Chapter 53

On the night of his last King Lear performance, Arthur has trouble sleeping and feels sick. He thinks about his son, Tyler, living with Elizabeth in Israel. He plans to give away his possessions and move to an apartment within walking distance of Tyler. He wants to start a new life.

Tanya visits Arthur in his dressing room and sees the Dr. Eleven comic books that Miranda dropped off two weeks earlier. Arthur sent one set to his son. Arthur gives Tanya the glass paperweight that Miranda had sent him.

When Kirsten stops by Arthur’s dressing room, he gives her the other set of Dr. Eleven comics. Arthur calls Tanya and tells her that he wants to pay off her student loan debt before he moves to Israel. Arthur then calls Tyler in Israel, even though it is early in the morning there. Elizabeth lets him talk to Tyler and Arthur asks him about the Dr. Eleven comic books. Tyler is excited to tell him about the adventures of Dr. Eleven. 

Arthur goes onstage and reflects on all of his regrets. He has trouble concentrating. Arthur has a heart attack on stage and becomes confused, thinking about a moment in his childhood when he found a wounded bird on the beach.

Chapter 54

As Miranda, delirious from fever, looks out over the ships anchored in Malaysia, she thinks of two speech bubbles in a panel from Dr. Eleven. Dr. Eleven asks, “What was it like for you in the end?” Captain Lonagan replies, “It was exactly like waking up from a dream.”

Chapter 55

The Traveling Symphony stays at the airport for five weeks, performing, resting, and making repairs to their caravans. Kirsten gives one of her Dr. Eleven comic books to Clark, telling him that at least one of them will be safe while she travels. She is excited to visit the town with electricity. 

Clark reads the comic book and finds a panel that looks like the dinner party that he attended where he and Miranda talked outside. He wonders what happened to Miranda. Clark is pleased to think about future progress. If towns have electricity, there might be boats traveling the oceans and societies reconnecting. Clark is comforted by the thought of ships moving to another world, just out of sight.


King Lear provides a symbolic framework to understand the novel’s world. Like King Lear, Arthur is one of the last representatives of a dying world. At the end of the play, like the end of the pandemic, almost everyone is dead. Throughout her life, Kirsten takes on characteristics of Cordelia, the character she plays in that final production of King Lear. Like Cordelia, Kirsten is drafted into a war she doesn’t want to fight. She spends the novel searching for Arthur just as Cordelia spends the play searching for Lear. Mandel discusses how Shakespeare lived through a pandemic, too, and the differences between the play and the novel lend insight into how humanity has progressed since Shakespeare’s time. King Lear is one of Shakespeare’s most tragic plays. It is incredibly brutal and short on hope and beauty, but unlike Cordelia, Kirsten survives in the world of Station Eleven. In the end, though the loss and grief are heavy in the novel, it is seeded with hope and beauty. The novel ends with the idea that the new world may, in some ways, borrow what’s best from the old world as it moves into a new future.

The fact that Arthur plays King Lear at the end of the novel serves to highlight the extent of his regrets. The character of King Lear is filled with regret. He makes the wrong decisions at almost every turn and alienates himself from Cordelia, the person who loves him the most. Arthur, too, is filled with regret. As he looks back on his life, he sees that he has been chasing empty thrills rather than focusing on love and friendship. As a sort of antidote to this regret, Arthur goes through a list of things he does treasure. He notes the simple pleasures of everyday life that give him a sense of love and purpose. This parallels the list at the beginning of the novel which Mandel includes to honor the beauty that was lost when the world ended. Arthur doesn’t know that his life is about to end, but as he steps onstage to play the role of a mad king filled with regret, what comes in his final moments is a tremendous sense of beauty in the present moment. This suggests that no matter how much a person errs or pursues an empty life, tuning in to the beauty of the present can provide solace and redemption.

Love for the past and hope for the future come through in the final chapter. When Clark recognizes himself in the Station Eleven graphic novel, his memory of the awkward dinner party changes. Rather than focusing on the pain of Miranda’s loss or Arthur’s bad behavior, Clark sees everyone with an immense love. Clark’s love is the love of a eulogy for a lost world and the love of someone who understands how much beauty and comfort they had in the past without realizing it. Clark carries this love with him as he turns his attention to his present, and it transforms into hope for the future. Expanding on the hope that the electric town brings, Clark allows himself to believe that human civilization could recover in some ways. The final image of a ship moving toward an unknown world evokes the work that the survivors do every day. Though it may have looked like mere survival at times, they have been making strides toward rebuilding the whole enterprise of human civilization. Though the path is unclear, Mandel ends the novel with the possibility of hope.