Uploaded by Ian Morley

Themes, ideas and values – world building in Station Eleven

Understanding the world of Station Eleven and how it
relates to our own experiences.
Learning intentions
Understand the central ideas and thematic concerns of the text
Understand how the writer conveys views and values
Connect features of text to consider how they explore big ideas
Understand metalanguage around ideas in texts
Success criteria:
I can explain important ideas within the text using appropriate vocabulary
I can link features and examples from the text to important ideas
I can write about authorial intention, views and values
The bright side of the planet moves towards darkness
And the cities are falling asleep, each in its hour,
And for me, now as then, it is too much.
There is too much world.
- Czeslaw Milosz (Polish Poet)
Write down your own impressions in a continuous stream
of words and ideas nonstop for 1-2 minutes. No editing!
Symbolic and dialogic role of the Epigraph
An effective tool that some writers use to direct
readers to authorial concerns behind the work. Offers
an insight into motivation behind artist’s vision. Often
a brief quote taken from another piece of literature
that reveals a conversation writers and readers can
have regarding big ideas and the human condition.
Czeslaw Milosz
• Member of the Polish literary
avant garde known as the
Catastrophists, Milosz began in
the 1930’s as one of the many
writers who foresaw nothing
but doom and destruction
awaiting the modern world,
much of his writing being
devoted to the description of
the catastrophe in order to
protest against it.
Memory, consciousness, a moral compass; these
are the cornerstones of Milosz’s art, the careful
handling of them the foundation of his integrity
as a witness to his time and the vestiges of
humanity still managing to find a place to flourish
within it.
’The poetry and anti-poetry of Czeslaw Milosz’ Peter Filkins 1989
In your own words on a post it note write down a powerful memory,
what you understand consciousness to mean and finally what does it
mean to have a moral compass.
Why is Dystopian
fiction popular?
• There has been an upsurge in
dystopian-focused novels in the last
few years, a trend that many experts
attribute to the uncertain times
young people are growing up in.
Many new novels are set in a postapocalyptic future, in which young
people must clean up the mess their
elders have made-not to mention
struggle to live up to a new,
sometimes unmeetable set of
“They spend all their lives waiting for their
lives to begin”
Discussion: What does this quotation suggest to you about Mandel’s key message?
A review of values
Values intrinsically good – these are the things that the writer views and right, just,
moral, important, sacred, positive, required, etc.
Values tend to inform a writer’s ideas and their exploration of themes and human
*Views do not need to be necessarily positive
Explicit values
People want to live a good and peaceful life with their families.
Even during crises, most people try to make ethical/moral decisions, and live to a
This may be because of social context, upbringing, or education already in place. The
Prophet for example, embraces his own corrupt moral code: he believes he is an agent
of light actually causes destruction and misery.
Arts and sciences are important to meaning, culture, and humanity.
These things are explicit because we don’t need to infer strongly to see that these
things are positively presented in the text. They are right on the surface.
Implicit values
Education makes for a civilised society
Simplistic, cult thinking leads to tyranny and abuse
The visual and performing arts posses an inherent nobility
History – understanding of the past is vital
Poetry makes a society out of a mob – a civilizing force because it encapsulates the power
of language, language leads to communication and education, these things make for a
civilized society.
Science provides us with vital infrastructure that is important to civilised and moral
These things are implicit because we need to read into the things in the text and make
judgments about the writer’s views.
Some key ideas:
Role of art: can it save us? Does it make society better?
Human relationships: love, care, connectedness, doing good, being genuine
Courage: adaptability, agency, independence, true heroism
Obligation to community: fear, death, contagion, loneliness, killing
Survival is insufficient: What more do we need to live happily, freely,
purposefully, and well? What gives life meaning? Can we find it in the modern
I think that Mandel suggests we can, if we place value on the right things.
Creativity, arts, sciences
Mandel explores what is of true value, and how people can make meaning in a
meaningless existence, a world of suffering, a society which could collapse at any
moment. She posits that things beautiful and life-affirming are what humanity truly
needs. Art and creativity are beautiful, and emphasise that humans have power to
create, not just destroy.
“It’s the work itself that’s important to me” (Miranda 95)
“The Traveling Symphony thought that what they were doing was noble…someone
would say something invigorating about the importance of art, and everyone would
find it easier to sleep that night.” (Kirsten 119)
“People want what was best about the world.” (Dieter 38)
Beauty and truth
Mandel posits that the things which hold genuine value, meaning and satisfaction
are those that are positive and life-affirming. Beauty is sustaining in and of itself;
the recognition of “this dazzling world”, its natural beauty and wonder even in the
aftermath, is worthy of admiration.
“I live on gossip…I live for…truth and beauty” (Jeevan 102)
“This dazzling world” (296)
“…all objects were beautiful. He found himself moved…by the human enterprise
each object had required.” (Clark 255)
“what made it bearable were the friendships, the camaraderie and the music and
the Shakespeare, the moments of transcendent beauty and joy” (47)
A good and meaningful life
Mandel uses the destruction of the modern world to expose the shallow
superficiality that drives many in a capitalist, ego-centric society, instead
emphasising the value of education, art and science, and genuine human
relationships in finding true meaning and purpose in life. By serving others, and
cultivating positive relationships, we can find satisfaction.
“he was overcome by his good fortune at having found this place, this tranquillity,
this woman, at having lived to see a time worth living in.” (Jeevan 270)
“The feeling that one’s life resembles a movie.” (Arthur 157)
“The way he’d spent his entire life chasing after something, money or fame or
The interconnected world - Society and
the individual
The Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor states that communitarianism refers to
the individual’s obligations to the community to which they belong (consider the
nameless characters of the Symphony). Individualism is the modern conception of
selfhood. Individuals value freedom, nature, renewability, authenticity, affirm
the simple, ordinary life, and feel benevolence towards others.
Discussion question: Do these ideas resonate within Mandel’s ideas and values?
The importance of community
Mandel suggests human beings are fundamentally social creatures, and need to feel
a sense of belonging. Ironically, in a world of social media and mediacommunication, this meaningful connection seems to be lacking, the implication
that after the Georgian Flu, “no more avatars” is an empowering change, allowing
people to accept themselves and find their own self-worth. A place to belong is vital
to this. Jeevan reflects with wonder that he still can’t believe he found “this place,
this tranquillity”. The day Kirsten is accepted into the Traveling Symphony after the
death of her brother, Peter, is “the happiest day of her life”. However, not all
communities can be sustaining. The counterpoint is the Prophet’s followers – his
hostile takeover of St Deborah By The Water and consequent abuse of power shows
that the community must be a supportive and life-affirming one.
And without community, we have
isolation and loneliness.
A variety of characters ruminate or profess a longing “only to go home” (83) and
find a sense of belonging and connectedness; the “delicate infrastructure of people”
(178) is shown to be dangerously impermanent and susceptible to calamity. In an
empty landscape, “hell is the absence of people you long for.” (K, 144).
Memory, loss, nostalgia, history
The novel suggests the importance of history, the connections between past,
present and future, and how memory is intrinsically related to the human
experience. History is a form of formalised memory (consider the oral tradition).
Mandel suggests that if we can retain or memories, we retain our culture, and thus,
retain our humanity.
“I have some problems with memory.” (K 113)
“The more we know about the former world, the better we’ll understand what
happened when it fell.” (Diallo 113)
“I believe in understanding history.” (Diallo 115)
“His beloved objects in the Museum of Civilisation”
“He found himself moved…by the human enterprise each object had required.”
Survival, disease, death, violence in “this
tarnished world”
Mandel laments the loss of reason and civilised behaviour in an uneducated world
with the condemnation that the Prophet’s “kind of insanity’s contagious”, an eerie
echo of the rigidity and dangerous extremism that exists in the 21st century.
“The murdered follow their killers to the grave” (299)
“It is possible to survive this, but not unaltered; and you will carry these men with
you through all the nights of your life.” (K 296)
“There’s the death of the body, and there’s the death of the soul.”
“You can look for reasons but…that’s all there is.” (259)
“At other times, it seemed a difficult and dangerous way to survive.”
Views and values language
Verbs to show the writer is for an idea:
Verbs to show the writer is against an
Emphasises the
importance/significance of…
TASK: Write two views and values sentences based on the themes in the text.
E.g. Mandel celebrates the ability of communities to survive and thrive through the
mutual support, tolerance and positive relationships they provide.
The bright side of the planet moves towards darkness
And the cities are falling asleep, each in its hour,
And for me, now as then, it is too much.
There is too much world.
- Czeslaw Milosz
Has your impression of this epigraph changed or been
reinforced? Write a reflective paragraph on what this
lesson has foreshadowed about the text?
Warm up – Theme Bingo
1. Write down 5 single words (if possible, if you need to use a phrase keep it short)
that you think best summarise the key ideas in the text.
2. Everyone stands up.
3. We take it in turns read out a word. Everyone who has the same word (or virtually
the same) on their list must cross it out (including the person who read the word).
4. If all of your words are crossed out, sit down.
Key question: How are these values
suggested by the text?
Turn and talk:
Choose one of the examples listed in the previous slide and discuss how the text
demonstrates the value
Write a paragraph about how the text explores or suggests an explicit or implied
Thematic statements – writing tools
How else can we talk about themes?
What about:
Now add a discriminating adjective:
Use a phrase, rather than an individual word, to express an idea/theme:
Mandel’s central preoccupation with [how to live a good and meaningful life] is evident
TASK: rewrite the main idea you discussed in your previous paragraph using these sentence
THINK – what are themes?
We have considered some of the values that seem to be suggested within the text,
and we need to work out how the text shows/explores these.
Next we will consider how features of the texts connect to suggest these values
through contextualising them within the broad scope of our society/culture/values.
This is what we mean by a ‘theme’ – a universal idea that goes beyond an individual
text or work.
What to do with the themes?
To know and understand these properly, you need to write (NOT JUST COPY) notes
about these themes.
Write your own paragraph in your own words about the them. Find your own
quotes and examples to discuss/support the theme.
Create a concept map. Make links and connections between the themes and how
they support/interrelate to each other. You could then link these to broader ‘big
ideas’ or authorial values.
Success criteria:
I can explain important ideas within the text using appropriate vocabulary
I can link features and examples from the text to important ideas
I can write about authorial intention, views and values
But how well can you do these things? The work has only just begun. Going through
this ppt is not learning all of this information. It is guiding you to the path, and
helping you begin to connect the dots.
You need to do further work to make this deep and meaningful learning.