Station Eleven


Emily St. John Mandel

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Themes and Colors
Death and Survival Theme Icon
Faith and Fate Theme Icon
Civilization Theme Icon
Memory Theme Icon
Art Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Station Eleven, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Art Theme Icon

In contrast to modern technological civilization, which Station Eleven portrays as fragile, the novel presents art as something that endures. The first scene of the book (which takes place on the evening of the collapse) and the first scene after the collapse both feature Shakespeare’s famous play King Lear (one a performance, the other a rehearsal). The message is clear: even after the collapse of civilization and the death of billions, art remains. Art is powerful enough to survive the epidemic, in part because it isn’t reliant on technology or modernity. But even more so, the novel implies, art survives because it is so vital and so inextricably connected to human life. Art offers people a way to understand the world and a way to connect to a world now gone. It offers a way to connect to each other – artist to audience, and audience member to audience member, and might even be said to offer a way for an artist to connect to his or her own self – as Miranda seems to explore, process, and escape her own life through her art. And, finally, art connects people to the shared history of humanity. The people watching King Lear after the collapse, despite the hardships of their lives and the world they know they’ve lost, still feel themselves part of the human story.

Art may not be necessary to basic survival – to just staying alive – but the novel focuses on the idea that for humans, “survival is insufficient.” As the novel portrays it, the insufficiency of mere survival could be described as what makes us human. Or, put another way, it is the human instinct to create and celebrate art that makes us human. Art, therefore, will endure so long as humanity does, and humanity will endure so long as art does.

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Art Quotes in Station Eleven

Below you will find the important quotes in Station Eleven related to the theme of Art.
Chapter 7 Quotes

They'd performed more modern plays sometimes in the first few years, but what was startling, what no one would have anticipated, was that audiences seemed to prefer Shakespeare to their other theatrical offerings.

"People want what was best about the world," Dieter said.

Related Characters: Dieter (speaker)
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

I stood looking over my damaged home and tried to forget the sweetness of life on Earth.

Related Characters: Dr. Eleven (speaker), Kirsten Raymonde, Miranda Carroll
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

What was lost in the collapse: almost everything, almost everyone, but there is still such beauty.

Related Characters: Kirsten Raymonde
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:

All three caravans of the Traveling Symphony are labeled as such, THE TRAVELING SYMPHONY lettered in white on both sides, but the lead caravan carries an additional line of text: Because survival is insufficient.

Related Characters: Kirsten Raymonde
Page Number: 58
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 14 Quotes

"You're always half on Station Eleven," Pablo said during a fight a week or so ago, "and I don't even understand your project. What are you actually going for here?"

"You don't have to understand it," she said. "It's mine."

Related Characters: Miranda Carroll (speaker), Pablo (speaker)
Related Symbols: Books
Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 34 Quotes

I’ve been thinking about immortality lately. … They're all immortal to me. First we only want to be seen, but once we're seen, that’s not enough anymore. After that, we want to be remembered.

Related Characters: Jeevan Chaudhary, Frank Chaudhary
Related Symbols: Books
Page Number: 187
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 38 Quotes

“Well, it's nice that at least the celebrity gossip survived.'"

Related Characters: Kirsten Raymonde (speaker), August
Related Symbols: Books
Page Number: 201
Explanation and Analysis: