Station Eleven

Pdf fan Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)
Airplanes Symbol Icon

After the collapse, airplanes are a symbol of civilization. They represent the connectivity of the technologically advanced, pre-collapse modern world. In the immediately aftermath, people would look towards the sky, hopeful of seeing planes flying overhead. Such a sight would signify that somewhere, planes still took off, and civilization as it was once known still existed. The connectivity and ease of travel provided by planes, though, is also what enabled the Georgia Flu to spread so efficiently throughout the planet. Planes, then, also symbolize the ironically self-defeating nature of human civilization.

In the Severn City Airport, airplanes still symbolize civilization and its collapse, existing now only as repurposed homes or dark places for teenagers to sneak off to. But during and immediately following the collapse they also take on a symbolism of hope and despair. Just as the full scope of the Georgia Flu is being realized, an airplane lands at the Severn City Airport, but it is forced to remain out on the tarmac. Throughout his life, Clark tries to avoid thinking about what the decision to keep the infected plane out of the airport must have been like, or what it meant for those on the plane during the last torturous hours of their lives. Mostly untouched for years after the collapse, this solitary plane represents death, dread, and the difficult decisions made to keep survivors alive. The Severn City Airport also provides the unique opportunity for pilots to try to reconnect with distant family after the collapse, as a few of them take planes in hope of finding loved ones. These rescue missions are among the last flights of human civilization, and though they leave in hope, none of them ever return to Severn City.

Finally, airplanes take on an intense religious symbolism within the novel. As the Prophet, Tyler combines his name with the cross, inserting an extra line into a lowercase t. This then becomes a symbol of his cult, which is even used as a brand or mark on human faces—andAugust recognizes the pseudo-cross as a makeshift symbol for an airplane.

Airplanes Quotes in Station Eleven

The Station Eleven quotes below all refer to the symbol of Airplanes. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Death and Survival Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of Station Eleven published in 2015.
Chapter 6 Quotes

No more flight. No more towns glimpsed from the sky through airplane windows, points of glimmering light; no more looking down from thirty thousand feet and imagining the lives lit up by those lights at that moment. No more airplanes, no more requests to put your tray table in its upright and locked position—but no, this wasn't true, there were still airplanes here and there. They stood dormant on runways and in hangars. They collected snow on their wings. In the cold months, they were ideal for food storage. In summer the ones near orchards were filled with trays of fruit that dehydrated in the heat. Teenagers snuck into them to have sex. Rust blossomed and streaked.

Related Symbols: Airplanes
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:

These lines are excerpted from Chapter 6, which begins “An Incomplete List:” and proceeds to list things that are lost in the collapse of civilization, including electricity and pharmaceuticals. This section of the list explains the end of air travel, and the end of the phenomenon of viewing towns and their shining lights through airplane windows. Along with this beauty, the small details of flying also vanish, such as putting tray tables in their “upright and locked positions.” By including both the beautiful aspects and the practical ones, Mandel shows the scope of what would be lost in the collapse of civilization, which eliminates both the ease and benefits of transportation and the opportunity to view the world from 30,000 feet.

The inclusion of rusting, dormant airplanes also indicates the vestiges of civilization that will remain as physical imprints of the past. No longer able to fly, they symbolize the civilization that once was, and their decay is at once sad, since they are no longer operational, and beautiful (“rust blossomed”) since they are converted for new uses in the changing post-collapse society.

A+

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other Station Eleven quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Chapter 30 Quotes

On silent afternoons in his brother's apartment, Jeevan found himself thinking about how human the city is, how human everything is. We bemoaned the impersonality of the modern world, but that was a lie, it seemed to him; it had never been impersonal at all. There had always been a massive delicate infrastructure of people, all of them working unnoticed around us, and when people stop going to work, the entire operation grinds to a halt.

Related Characters: Jeevan Chaudhary , Frank Chaudhary
Related Symbols: Airplanes
Page Number: 178
Explanation and Analysis:

While locked up in Frank’s apartment to survive the Georgia Flu and the collapse of civilization, Jeevan reflects on the very civilization that is falling, and how essentially human it is. A common complaint about the modern world, he thinks, is that it is impersonal, that for all of our interconnected technologies, humans are in general disconnected from one another. As the world collapses, Jeevan believes that this is a lie, since there has always been a huge infrastructure of people, all working unnoticed, responsible for the operation of modernity. Without humans going to work, everything, including transportation, medicine, electricity, energy, the whole grid of modernity fails. In this way, civilization is not what makes us human. Instead, it is humanity that continuously powers and operates civilization. The collapse of civilization doesn’t necessarily cause deaths—in fact, it is just the opposite.

Get the entire Station Eleven LitChart as a printable PDF.
Station eleven.pdf.medium

Airplanes Symbol Timeline in Station Eleven

The timeline below shows where the symbol Airplanes appears in Station Eleven. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 22
Civilization Theme Icon
Memory Theme Icon
...their tent, Dieter whispers to Kirsten that the night before he dreamed he saw an airplane. Kirsten does not remember airplanes well since she was so young when the collapse happened,... (full context)
Death and Survival Theme Icon
After this conversation about airplanes, Kirsten and Dieter take their turn as second watch. Dieter and Sayid scout the road... (full context)
Chapter 30
Death and Survival Theme Icon
Civilization Theme Icon
Art Theme Icon
...is, and how so many facets of modernity rely on an interconnected infrastructure of people. Airplanes cannot fly, food can’t be delivered, and no one is alive to work at power... (full context)
Chapter 37
Death and Survival Theme Icon
Civilization Theme Icon
Memory Theme Icon
...collapse, including only small impressions of her parents. She also remembers looking out of an airplane window and gets chills thinking of the sea of electric lights. When sharing other fragmented... (full context)
Chapter 38
Death and Survival Theme Icon
Faith and Fate Theme Icon
...a mark from the prophet. But August has realized what the symbol is: it’s an airplane. (full context)
Chapter 40
Death and Survival Theme Icon
Faith and Fate Theme Icon
Civilization Theme Icon
...city and airport without encountering anyone who is sick or contagious. He then boards an airplane filled with similarly lucky, healthy people, including, by chance, Elizabeth Colton and her son Tyler.... (full context)
Chapter 42
Civilization Theme Icon
Memory Theme Icon
...a sixteen-year-old named Emmanuel, the first child born in the airport, for example, the way airplanes used to take off (by gaining speed, not launching straight up). In retrospect, all of... (full context)
Death and Survival Theme Icon
Faith and Fate Theme Icon
Civilization Theme Icon
...people, like Clark, who have lived there since the day their flights landed. While Clark’s plane was in the air, news of the pandemic’s spread to North America had broken. As... (full context)
Death and Survival Theme Icon
Faith and Fate Theme Icon
Civilization Theme Icon
As Clark and Elizabeth sit in the Skymiles Lounge, a final airplane lands, but it is moved away from the terminal and left on the tarmac. No... (full context)
Death and Survival Theme Icon
Memory Theme Icon
...going from imagined futures to memories of Robert and Arthur. All the while, the solitary plane is still alone on the tarmac. He looks around and realizes the world he knew... (full context)
Chapter 43
Death and Survival Theme Icon
Civilization Theme Icon
...bonfire out on the tarmac, getting drunk on Skymiles Lounge champagne. They hope a passing airplane or helicopter might see them, but nothing passes overhead. (full context)
Death and Survival Theme Icon
Faith and Fate Theme Icon
Civilization Theme Icon
...Day, one of three pilots among the stranded people announces that he will take an airplane to LA in hopes of finding his family. He invites anyone who wants to come... (full context)
Death and Survival Theme Icon
Civilization Theme Icon
...pilot named Roy announces that he’s going to do a reconnaissance flight on a small airplane. He never returns. (full context)
Death and Survival Theme Icon
Faith and Fate Theme Icon
Civilization Theme Icon
...tries not to think about the people he knew outside the airport, or the final airplane that landed but was kept away from the airport. Snow falls after Roy’s departure, and... (full context)
Chapter 44
Death and Survival Theme Icon
Faith and Fate Theme Icon
Civilization Theme Icon
Memory Theme Icon
...Tyler before they left. Clark had seen Tyler reading from a book to the abandoned airplane at the edge of the tarmac. Tyler was reading passages from the Book of Revelations... (full context)
Death and Survival Theme Icon
Civilization Theme Icon
Memory Theme Icon
...Concourse C, children memorize things that make no sense to them, like the fact that airplanes used to fly, the abstraction of the Internet, or the notions of countries and cities. (full context)
Chapter 47
Death and Survival Theme Icon
Faith and Fate Theme Icon
Civilization Theme Icon
Memory Theme Icon
...and remembers Tyler, Arthur Leander’s son, now revealed to be the prophet, reading to the airplane as a young boy. (full context)
Chapter 55
Death and Survival Theme Icon
Civilization Theme Icon
Memory Theme Icon
Art Theme Icon
...and wonders what ever happened to Miranda. He looks up at the tarmac and the airplanes that have been grounded for two decades. He doesn’t expect to see planes fly again... (full context)