Life After Life

Life After Life

by

Kate Atkinson

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Life After Life: Armistice (V), 11 Nov 1918 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Sylvie explains to Ursula what “déjà vu” means, and that it is a trick of the mind. Ursula increasingly feels confused between what’s really happening and what’s not. She finds that she knows what someone is about to say before they say it or that a mundane incident will occur just before it happens. Bridget tells her that she has “the sixth sense.”
The fact that Ursula has retained some knowledge of her previous lives allows a new kind of story to take shape: one in which Ursula must try to judge which choices will help her avoid previous mistakes and lead her to a better life.
Themes
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
Fate vs. Choice Theme Icon
Pamela and Ursula spend the morning in the garden, surrounded by the rabbits (Ursula had convinced her to keep the rabbits George Glover gave them inside, and when the two had grown, they had escaped and multiplied). Pamela hears voices in the Shawcrosses’ garden next door, and wonders what the girls’ names might be. Ursula knows, but stays quiet—she is getting good at keeping secrets.
The survival of the rabbits is another, smaller example of Ursula using the knowledge from her previous life for good, and their lives parallel Ursula’s trajectory. Whereas before, the rabbits had been eaten by foxes, Ursula’s knowledge helps them to survive into adulthood.
Themes
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Bridget puts on her hat for the victory celebrations and stands at the top of the stairs, thinking of Clarence and how they will be married in the spring. Ursula creeps towards Bridget, and pushes her down the stairs. “Practice makes perfect,” she thinks.
“Practice makes perfect” had previously been Sylvie’s mantra, and it is very fitting to Ursula’s situation. After trying several different possibilities and failing each time, she finally finds a solution that will prevent Bridget from going to London and contracting the flu.
Themes
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Dr. Fellowes declares Bridget’s arm broken. Bridget says that someone pushed her, and Sylvie interrogates the children. Ursula says nothing when Sylvie asks if she did it. She knows Bridget might have died, but she had been filled with the great sense of dread, and knew she had to do it. Ursula admits to Teddy that she did it, and Teddy assures her that he still loves her.
Bridget’s injury complicates the idea that bad incidents must be avoided in their entirety. As Dr. Kellet says in a later chapter, sometimes bad things must happen in order to prevent worse things from happening—supporting the notion that events, even bad ones, sometimes happen for a reason.
Themes
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
Fate vs. Choice Theme Icon
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At that moment, there is a great commotion at the front door. Teddy runs to see, reporting back to Ursula that Sylvie is kissing a man, and they’re both crying. Ursula looks out and says that she thinks the man might be Hugh.
Sylvie’s and Hugh’s emotions at his return highlight the importance of family in the story. Even when Sylvie’s thoughts have strayed from Hugh, in times of war and crisis, their mutual support becomes essential to each other.
Themes
Gender Roles and Expectations Theme Icon