave immediately. This shows that this town is not as safe as it once was and also that Kirsten and The Symphony might not be welcomed here the way they thought they were. The Symphony does eventually perform in the town, this is their first encounter with The Prophet. He acknowledges their presence but Kirsten feels otherwise. “Something in his tone made Kirsten want to run, a suggestion of a trapdoor waiting under every word.” (59) Kirsten feels odd and as if The Prophet has something else in mind for them. The way he is towards them makes her feel uncomfortable. Eventually The Symphony does end up leaving the town.

Similarly, in the past Arthur’s first wife Miranda also feels out of place. Their love story might seem so perfect in the eyes of others. Two people who grew up on the same island and one day end up together. However, Arthur is set to make a name for himself. He wants to pursue a career in acting. He wants to do what he loves. Miranda on the other hand keeps to herself, she is not one for the crowd. Fast forward to the night of their third anniversary, instead of having an intimate dinner or getaway of some sort they are surrounded by a few other people. They are celebrating their anniversary and the opening weekend figures to his movie. Arthur says, “two birds with one stone.” (91) Instead of feeling comfortable and seated next to Arthur she is at the opposite end of the table. She wonders why theres distance, why these people are here and why she can’t catch her husbands eye. She starts to feel small, she realizes that her marriage is over. Her husband is having an affair with his costar who is seated right next to her husband. Later that night she whispers to her dog after Arthur dismisses the conversation she was trying to initiate about his affair, “this life was never ours.” (101) She admits that no matter how much time passes, she can never be like these people. The attention, the cameras, the crowds it is just not her.

Whether it be the past or the present, sometimes you are just not welcomed or a part of a place the way you might have thought you were. Things change. People can’t always adapt.

There is nothing which vanity does not desecrate

There is nothing which vanity does not desecrate. Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit

Station Eleven….. “A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream” and “ I Prefer You With a Crown”. There is a pattern, there is a purpose……of that I am sure, but what? It’s probably something so simple that I overlook it, but what, I think to myself “Why would I want to write a story, for profit?, for fame?, to resolve an internal conflict?, or perhaps a combination of all three”.  If I were writing Station Eleven, why would I include whatever is included in the story. Clearly because whatever is included is significant to me; pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that I want to piece together to understand something of myself.

The plot in Station Eleven shifts in time, swinging over and back like a pendulum: pre-pandemic, post pandemic, pre-pandemic, post pandemic, woven into a braid of contrasts….contrasts …of what?: life before and life after, we have, we have not, we have!, we have not! …..what? …modernity, technology, yes! Technology. Like ungrateful children we are awash in technology which we take for granted but do not appreciate. “This was during the final month of the era when it was possible to press a series of buttons on a telephone and speak with somebody on the far side of the earth” (30). The pain of isolation is undoubtebly the greatest pain that the loss of technology could bestow upon me.

The narrator in Station Eleven is talking to us, admonishing us for taking our privileged lives for granted, admonishing us, the egocentric Arthur Leander from Delano Island who at seventeen is accepted into the University of Toronto only to discover there that “The point was to get off the island” (74) and do what? …seek fame? …which withers in insignificance as we (Arthur) die, unloved and without dignity, under plastic snow on a stage “His name was Arthur Leander, he was fifty one years old and there were flowers in his hair”(3), a conceited King Lear who wants to bestow the lion’s share of his kingdom upon the daughter who professes to love him the most. The egotistical King Lear who is knowingly lied to by his devious daughters, Goneril and Regan, who feign affection for the foolish King, in self-seeking homage to his pathetic ego.

In “I Prefer You With a Crown” a reference to King Lear, the pathetic life of Arthur Leander is bared before us. He woos Miranda, the woman that he cannot forget: “Once in his room he sits on the bed, relieved to be alone and unlooked-at but feeling as he always does in these moments a little disoriented, obscurely deflated, a bit at a loss, and then all at once he knows what to do. He calls the cell phone number that he’s been saving all these years” (79). Once married to her, she loses her allure for him. He starts to ridicule her: “This time, I’ll be damned if the girl hasn’t got her worldly belongings with her” (97) he thus recounts their second night together. “She [Miranda] knows from the gossip blogs that people here see her as an eccentric, the actor’s wife who inks mysterious cartoons that no one’s ever laid eyes on” (94). It is these very cartoons or graphic novels that the ungrateful Arthur Leander gives to an eight-year old Kirsten Raymonde before his death “I have a present for you” (41). “The contrabassoon, who prior to the collapse was in the printing business, told Kirsten that the comics had been produced at great expense, all those bright images, that archival paper…”(42). These ridiculed cartoons become a testament to a lost civilization and a damning condemnation of Arthur Leander.

 

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.