Last Updated on January 22, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 942
On Arthur Leander's last morning on earth, he buys coffee and decides, on the way to the theater, that he will move to Israel to be near Tyler. He has had insomnia, and Tanya says he looks tired. She asks if he's sick, then picks up one of the volumes of Dr. Eleven that Miranda dropped off. Arthur, saying he wants to rid himself of possessions, says he gave one copy of each issue to his son; he isn't sure what to do with the other ones. He then gives Tanya the paperweight Miranda returned to him.
Kirsten arrives and says her mother has been reading a book with Arthur's face on it, which Arthur knows must be Victoria's book. To distract her, he gives her the other Dr. Eleven comics and then, when she's gone, puts on his costume. Still thinking about ridding himself of possessions, he calls Tanya and then says he wants to pay off her student loans for her, despite her objections.
Next, he calls Tyler and asks if he read the comic books. Tyler says he did and that he liked them. He explains that Dr. Eleven lives in a world that's all water; his enemies live in the Undersea, and Dr. Eleven must protect himself from being dragged there. The call ends with Arthur and Tyler promising that they love each other.
It is time for Arthur to go onstage. Quentin, the director, explains to him why the staging is so elaborate. Arthur doesn't grasp it but leaves the issue aside, then sits in his chair while the audience comes in. While he sits there, he thinks about all his regrets: his divorces, his lost friendships, and the fact that his only son is so far away.
Before his last performance, Kirsten creeps up to him and tells him she loves the comic books. He promises to talk to her about them later, but in the middle of the performance, he is overcome by a pain in his chest. He sees a man in the front row getting out of his seat, and as the stranger runs toward the stage, Arthur falls over. He can see only the artificial snow shining in the stage lights.
In the second volume of the Dr. Eleven comics, there is a scene where Dr. Eleven is visited by the ghost of his recently assassinated mentor, Captain Lonagan. When Dr. Eleven asks what it was like at the end, Captain Lonagan says, "It was exactly like waking up from a dream."
The Traveling Symphony stays at the airport for five weeks, performing Shakespeare and music and repairing their caravans. When they leave, Clark retreats to his museum with one of the two Dr. Eleven comics, given to him the previous day by Kirsten. Kirsten wanted to ensure that at least one of the comics would remain safe, given that the Symphony was on its way into unusual territory. She promises that when they come back through, she will take back the comic Clark has and exchange it for the other.
As he reads the comic, Clark comes upon a scene featuring a dinner party. He suddenly realizes that the party depicted is the dinner party he once attended with Miranda and Arthur. All the guests are there, except for Miranda, who has been replaced by Dr. Eleven himself.
Clark looks up at the grounded planes on the tarmac. He can't imagine that he will ever see a plane take off again, but in a world where there are electric lights, symphonies, and newspapers,...
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he wonders whether there are ships setting out, sailors from other countries embarking on adventures. He likes the thought of ships moving over the water, in search of a world out of sight.
The conclusion to Mandel's novel, presented in these three chapters, is a gentle one. The violence of the preceding section now feels far away, and the book culminates with the message that love and art are the most important and enduring things in life. As Arthur Leander reaches the final day of his life, he has many regrets, among them the hurt he has dealt to his various ex-wives and the fact that he has not been able to sustain his friendships. He is driven to make what amends he can by ridding himself of his possessions and paying off others' debts. His preoccupation is with his love for his son. He does not know he is going to die that night or that civilization is about to end; he does not know that the gifts he makes of the Dr. Eleven comics will sustain both Tyler and Kirsten through many difficult years. However, it is Arthur's determination to be a good person, in the end, which provides a rock on which Tyler and Kirsten are able to build the next two decades of their lives.
For Clark, too, the message of the Dr. Eleven comics is something to be preserved. For him, Miranda's drawings represent something different to what they mean to Kirsten, but both Clark and Kirsten agree that the comics need to be preserved. They represent not only the old world and the art that must be preserved in order for existence to be elevated above "survival," but also the promise of redevelopment and regeneration. At the end of the novel, Clark is living in a museum he has established in memory of the old world, but he is looking to the future—filled with faith in humanity and a belief that humans are born adventurers. He is sure that, driven by imagination, they will build civilization again.