Station Eleven Study on the Significance of Art

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • The Significance of Art for the Characters of Station Eleven
  • Conclusion


Throughout Station Eleven art and the history of art is very important for the lives of the characters. In the beginning scene of the novel during “Year 0”, Arthur Leander is performing a famous Shakespeare play called, King Lear, on the night before the collapse. Ironically after the collapse of civilization and ninety nine percent of the population has died, but the art from before is still alive. The point the novel Station Eleven is hinting at is that art is stronger and closer to humanity than people think because it is powerful enough that it can withstand and survive a deadly pandemic. 

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The Significance of Art for the Characters of Station Eleven

The art in the novel is what keeps the characters still in contact with the past and to help rebuild the culture that was lost during the pandemic. To do this the travelling symphony goes around to different settlements of people to perform old Shakespeare plays to remind people of the past and the art that is never lost. The symphony does this to give people the knowledge of the world and to help people understand the world that is gone from the collapse. On the symphonies travels to different settlements, the group “performed music-classical, jazz, orchestral arrangements of pre-collapse pop songs-and Shakespeare” (37), for everyone in the group and the people watching to help people escape from the world and remember the past. Kirsten who joined the travelling symphony knows that art is something beautiful and will always survive because, “What was lost in the collapse: almost everything, almost everyone, but there is still such beauty” (57), meaning even though “ninety-nine point ninety-nine percent” (60) of civilization was destroyed the art has never. She knows no matter how much is gone, that the art will never be gone as long as life exists. Kirsten has “survival is insufficient” (119) tattooed onto her left forearm, which is from the show Star Trek. Before the pandemic, people would drag along with regret and be committed to what they think as “living”. The characters tried to hide their disappointment under wealth, makeup, and higher smiles. After the collapse, all the survivors realized that to survive, the civilization needed more than bare essentials and everyone needs a new journey to create and cultivate beauty. Losing electricity, citizens, water supply and almost everything it forced the survivors to see life differently as it was previously just overlooked. 


The collapse made the comic books and Clark’s museum collections take on a new meaning. This shows that “art reflects life” and that people need more than the basics and that to live. People just living and surviving in life is not enough anymore, so civilization needs relationships, art, memories, history, artifacts, and beauty or the survival of human lives are just hopelessly insufficient.

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