Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven continues to unravel revelations in an intertwined relationship between the past, present, and future. Part two focuses on explorations and experiences of a group of actors and musicians in the years following the outbreak of the Georgia Flu. Part three reveals the background of Arthur Leander and his first wife, Miranda, years prior to the flu pandemic.
Part 2: A Midsummer Night’s Dream is named after the Shakespearean play that the Traveling Symphony performs in a town called St. Deborah by the Water. The Symphony is the closest resemblance to a family in the post-collapse world. “… this collection of petty jealousies, neuroses, undiagnosed PTSD cases, and simmering resentments lived together, traveled together, rehearsed together, performed together 365 days of the year, permanent company, permanent tour. But what made it bearable were the friendships, of course, the camaraderie and the music and the Shakespeare, the moments of transcendent beauty and joy…” (47). They travel to towns in their territory, using music and theatrical plays to give hope and remind people of civilization’s past before the collapse. The Symphony will come to realize that a lot can happen in two years. The last time the Symphony was in St. Deborah by the Water, two of their members, Charlie and the sixth guitar (Jeremy), were left behind because Charlie was pregnant. When the group returns, the town’s inhabitants are less receptive towards them. To make matters worse, Charlie and the sixth guitar are nowhere to be found. What is found are grave markers of them and others. After the Symphony performs the play, a prophet makes his influence on the town’s people known. He’s a religious fanatic who considers the flu epidemic to be his people’s salvation. The prophet’s also responsible for the grave markers. “‘When the fallen slink away without permission,’ he said, ‘we hold funerals for them and erect markers in the graveyard, because to us they are dead.'” (62). Calling the prophet and his people “a doomsday cult” (62), the Symphony’s conductor decides that the group quickly leaves the town and search for Charlie and Jeremy elsewhere.
Sometimes, the key to present and future occurrences lies in the past. Part 3 unveils the past of Arthur Leander and the first of his three wives, Miranda. Arthur drops out of college to pursue a career as an actor. At first, he achieves little success from small roles given to him. But Arthur becomes very popular once he’s in Hollywood. He gets with Miranda after his mother suggests that he takes her out for lunch. Miranda’s an artist who works at a shipping company. She has a boyfriend named Pablo who doesn’t do right by her. He fights with her and makes her life difficult. In order to keep calm, Miranda creates a comic book with the same title as the novel itself. Although Station Eleven eases her mental pain, it can’t bring her physical comfort from Pablo. Eventually, she decides to be with Arthur. Miranda marries Arthur, only to realize that on their third anniversary, he’s having an affair with his future second wife. By then, Arthur’s fame truly precedes and overwhelms him. He’s a different person from who he once was to Miranda and his best friend, Clark.
I believe that the dog, Luli, and the paperweight are motifs as they reappear throughout the story. I don’t know about the dog, but I know that the paperweight represents something. I just don’t know what it is.
I believe that while Miranda’s Station Eleven is her creative imagination drawn on paper, it also reflects her reality. The comic book’s protagonist, Dr. Eleven, represents Miranda. Station Eleven represents an alternate, futuristic version of Earth, at least according to Miranda’s imagination. Imagination becomes perception as Dr. Eleven’s conflicts reflect the hardships and loneliness that Miranda feels. The fact that the comic’s main character is a guy presents the “what if” possibility. It has to do with the issue of gender. How different would things be for Miranda if she was a man? Her comic book allows Miranda to be a male character that possesses her perspective. It reflects her feelings and also explores an array of possibilities that don’t come to fruition in her life.