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 reap 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.