How is sensory imagery used in Station Eleven?

In Station Eleven, sensory imagery is used to describe the differences in the world before and after the pandemic, including the Shakespearian theater that helps connect past and present. Imagery is also important in evoking the imaginative universe that Miranda creates in the Dr. Eleven comics.

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Station Eleven is both the title of Emily St. John Mandel’s novel about the effects of a global pandemic and the name of a space station in a series of science fiction comics that one of the characters, Miranda Carroll, creates. Sensory imagery is important in conveying how much the world changed as a result of the Georgia Flu pandemic. In scenes of death and destruction, including abandoned homes and environmental devastation, the author sometimes offers graphic detail but other times leaves the worst aspects implicit. Imagery is equally important in revealing Miranda’s vividly imagined alternate universe, as this fantasy world provides food for thought for numerous other characters.

One important element of the “before” situation is Delano, a Canadian island from which three main characters hail. Mandel describes Delano as a memory landscape that increasing comes to stand for everyone’s lost home. Carefully drawn “after” settings include an airport where people’s journeys abruptly ended, which has turned into a makeshift city.

Pre-pandemic scenes that take place in theaters, both onstage and backstage, help establish the importance of Shakespeare as the connecting thread among the English-speaking characters in Canada and the US Upper Midwest. The contrast between shows put on by professional theaters before, and the traveling troupes after, emphasizes the survivors’ need to make do with extremely limited resources.

Although Miranda drew the Dr. Eleven comics in the before era, the image of a space station as fully realized as a planet offers a vision of what might have been had the flu not dominated the earth. The details include geographical features, different color schemes from Earth, such as orange skies, and technological innovations that humans can no longer hope to achieve.

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