Life After Life

Life After Life

by

Kate Atkinson

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Life After Life: Snow (I), 11 Feb 1910 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The chapter begins with Ursula’s birth, describing her as being outside a familiar wet, tropical world and exposed to the elements. She tries to take a breath, but cannot.
The proper beginning of the novel sets up the idea of reincarnations. Ursula’s story truly begins with her birth, but her immediate death allows the reader to understand that later versions of her birth are simply alternate possibilities that Atkinson provides.
Themes
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Sylvie, Ursula’s mother, moans that Dr. Fellowes should have been with her for the birth. Bridget, Sylvie’s maid, tells her that Dr. Fellowes is likely stuck in the snow; Sylvie and Bridget are alone in the ordeal. Their other maid, Alice, is visiting her mother, Sylvie’s husband Hugh is chasing down his sister Izzie in Paris, and Sylvie does not want to wake their cook, Mrs. Glover, whom she fears would conduct proceedings like a “parade-ground sergeant major.”
Dr. Fellowes’s appearance or absence from the scene is the main factor which allows or disallows Ursula to live. In killing her main character before she even truly has the chance to live, Atkinson forces readers to acknowledge the possibility that the other lives that they are about to see might never have happened, and that the Todd family (and everyone with whom Ursula interacted) could have led very different lives without her. 
Themes
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
Bridget informs Sylvie that the baby is blue, strangled by her own umbilical cord. Sylvie asks what they can do, but Bridget tells her that Ursula is already dead. Ursula’s heart has stopped. Darkness falls.
Atkinson uses the refrain, “Darkness falls,” as a metaphor for death—each time it appears at the end of the chapter, it signals both death, and the possibility of rebirth in the next chapter.
Themes
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon