Station Eleven

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The Paperweight Symbol Analysis

The Paperweight Symbol Icon

Like airplanes, thepaperweightfunctions as a symbol in various ways. The paperweight, along with its peculiar journey, symbolizes human connection. It passes through the hands of many of the novel’s important characters. It originates withClark, who purchases it at a museum gift shop (which slightly foreshadows his role as curator of the Museum of Civilization). Clark then gives it as a gift to Arthur and Miranda at the dinner party, but Miranda takes it and holds on to it for years. In the weeks before the collapse, she decides to return it to Arthur. But Arthur has no memory of it, and to him it is a symbol of clutter and the materialism he tries to escape before the end of his life. Seeking to rid himself of possessions, Arthur immediately re-gifts the paperweight to Tanya, who in turn gives it to young Kirsten as a distraction after Arthur’s onstage death. This journey from person to person is a physical representation of the interconnectivity the novel explores; it follows the chance connections of the novel’s main characters and represents the influence they have on one another and the way that fate seems to operate in Station Eleven.

To Kirsten, the object’s final owner, the paperweight represents beauty. A block of glass with a storm cloud inside, the weight is at once stunning and completely useless in the post-collapse world. When she receives it, Kirsten believes it is the most beautiful object she has ever seen. After the collapse, she continues to carry it around with her for this reason, despite the fact that it is dead weight and utterly impractical. In this way, the paperweight represents the novel’s appreciation of art and beauty as something that, while not practical for survival, is essential for doing more than surviving.

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The Paperweight Symbol Timeline in Station Eleven

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Paperweight appears in Station Eleven. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Death and Survival Theme Icon
Faith and Fate Theme Icon
Memory Theme Icon
Art Theme Icon
In the dressing room, Tanya gives Kirsten a paperweight and tries to contact the young girl’s parents. Back in the lobby, the people who... (full context)
Chapter 12
Death and Survival Theme Icon
Faith and Fate Theme Icon
Civilization Theme Icon
Memory Theme Icon
Art Theme Icon
...go through her clippings which, along with water, the “Dr. Eleven” comic books, and her paperweight, she keeps in her backpack. The clippings, which she has memorized, all contain images and... (full context)
Chapter 15
Faith and Fate Theme Icon
Art Theme Icon
...She notices the beginning of a letter to Arthur’s friend V, and finds the glass paperweight that Clark brought that night as a gift. She takes the paperweight and decides to... (full context)
Death and Survival Theme Icon
Faith and Fate Theme Icon
Art Theme Icon
After taking the paperweight, Miranda returns to her studio to continue working on Station Eleven. Soon Elizabeth shows up... (full context)
Chapter 33
Death and Survival Theme Icon
Faith and Fate Theme Icon
Memory Theme Icon
Art Theme Icon
...find her babysitter (Tanya). This woman, whose name Kirsten can’t remember, gave Kirsten the glass paperweight, which she still carries with her because she thinks it’s beautiful. (full context)
Chapter 39
Faith and Fate Theme Icon
Memory Theme Icon
Art Theme Icon
A little while later, Miranda realizes she forgot to give Arthur the paperweight that Clark Thompson brought to the dinner party in Los Angeles eleven years earlier. She... (full context)
Chapter 53
Death and Survival Theme Icon
Faith and Fate Theme Icon
Art Theme Icon
Before Tanya leaves to look after the children, Arthur gives her the glass paperweight. She thanks him, and tells him to let her know if Kirsten shows up in... (full context)