The Relevant and Fearful Significance of Being Invisible

Parts 4 through 6 of Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven got me thinking about visibility versus invisibility. It’s a matter of being present or absent. Either you’re in attendance or you’re not. There’s also the idea of being physically present, yet your presence is not felt, acknowledged, or made to be significant/relevant. As I read parts 4-6, I thought that these were the ideas being explored in the text.

Part 4, in my opinion, seems to be centered on the ideas of being lost and inconspicuous. Chapter 23 touches down on absence and being watched. Three members of the Traveling Symphony, Sayid, Dieter, and the clarinet, are missing after one night of scouting. Later, Kirsten and August are fishing only to realize afterwards that the Symphony went ahead without them. One of the members, Alexandra, asks, “‘Are we being hunted?’… It seemed plausible.” (140). The idea that the Symphony is being hunted is a very plausible possibility indeed. It brings up the notions of being predator and prey, cat and mouse, etc. The group is the prey since they left St. Deborah by the Water after feeling uneasy about the prophet. The prophet is the predator after his requested desire to have Alexandra as his wife was denied. Even though both the town and the forest are in the Symphony’s territory, it’s like they’re traveling in an unknown region due to uncertainty and fear. The Symphony’s motto is “Survival is insufficient” (119). However, in the wilderness, it’s survival of the fittest. In forests or jungles, fear usually overshadows hope and predators are triumphant over their prey. But in regards to the story, all bets are off and only time will tell if the Symphony can remain unified and survive against the prophet’s disturbing, religious ideals.

In Chapter 26, Clark was interviewing someone named Dahlia. One of the things she says that intrigued me is, “adulthood’s full of ghosts.” (163). Clark applies what Dahlia says about sleepwalking to himself. “Because he had been sleepwalking, Clark realized, moving half-asleep through the motions of his life for a while now, years; not specifically unhappy, but when had he last found real joy in his work? When was the last time he’d been truly moved by anything? When had he last felt awe or inspiration?” (164). The sleepwalking part struck me because it can probably be applied to myself as well.

What intrigued me in Part 5 was Frank’s ghostwriting project about a philanthropist in Chapter 34. According to the philanthropist, “Before they were famous, my actor friends were just going to auditions and struggling to be noticed, taking any work they could find, acting for free in friends’ movies, working in restaurants or as caterers, just trying to get by. They acted because they loved acting, but also, let’s be honest here, to be noticed. All they wanted was to be seen.” (186). “First we only want to be seen, but once we’re seen, that’s not enough anymore. After that, we want to be remembered.” (187). The philanthropist’s thoughts apply to celebrities in real life. I think it’s safe to say that celebrities are always vying for the spotlight to be on them. They’re constantly jockeying to be the focal point of the rumor mill that they feel should spin and revolve around them. Their existence is only meaningful as long as they continue to get attention from as many people as possible. 

Celebrities are as close to being real life heroes, villains, or deities as people can imagine. That’s why we tend to memorize them as best and as often as we could. It’s like an image. A picture’s worth a thousand words. Nobody, especially not celebrities, want to be in the background because that’s where they’re less visible and not as obvious to the viewer(s). The phony, flawed entities in our society fear that their legacies will not be carved into the stone memories of the public. Their turbulent lives resemble the instability of Earth’s waters. They want to stay afloat in the oceans of relevance and importance. They know that others, just like them, but younger, will replace them. Similar to an ocean’s waves and currents, contemporary celebrities will be washed away and nobody will realize that it ever happened because they all look alike and overlap one another. Once they find themselves in hot water, the vessel of fame that luminaries navigate starts to sink. Inattentiveness means celebrities cannot remain adrift so they drown and become invisible. They experience a lot of things in their downfall (or their fall from grace or humanity). One of those things is humility. Luminaries plummet like stock markets did in 1929 and experience their own personal Great Depression. They find themselves facing their deepest ethical fears at the bottomless pool of obscurity. 

For Part 6, remembrance is seen where Arthur and Miranda meet for the first time in eleven years after their divorce. Miranda does her best, “to make herself look as little like her old self as possible.” (208). They both show signs of aging over the years, especially Arthur who, “was performing the same reconciliations she was, adjusting a mental image of a long-ago spouse to match the changed person sitting before him.” (209). This is two weeks prior to the Georgia Flu and the final time Miranda and Arthur physically see each other. Upon hearing Arthur’s death, Miranda becomes delirious. One bad news seems to lead to another. While she’s mentally unbalanced from a fever, the flu seems to creep up on Miranda when she’s in her most vulnerable state.

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