The theme for this semester is “The Good Life,” but as the class read different poems, novels, and dramas, one will realize that “The Good Life,” can have multiple meanings. The dystopian novel, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel and the poem, “Waiting for Icarus,” by Muriel Rukeyser has given me a good understanding of what the good life is about especially when one takes little aspirations and objects for granted. As the novel and the poem are being analyzed, the thoughts begin to evoke when thinking about what makes life sufficient enough to live.
One may think of what is worth living for or what are things a person would die for. In both works, the main characters are attached to one of the other characters and even though both characters in the works could easily survive without any of these important people, both women risk their lives and have to prepare for death to find and protect their loved ones. To fully understand and explain one of the most popular phrases from the novel, “survival is insufficient,” a person has to understand how Mandel interprets both pre- and post-collapse.
Before the Georgia flu hit, life was easy to live with the use of technology. The characters that the author described in this post-apocalyptic world are easily distracted from the things that make the characters’ lives worthwhile and worth living for. Throughout the book, the readers begin to meet a character named Jeevan who isn’t exactly happy with his life, but later realizes that his wife is definitely worth dying for, and would do anything to save her.
This is only one of the ways that Emily Mandel shows that love makes survival worthwhile. Muriel Rukeyser also shows that love is worth making survival worthwhile when the lover is waiting her whole life on the man she loves most even though he never returned back. “I remember the islands going dark on the sea,”(Line 13, Rukeyser) representing the time passing by that she was still waiting for Icarus to return for many months, years, or maybe even her whole lifetime. Survival is insufficient,” was a reoccurring quote throughout the novel that also showed how art played a large role in the characters lives. According to Mandel, art was something that the characters were worth dying for.
This quote is a good example describing how important the art and community were important to Arthur, “You ever think about stopping? ” “You mean not traveling anymore? ” “You ever think about it? There’s got to be a steadier life than this. ” “Sure, but in what other life would I get to perform Shakespeare? (135) Kirsten’s love was traveling and performing, which made these hobbies worth living for her. “Kristen and the rest of the Traveling Symphony devote their lives to each other, and to create art” (47). In this novel, “Mandel implicitly suggests that humanity’s destructive impulses can be subdued by the species’ yearning to preserve its memories, cultural expressions, and familial bonds. Mandel’s vision of the future sees the unlucky remnants of civilization redeem their humanity through compassion, generosity, and art” (Mandel).
In this novel, which I thought was incredibly cool was the fact that the members of the Traveling Symphony are known for their instrument and that is what gave their life meaning. While reading, Station Eleven, the readers can begin to notice, even though many people could satisfy their physical needs independently, people choose not to and instead, they riskily share the responsibilities of survival with others in the hope that someone finds a connection that is deeper with those a person that shares the same interest and hobby.
Reminds me of a quote from the novel, “Hell is the absence of the people you long for” (144). Throughout this novel, relationships between the characters begin to evoke which shows how a relationship can be started upon different interested and connections through different hobbies. The Traveling Symphony all come to the conclusion that they all met and get along because of their loves for art, music, traveling, etc. Within the Traveling Symphony, Kirsten loves the people that surround her which gives the reader a good idea of what she is worth dying for; her friends.
Even though Kirsten knows that she could easily survive without any of these people in her life, she chooses to risk her own life and is very well prepared to die to find and protect them, which reminds me much of the poem referred earlier, “Waiting for Icarus,” when the lover is waiting up the arrival of Icarus who later realizes that he is never going to return but she would still do anything for the love of her life. No matter what Arthur went through dealing with relationships, he is still driven by his urged desire for relationships and connections.
Even though Arthur has encountered many failed marriages, and friendships have disappeared over a few years or so, he wants to be very close with his son. He is willing to do anything and everything to keep the relationship he has with his son close to him and now let it slip away. On page 325, Arthur says something to Tyler that shows the relationship he has with his son, “”Buddy,” Arthur said, “Tyler, I want you to know that I love you. ”” As Mandel uses connection and love for the theme, it gives the reader a good idea of what “The Good Life,” meant to the characters in the novel.
Mandel uses the post-apocalyptic world to show how everyone over periods of time realize what is most important to them and worth dying for and what they choose to be in their own , “Good Life. ” Throughout the novel, the readers can also piece together that the Traveling Symphony becomes more a family than just friends that were brought together with shared interests. The Traveling Symphony became a family through sharing connections with each other, music, love, art, traveling, and performing in different parts of the world.
During the novel, the reader also realizes that having friends as a family was exactly what, “The Good Life,” meant to the Traveling Symphony. Friends that you choose to be a part of your family are definitely worth risking your entire life for. Love tends to be a reoccurring powerful connection between both works, Station Eleven, and “Waiting for Icarus. ” As love is being felt through the Traveling Symphony in “Station Eleven,” love is being sacrificed in the poem, “Waiting for Icarus. ” Love is an extremely powerful connection someone feels towards another person, and a way in which many people live their lives is through feeling love.
In the poem by Muriel Rukeyser, the love between the lover and Icarus is being jeopardized. The lover is anticipating Icarus’ return back to her, but later realizes Icarus gave her false hopes and promises. The lover in the poem is in love with Icarus and continues to anticipate his return throughout the poem but realizes that she possibly wasted her entire life on sacrificing the love the couple shared when he was never coming back in the first place. In this poem, the lover shows how self-sacrifice and self-protection are important, if difficult, parts to falling in love.
As the poem and the novel are being analyzed, one may be able to tell that they both have different “Good Life” meanings. “Waiting for Icarus,” is a very powerful poem because the author tells a very hopeless love story with a mythical story of Icarus, just like Station Eleven, tells a story about connections felt with love. They share a similarity of love but in different ways. The author uses the myth of Icarus to tell a story about a lover who is waiting for him to return but never does and that is what hooks the reader into reading the poem instead of an ordinary love poem.
The poem gives a much more realistic love that shows love is not always a beautiful thing and that sometimes a lover suffers from heartbreak and sacrifice. In this poem, the lover is illustrating to the reader how self-sacrifice and self-protection are important key points to attend to when falling in love, true love or not. This meaning of love also relays back to Station Eleven, as Kirsten shows love towards the Traveling Symphony. The reoccurring meaning is also doing anything and everything for the people that mean most to a person and that if the person you love is in a tough situation, you do whatever it takes to make things better.
Hell is the absence of the people you long for” (144). As one may analyze the poem and the novel, it is easy to look a little bit deeper into who the authors are and what kind of background they evolved from. Looking at the author of, “Waiting for Icarus,” contributors have mentioned how, “Rukeyser was praised for the ruggedness of her technique, her experimentalism, and for the powerful utterance which, from a woman, seemed unique,” just like in the poem, “Waiting for Icarus”, when she tells the story of a lover who is overthinking everything that happened between the lover and Icarus (“Muriel”).
Rukeyser tends to write about the experiences she encountered through involvement in the issues of today’s society which also relates to, “Waiting for Icarus,” when the lover is anticipating Icarus’ return and how many people in their lifetime wait for something that is never going to return. Sadly, Muriel Rukeyser died on February 12, 1980, which led to the end of her whimsical and sentimental writing career (“Muriel”). When analyzing an author, it becomes much more evitable to determine where her writing style comes from just like the author of Station Eleven.
As mentioned before, the repeated theme for this semester is “The Good Life,” but as the class read different poems, novels, and dramas, one will realize that “The Good Life,” can have multiple meanings. Both works compared above, gave me a good understanding of what the good life is about especially when one takes little aspirations and objects for granted. As the novel and the poem are being analyzed, the thoughts begin to evoke when thinking about what makes life sufficient enough to live. What will people think is worth dying for or risking their lives for?
In both works, the main characters are attached to one of the other characters and even though both characters in the works could easily survive without any of these important people, both women risk their lives and have to prepare for death to find and protect their loved ones. These works have taught me a lot about how to value life, which changed my mind completely on how I want my “Good Life” to look like. Truly valuing the most important things most which can be the smallest things, I have learned these values from these novels which put a whole new perspective in my head.