The Significant Role of Memories in Emily St. John Mandel's Novel Station Eleven
Station Eleven is a novel that the characters need to keep their memories and history from the past close with them throughout their life because it keeps them thinking and rebuilding the society. The characters that survived through the collapse live in a “new world”, a world that is destroyed, but those survivors always remember the civilization as it was before the pandemic.
Through the novel, characters such as Kirsten and Clark are very important to the people that always remember the past and help move civilization in the right direction. Kirsten’s memory is foggy from Year One in the novel, “I can’t remember the year we spent on the road, and I think that means I can’t remember the worst of it.” (195), she is determined that the reason she can not recall anything from that year is because that was the worst year and bad things happened. As she believes this, she is always wanting to find out more about the year she can not remember, so to do this Kirsten is always looking for gossip magazines and comics to hopefully spark memories about the world before the collapse. Kirsten is always seeking for information about the old world to connect to her childhood and thinks “Well, it’s nice that at least the celebrity gossip survived” (201), because all the artifacts from the past help people remember.
The characters search for artifacts from the past because the memory from before the collapse is a comfort zone and a place for them to escape to “the garden” and have hope that everything is going to return to normal. To get this “return to the garden” piece, Clark is a character in the novel that also provides artifacts from the pre-collapsed world to the people in the post-collapsed world. Clark’s Museum of Civilization in the Severn City Airport “seemed to be a limitless number of objects in the world that had no practical use but that people wanted to preserve:” (258) because he realized that people need to show acknowledgment to the world before the pandemic and to help teach the newlings about the history of the world. The museum is also to help connect all of the survivors together, so they can retain historical memories and rebuild society.
Through these events Station Eleven shows how the memories shared between people from different years help a civilization rebuild itself and shows that human relationships and keeping people connected keep societies strong and “unbreakable”. This shows how powerful the connecting of people is through the Museum of Civilization, art, and through telling stories from the pre-pandemic life. Memories in Station Eleven are very significant because they are collected by people and groups to engage everyone in human history, to rebuild and regain a grasp on humanity after the pandemic broke free.
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