Chapters 38–41 Summary and Analysis
Last Updated on January 21, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1042
Kirsten and August leave the non-ransacked house and pack their spoils more comfortably into their bags. August is talking about his theory of multiple universes: in another universe, he tells Kirsten, where the plague was survivable and civilization endured, she might have been in the tabloid pictures. He shows her a photo in one of the magazines they've picked up, of Arthur's third wife, Lydia.
In another magazine, Kirsten finds a photo of Miranda at the stage door of Arthur's last King Lear performance. Remarking that she would have been in that building, Kirsten keeps the magazine.
They return to the parallel universe discussion. Kirsten imagines a world in which Station Eleven is real or where telephones still work so they could easily find Sayid and Dieter and the Symphony.
They continue on to Severn City and set up camp to sleep outside, where they discuss the scar on Finn's face. August says he thinks the symbol is an airplane.
It is two weeks before the collapse, and Miranda flies to Toronto. She thinks back to August, when Arthur called her to say his father had died. He said she was the one he wanted to call when he heard, because she knew where he was from and had known his father. Arthur was now divorcing Lydia.
Miranda leaves her hotel, buys coffee at Starbucks, and walks to the theater. She meets Arthur in his dressing room, and they discuss the previews and Arthur's Shakespearean coach before he tells her about the book Victoria has published. He has an advance copy and wants to tell Miranda there are mentions of her in it. He says he deserves this, having treated Victoria like a diary. He wrote to her for years, and she never wrote back.
Miranda tells him she is still unmarried, working in shipping. There is a knock at the door then, and eight-year-old Kirsten appears. Arthur introduces her to Miranda, and Kirsten pulls out her coloring book.
Miranda withdraws her Dr. Eleven comics from her bag, the first two issues carefully self-printed, and gives them to Arthur. Arthur promises to show them to Kirsten later, as Miranda finds it difficult to talk to Kirsten.
Miranda says she is leaving for Asia soon. When she leaves for her hotel, she suddenly remembers the paperweight she took from Arthur's house. She arranges to have it couriered to him at the Elgin Theater.
Two weeks later, in Malaysia, Miranda is aware of the Georgia Flu but thinks it is still contained to Georgia and Russia. That evening, Clark calls to say that Arthur has died.
Arthur's lawyer has asked Clark to notify the rest of the family, but Clark holds off, as it’s late at night. The lawyer calls back early the next day to say he has called them himself so they won't find out from the media. The lawyer asks about Elizabeth—whom Clark hasn't notified—and then about Tanya Gerard, the woman Arthur was having an affair with. The lawyer says Arthur had called the previous week to say he wanted to add a beneficiary; he assumes Tanya was meant, but Clark says Arthur never mentioned her.
Clark calls Elizabeth Colton and says the funeral will be in Toronto in two days. He remembers Arthur once saying that Toronto felt like freedom to him.
The next morning, Clark goes to the airport. The flu is already beginning to spread through the city, but Clark does not know this. He lands in New York and then, by coincidence, boards the same plane to Toronto as Elizabeth and Tyler. Ninety minutes after takeoff, the flight is diverted to Severn City Airport.
Miranda has a sore throat. She goes down to the hotel lobby and is shaken by the fear on the concierge's face. She tries making her own phone calls, looking for a flight, but all the nearby airports are closed.
She falls asleep and wakes at four in the morning with a fever. When she calls Neptune Logistics and the Canadian, American, and British consulates, she reaches only voicemail greetings.
Deciding she cannot stay in the oppressive room but feeling very weak, she ventures outside, down to the empty beach. She lies on a chaise longue and sleeps until she opens her eyes to see the sunrise. In her fevered state, it looks like Station Eleven.
These chapters represent a prolonged exploration of Miranda’s experiences in the days just before, and just after, the collapse. The Shakespearean thread runs continuously through the novel, and it is therefore tempting to consider Miranda's name as a deliberate choice on the part of Mandel, evocative of The Tempest, in which the beautiful Miranda dwells in exile on an island. But while Shakespeare's Miranda, a duke’s daughter, becomes engaged to a shipwrecked prince and returns to the mainland, Mandel's Miranda, a shipping worker, finds herself stranded in Malaysia as she succumbs to illness, far from Toronto and from Arthur, who was once her tether to the island of her youth.
In this section, too, various trailing threads of the narrative are drawn together. Again, the gaps in Kirsten's memory are filled, not for her, but for the reader. Kirsten cannot remember ever having met Miranda, but it is actually from Miranda that several of the key influences on Kirsten's adult life are derived. The paperweight that appeared in an earlier chapter when Miranda took it from Arthur's house is delivered back to Arthur at the theater, suggesting that it is the same paperweight that has been secreted in Kirsten's backpack throughout her adult life. The Dr. Eleven comics, left at the theater by Miranda for Arthur, are another central part of Kirsten's life whose origin she has no memory of. Kirsten does not know who Miranda is; she does not know how Miranda lived or that she was stranded in Malaysia in the early days of the collapse. To the reader, however, the connection between Miranda and Kirsten is clear: Miranda, feverish on a beach in Malaysia, imagined the same Station Eleven scenes that have since helped Kirsten survive a life on the road. The women are inextricably intertwined, and yet they never quite knew one another.