Station Eleven

by Emily St. John Mandel

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Station Eleven Summary

Station Eleven is a 2014 novel centered on the outbreak and aftermath of the Georgia Flu, an apocalyptic global pandemic.

  • The night of the outbreak, photographer Jeevan Chaudhary unsuccessfully tries to revive Arthur Leander, a Shakespearean actor who dies of a heart attack onstage.
  • Twenty years later, Kirsten Raymonde, who acted alongside Arthur as a child, journeys through the depopulated Great Lakes region with the Traveling Symphony, performing Shakespeare.
  • After a confrontation with the prophet, a violent cult leader, Kirsten loans a treasured comic book by Arthur's ex-wife, Miranda, to Arthur's friend Clark and his Museum of Civilization.


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Last Updated on January 20, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1361

On a winter night in Toronto, Shakespearean actor Arthur Leander dies onstage of a heart attack during a performance of King Lear. A small girl, Kirsten Raymonde, who is in the play, sees him die. A man in the audience, Jeevan Chaudhary, tries to save Arthur to no avail. After the ambulance takes Arthur away, Jeevan's doctor friend calls him to tell him to flee town: a pandemic known as the Georgia Flu has hit. Instead, Jeevan goes to stay with his brother, Frank, who is wheelchair-bound.

Meanwhile, Tanya, who is Arthur's girlfriend and the theater's childminder, takes Kirsten home. The producer of the play calls Arthur's lawyer, who then calls Arthur's best friend, Clark Thompson. Clark informs Miranda, Arthur's first wife, that Arthur has died. The pandemic is spreading swiftly.

Twenty years later, the Traveling Symphony of Shakespearean actors and musicians is on the move near Lake Michigan. Kirsten and her friend August are key players in the group. Kirsten collects clippings about Arthur Leander and carries two comic books about a physicist, Dr. Eleven, which she has memorized. She doesn't know where the comics came from.

Two years previously, Symphony members Charlie and Jeremy were left in the town of St. Deborah by the Water so Charlie could give birth. Now, the town seems eerie. Kirsten's ex-boyfriend, Sayid, plays Oberon opposite Kirsten's Titania. After the performance, Kirsten discusses the emptiness of the town with her friend Dieter and sets out to look for Charlie. One woman in the town explains that Charlie and Jeremy left because "the prophet" made advances to Charlie, which she rejected. Later, the Symphony meets the prophet, who says that those who leave without permission are counted as dead—and killed if they return. The Symphony swiftly leaves.

Miranda and Arthur were both from the same place, Delano Island, and their mothers were family friends, which is how they first met. When they married, Miranda acquired a Pomeranian, Luli. The Dr. Eleven comics were her special project; she never liked to talk about them (although Dr. Eleven had a Luli, too). One night at a dinner party attended by Clark Thompson, Miranda realized Arthur was sleeping with his costar, Elizabeth. Upset, Miranda was photographed outside by a paparazzo—Jeevan. She stole a paperweight from Arthur's study, and the pair soon divorced. Miranda returned to working in shipping and continued drawing her comics.

Kirsten now treasures these comics. She speaks to Diallo, a man who is interviewing all the Symphony members for a makeshift newspaper, about her past, which she can remember little of, and about the comics. She has never met anyone else who knows about Dr. Eleven.

After they leave St. Deborah, the Symphony realizes a little girl, Eleanor, has stowed away to avoid being married off to the prophet. She says that the prophet is from the Museum of Civilization at Severn City Airport and that Charlie and Jeremy went there.

That night, when on scouting duty, Kirsten hears a cry. Dieter and Sayid have disappeared without a trace. A search turns up nothing. Eventually the Symphony's conductor says that they must keep moving: Sayid and Dieter will follow the protocol, which is to proceed to the next destination: in this case, the airport.

The next day, Sidney, the clarinet player, also disappears. Kirsten and August venture to a golf course for supplies, but when they return, the Symphony has gone. Following protocol, they continue toward the airport. On the way, they meet a man who recognizes them—he, too, has been chased out of St. Deborah by the prophet.

In an...

(This entire section contains 1361 words.)

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abandoned house, Kirsten looks for a copy of a book,Dear V, she once owned. A book of Arthur's letters, it was once published, to Arthur's chagrin, by a childhood friend, Victoria, whom he confided in as if she were a diary.

Jeevan, before the collapse of society, made his way to his brother's house. There, he remembered an interview he once conducted with Arthur, in which Arthur had told him he was leaving Elizabeth for another woman, Lydia, but that he loved Tyler, their child, dearly.

For days, Jeevan and Frank watched the news as the city’s infrastructure fell apart and the lights went out. Eventually, Frank decided to euthanize himself so that Jeevan could go out and try to survive. Jeevan simply walked until he could walk no more.

Miranda, too, had been in Toronto again just before the collapse, meeting Arthur. She gave two copies each of her two Dr. Eleven comics to him and briefly met Kirsten in his dressing room. She also couriered back to him a paperweight she had stolen from his study. Two weeks later, Clark told her Arthur had died and then told Elizabeth that the funeral would be in Toronto. By coincidence, Clark and Elizabeth were on the same airplane, which was diverted to land at Severn City Airport.

Meanwhile, in Malaysia, Miranda contracted the flu and died.

Those who were diverted to Severn City first waited to be rescued but then set up an outpost of civilization there. Elizabeth remained convinced that someone would come to rescue them, but her son, Tyler, became fervently religious, reading the New Testament and developing a belief that the plague had happened for a reason and that those who survived were spiritually pure. Meanwhile, Clark—inspired by his boyfriend, Robert, a curator—began to set up a Museum of Civilization.

Many years later, Clark found a newspaper in which there was an interview with Kirsten Raymonde. She recalled the night Arthur died and talked about the Traveling Symphony. Clark was intrigued by this. When Charlie and Jeremy arrived at the airport, they explained about the prophet and that they were from the Symphony. Clark realized that the prophet was Tyler.

Meanwhile, Jeevan had become a doctor in a town where the prophet terrorized a couple because the woman refused to become his wife.

In the present, Kirsten and August keep walking toward the airport and find Sayid, bruised and at the mercy of two armed men, whom they kill. Before he dies, one of the men says that Sayid and Dieter, and then the clarinet player, were taken to make up for the stealing of Eleanor. Dieter never woke up from being chloroformed. The clarinet player, having overheard the prophet's men discussing routes, escaped and made it back to the Symphony. She told them to change their route, which is why Kirsten and August lost them.

As they walk, they hear the prophet's dog—Luli. They hide in the bushes, but the dog brings the prophet and his men to Kirsten, so she stands up to save the other two. The prophet begins to speak, and Kirsten recognizes quotations from Dr. Eleven. On a hunch, she answers in kind, but before she can learn who the prophet really is, one of his men—a boy who doesn't really believe—shoots him and then shoots himself. In the prophet's bag, Kirsten finds a torn-out page from one of the comics.

They continue to the airport, which is now a large community. Clark, knowing Kirsten from the newspaper, takes her to the air control tower and shows her a town to the south where there is electric light. She is astonished. Meanwhile, Jeevan, the man who saved Arthur and whose name neither Kirsten nor Clark knows, is content with his wife and his child, Frank.

The morning before he died, Arthur called his son, Tyler, to ask whether he had liked the comic books. He also gave Tanya a paperweight, which Tanya later gave to Kirsten and which Kirsten still carried. Before he went onstage, Kirsten told Arthur she loved the comics, and they agreed to discuss them later—except Arthur's death prevented this.

The Traveling Symphony stays at the airport for five weeks, at the end of which Kirsten gives Clark one of her comics to keep safely. She promises that when the Symphony comes back through, she will exchange it for the other.

Clark looks at the grounded planes and wonders whether one day there will be ships setting off again, seeking new lands.


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