Possessions Define the Individual (Pre-Draft)

Canadian writer Emily St. John Mandel, writes Station Eleven, a 2014 science fiction novel with a post-apocalyptic theme. It has a strong focus on everyday life after a cataclysmic event that devastated the world population. The main catalyst of the story is the spread of the Georgian Flu pandemic, which had killed ninety-nine percent of the global population. In the story of Station Eleven, characters cling onto memories of the past by attaching themselves to items of great sentimental value. These personal items become important in defining the characters’ motivations and values.

One of the major protagonists, Kirsten Raymonde, has two important items in her possession that she is very attached to. One of them is a glass paperweight with an image of a storm cloud inside of it. Kirsten is a member of a traveling troupe called the “Traveling Symphony”. They are a large group of musicians, artists, and actors that travel from settlement to settlement performing plays for the populace. The Traveling Symphony has grown especially fond of Shakespeare plays, because they feel that Shakespeare represents the best of humanity. The motto of the Traveling Symphony, written on the side of a caravan, is “because survival is insufficient”. Kirsten likes the paperweight because she believes it is the most beautiful object she has ever seen, and she keeps the paperweight in her possession, despite it being dead weight and impractical in a post-apocalyptic environment. Kirsten reflects on her feelings on the paperweight in an interview with Francois Diallo for the New Petoskey News: “DIALLO: You’re still the only person I know who carries a paperweight in her backpack. RAYMONDE: I know, but I thought it was beautiful. I still think it’s beautiful” (184).This is representative of Kirsten’s appreciation of art and beauty, which goes hand-in-hand with the motto of the Traveling Symphony. Appreciation of art and beauty goes beyond simply surviving in life, and leads to development of culture.

Another one of Kirsten’s most important possessions is an incomplete set of Station Eleven graphic novels. These books were given to Kirsten by Arthur Leander when she was a small child, before the spread of the Georgian Flu. The main quote from the graphic novel that defines Kirsten’s struggle with reconciling with the end of the pre-disaster world is “I stood looking over my damaged home and tried to forget the sweetness of life on Earth” (42). This quote particularly resonates with Kirsten’s character, because Kirsten has problems with remembering much of her life before the Georgian Flu pandemic, as well as Year One of post-pandemic. Though the quote in the comic book is melancholic, Kirsten yearns to remember more of the past, and her most cherished possessions, the paperweight and the comic books, are her only connection to the pre-apocalyptic world.


I decided to focus on the possessions of the characters of Station Eleven, because I feel like their belongings are important in determining the motivations of the characters. I might change to a different topic if I discover a more interesting topic to write about. So far the first two body paragraphs are focused on Kirsten, I plan on writing more about August, Clark, the wandering man with rifle, and the prophet.

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