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.
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