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Books

Survival In The New In Station Eleven By Emily St. John Mandel

June 23, 2022 by Essay Writer

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel highlights the situation in the world years after the world’s population has been swept away by a dangerous virus known as the Georgian Flu. The flu leads to the desertion of numerous major cities. All sources of “gasoline go stale”, and electricity can only be generated through primitive ways. Comfort, protection, access to food and water were easily accessible in the old world, but in the new world, these protagonists must now supply themselves with these luxuries. Few characters manage to survive the flu and the horrors of its aftermath, however the next problem they face is their ability to cope with the impact of the flu. The world’s eradication from the flu impedes Kirsten, Tyler, Elizabeth, Frank, Jeevan, and Clark from living in the present and successfully integrating into a new society which ultimately leads them to experience trauma, anxiety, and lack of closure from the old world.

Most characters are unable to cope with the aftermath of the disaster due to the trauma they experience. For instance, Kirsten does not recall her first year of the trauma following the pandemic. Throughout the novel, Kirsten tries hard to recall what has happened, and she only manages to remember her brother saying, “I hope you never remember it”. The traumatic experience forces Kirsten to repress her memories hence forgetting the first year after the disaster struck. According to Matthew Tull, by repressing their memories, an individual is using a coping mechanism known as Dissociation, to separate themselves from reality. He states that “a child slips into a dissociative state in order to escape fully experiencing trauma that is unbearable”. The trauma the flu induces restricts Kirsten from actively functioning as a member in society. By dissociating herself from reality, Kirsten is incapable of integrating into the new world due to not being mentally present and aware, thus continues to suffer from those repercussions.

Survival in the new causes the main characters to become anxious about living their ability to survive. The anxiety about living in the new world causes Frank Chaudry to take his own life. When living a few months after the disease has spread to his brother, Frank takes his own life with ‘sleeping pills’ in fear of being a burden to his brother as he attempts to survive in the new world. Frank, anxious of maneuvering around in this new society with his disability, was physically restricted from living in the new world because of the flu. Survival in the new world meant he must be able to fight enemies and hunt for food, but he was physically unable to do so in his condition. In addition to his physical impairment, the added stress Frank felt he causes to his brother further increases his anxiety which ultimately leads to his suicide. Characters, such as Jeevan, became anxious at the idea of survival. For instance, as he leaves his apartment to find a sanctuary, Jeevan was always paranoid with the thought that “every shadow could be hiding someone with a gun”. As a result of the flu, Jeevan now constantly stresses about his own survival. From the beginning of the new world Jeevan was not able to integrate effectively into society as a result of the pandemic due to the anxiety of living independently from all sources of safety the old world once provided. Clark Thompson was anxious by the end of the world after arriving at Severn airport. He believes that this flu was only a temporary situation, but after months have gone by and no help is received Clark begins to fear the possibility that this will be the new world. At some point Clark “realized this was the way the years would continue to be marked from now on, counted off one by one from the moment of disaster”. Due to the end of civilization, Clark was especially anxious about the end of the old world and the start of the new world, because his mind could not register the situation he was in. The pandemic halted Clark’s ability to fully integrate into society, as he always thought that the new world was all too surreal and of civilization returning.

Other characters are unable to comprehend the end of the old world, thus resulting in the lacking closure from the previous life. A character such as Tyler Leander also ends up losing closure, and instead he begins reliving a life he never imagines. After the disaster, Tyler ends up with three wives, hence recreating the presence of his father, who was recognized for being a polygamous man. Tyler lacked the continuity of the old world which had ended so abruptly that by copying his father’s life, he recreates the old-world. Matthew Leggatt states that the novel Station Eleven “shows the dangers of clinging to past attachments”. Leggatt agrees that the lack of closure the characters needed not only results in reliving the past, but also states to have a dangerous effect, as in Tyler’s creation of his religious cult. The emergence of the flu causes Tyler to seek into the past for answers and justifying the mass deaths as a way to cope with his inability to see the world changing too fast. Tyler fails to integrate into society as a result of his cult and ends up dead by the hands of another who disagrees with his way of functioning in the new world. In another instance, Elizabeth Colton in shock of the events of the pandemic, comforts herself by saying “Everything happens for a reason”, while joining a religious cult to provide some justification for the flu. Due to the lack of closure from the old world, Elizabeth became vulnerable to outside sources to provide the comfort she has lost in the old world.

Unlike most apocalypse stories that often push grimly forward into horrors, Station Eleven travels back and forth in time between the pre flu world and twenty years after the collapse. The novel tries hard to establish power by linking the connections between two-time frames. The story also connects characters who survives and those who perishes. The results of the flu causes characters Kirsten, Tyler, Jeevan, Frank, Clark, and Elizabeth to experience trauma, anxiety, and a lack of closure. Kirsten’s dissociation from reality results in her inability to integrate into reality as a result of the flu. Frank, Jeevan, and Clark develop emotionally into characters that must face their anxiety about living in the new world and find a way to cope with the added stress. Tyler and Elizabeth lack the emotional awareness to cope with the loss of the old world and as a result have not positively integrated, but rather in dangerous ways contributes to the new world, which have led to Tyler’s death. However, although these characters are quite different, they all experience restlessness. Therefore, it is apparent that Station Eleven is not so much concerned about the apocalypse, but the ability of humans to overcome the adversities that come with changes, and in this novel the change of existing in a world they are unfamiliar with. 

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