Station Eleven shows how, in the face of peril and struggles, many people turn to faith. In the novel, Mandel portrays faith as offering many of the same values of art: it provides purpose and community, and injects continuity and permanence into a terrifying, changing world. Further, faith is rooted in the idea that everything happens for a reason. In the face of a pandemic that decimated the Earth and left only a few survivors behind, such a viewpoint can be comforting because it offers a justification for the mass death and assuages the guilt of those who survived by making it clear that they deserved to survive. However, through the character of Tyler, the Prophet, Mandel also shows how faith can become extremely dangerous. Faith for individuals can be the means of personal survival, but in society it can become a means for power and control. The Prophet, as a cult leader, takes on such power and then abuses it by taking multiple young wives for himself and by forcing his will upon other people.
Because the novel seems skeptical of faith as a social power, and therefore on the idea that things happen for a reason, it seems reasonable to assume that the novel similarly doesn’t put much stock in the idea of fate. However, Station Eleven abounds with so many coincidences that it can be tempting to see them as fate. The plot focuses on figures who, by chance or by fate, keep falling in and out of each other’s lives. Jeevan, the man who covered Arthur as a paparazzo, took an unflattering picture of Miranda, and broke the story of Arthur’s second divorce as an entertainment journalist, was there at the moment of Arthur’s death to attempt to save his life and to comfort Kirsten. Kirsten received one of Miranda’s comics, possibly the only editions of the books existing other than the ones belonging to Tyler, Arthur’s son, the boy who Kirsten read about in tabloids and who would grow up to become the Prophet.
These wild coincidences can be seen as instances of fate, a concept that Mandel explores, complicates, and ultimately leaves open-ended in the novel. However, they might also be seen as representing a different idea of fate, one in which fate is not directed by some God but rather by the influences in people’s lives. In this view, these characters are “fated” in the sense that they have become what they have become because of those they are connected to. Tyler is influenced to become the polygamous Prophet because of how Miranda’s “Station Eleven” affected him, because of his mother’s post-collapse religious belief in everything happening for a reason, and perhaps also because of his father Arthur’s own womanizing ways. Tyler, then, isn’t fated to become the Prophet in the sense that he has no other choice, but rather in the sense that the things he has inherited from those connected to him have pushed him in that direction.
Faith and Fate ThemeTracker
Faith and Fate Quotes in Station Eleven
"The flu," the prophet said, "the great cleansing that we suffered twenty years ago, that flu was our flood. The light we carry within us is the ark that carried Noah and his people over the face of the terrible waters, and I submit that we were saved"—his voice was rising—"not only to bring the light, to spread the light, but to be the light. We were saved because we are the light. We are the pure."
I repent nothing.
“No one ever thinks they're awful, even people who really actually are. It's some sort of survival mechanism."
“I think this is happening because it was supposed to happen." Elizabeth speaks very softly.
"I'd prefer not to think that I'm following a script," Miranda says.
"If you are the light, if your enemies are darkness, then there's nothing that you cannot justify. There's nothing you can't survive, because there's nothing that you will not do."
“Well, we'll just stay here till the lights come back on or the Red Cross shows up or whatever."
“What makes you think the lights will come back on?" Frank asked without looking up. Jeevan started to reply, but words failed him.
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.
“I was in the hotel,” he said finally. “I followed your footprints in the snow.” There were tears on his face.
“Okay," someone said, "but why are you crying?”
“I'd thought I was the only one,” he said.
She had once met an old man up near Kincardine who'd sworn that the murdered follow their killers to the grave, and she was thinking of this as they walked, the idea of dragging souls across the landscape like cans on a string. The way the archer had smiled, just at the end.
She stepped back. “It isn't possible,” she said.
“But there it is. Look again.”
In the distance, pinpricks of light arranged into a grid. There, plainly visible on the side of a hill some miles distant: a town, or a village, whose streets were lit up with electricity.