King Lear

Throughout the novel, King Lear sheds light on the characters and serves as a lens through which to understand Arthur and Kirsten. Like the titular King Lear, Arthur is a powerful man filled with regret who faces the end. He’s not just at the end of his life but at the end of the era in which he was deemed significant. Meanwhile Shakespeare’s Lear wanders around his own world self-absorbed, misguided, and failing to see the love available to him in his waning moments. In the same way, Arthur spends his time on earth driven by ego. He neglects his son and betrays the people he loves. Both Lear and Arthur die in a state of confusion. Lear is unable to accept that his daughter is dead, and Arthur keeps reciting his lines as Lear while he dies on stage. Like Cordelia, Kirsten sees the world with clarity in the midst of other people’s insanity. She is kind but also willing to take violent action to protect herself and those she loves. As in King Lear, almost everyone within the world of Station Eleven dies, and those left standing struggle to find meaning in the midst of such vast, incomprehensible loss.

The Dr. Eleven Graphic Novel

Through the Dr. Eleven graphic novels, Miranda, Kirsten, and the prophet all find ways to understand grief and loss. Miranda works on creating the graphic novel as she leaves both her abusive boyfriend and Arthur. Creating art allows her to work through the pain and grief of those worlds ending. In fact, for most of her life, Miranda half lives in Dr. Eleven’s world and uses drawing as a way to cope with loss. Later, Kirsten and Tyler both turn to their copies of the graphic novel to understand a more literal apocalypse, and they both find an almost-spiritual solace in these characters who mourn the loss of life on Earth. One line from Dr. Eleven is repeated throughout the novel: “I stood looking over my damaged home and tried to forget the sweetness of life on Earth.” The moment Miranda writes it is when she’s about to leave Arthur. It is then repeated again the last time she sees him before he dies and the world ends. Kirsten too reads the line as she struggles on the road with the symphony. It holds the longing and pain of all three characters and reflects the tender grief of the new world as a whole.


Airplanes represent civilization, hope, and faith. Before the collapse, airplanes reflected the height of human ingenuity. Clark expresses awe at the miracle of air travel itself, but also notes that airplanes played a big part in making the pandemic a global contagion. As such, airplanes represent both the height of human achievement and the agent of its downfall. The settlement at Severn City sees airplanes, first, as avenues of hope. The people there rejoice when the plane flies west, and they search the skies for planes as signs that civilization might live on. They also experience the airplane as a mass grave as the Air Gradia jet filled with dead passengers haunts their settlement. Here, praying outside the jet, Tyler first expresses his belief that that pandemic happened for a reason and that those who survived are the chosen few. He takes on the airplane as a symbol of his cult and repurposes it into a cross-like glyph. This reflects the way he and his mother repurposed an airplane to live inside before they left Severn City. In this way, airplanes hold both the light and the dark aspects of human hope in the new world.