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Station Eleven connects to concepts of Social Justice such as gender equality, human rights and world religion.
Examples of the connection between Station Eleven and gender equality can be seen in many ways that those who identify as male are often the aggressors in conflicts with those who identify as female. This can be seen between Miranda, Arthur Leander’s first wife, and her boyfriend Pablo. Pablo is a struggling artist who is jealous of how Miranda can create better art in the form of the graphic novel Station Eleven and how she maintains a job that she seems to enjoy. This leads to him brooding around the apartment, not caring enough about Miranda to even attempt getting a job to pay for the apartment that they are supposed to be renting together. In addition to this, his paintings aren’t selling so he isn’t bringing any income to the partnership. Pablo doesn’t care for Miranda’s graphic novel, the art project in which she is pouring most of her time and effort. He even goes so far to accuse her of infidelity with her boss at work specifically because she works so much. Then he gets angry when she mentions that she works so much because they need the money.
Another example of inequality among genders can be seen with Arthur Leander’s actions in his various marriages to Miranda, Elizabeth, and Lydia. Arthur leaves Miranda for Elizabeth while cheating on Miranda. Miranda suspects that Arthur is cheating on her when she notices how Elizabeth is constantly near Arthur at parties and other meetings and events. But the first time that Arthur’s cheating becomes real for Miranda is when she finds Elizabeth passed out drunk on her couch. Arthur ends up leaving Elizabeth too, even after they have a son together. His next wife is Lydia, an actress with whom he costarred. Elizabeth takes her son, Tyler to live in Jerusalem. Arthur occasionally visits. Miranda continues living independently. Arthur visits her rarely, he remains very distant and uncaring. Another way in which Arthur seems to have more power than the women in his life is when he sends letters to Victoria and begins to treat her like an object instead of a person. But Victoria manages to expose him when she publishes his letters in a book for everyone to see what he thought of each of his wives/marriages.
In Station Eleven women also have less power than men. The prophet can travel (when everyone else has severe traveling restrictions) and he can choose women to marry because he is a man. He controls these future brides (some of which are children) by threatening, killing or maiming the people the women love. The prophet manipulates them, and they return to the city of St. Deborah by the Water to marry him. Because he’s a man he tries to force a young actress (Alexandra) to stay when he has demanded the Symphony to leave. Eleanor, another girl who is being forced to marry the prophet risks her life by escaping secretly with the Symphony. The prophet also raids a village and takes one of the women unwillingly to ensure that he can leave without being harmed. When she refuses to marry him, he shoots her and leaves her to bleed out on the side of the road.
Something that doesn’t entirely fit into the category of gender equality, but is equally important, is sexuality. Homosexuality is brought up several times throughout Station Eleven. In the beginning of the book, Clark thinks back to previous sexual relationships with men. In the middle and end of the book Clark thinks about a specific boyfriend named Robert before the collapse of civilization. Sexuality doesn’t exactly connect to gender equality, but it is important to note that Station Eleven includes diversity among the sexuality of its characters.
Station Eleven connects to human rights in several important ways. First is the way that many people are denied their essential rights to food, water, and shelter. An example of this is Jeevan stocking up on food and water before the collapse. Another example is people frantically looking for shelter. The need for food and water can also be seen when prophet raided villages to get food and water. In one village, after the prophet took the food and water, he also took one of the women from the village to be his wife. Basic human rights are blatantly disregarded by the prophet. With an iron fist the prophet rules the city (St. Deborah by the Water) where he bases his cult. He doesn’t let people leave the city. It is difficult for people to enter unless they have something he wants. The Symphony is allowed in because they entertain his citizens. This entertainment is like the bread that the ancient Romans gave to their citizens to keep them pacified. His control of the people and manipulation of them compares to a dictatorship. This is seen in the way that the prophet is the ultimate authority, and no one has the power to change his laws or remove him from power. He also doesn’t allow people to create an infrastructure that would allow them to keep orderly leadership. The prophet knows that this would encourage rebellion; he could be overthrown. He indoctrinates and terrifies his people into submission. He is absolute in his power. He marries multiple young women without their consent; no one resists him. Other men are willing to be part of his army and not protect women. However, there is an example of a basic human right is protected. A woman is raped at the Severn City Airport. The man who committed the crime is thrown into the woods with no supplies where he should die alone and in terror. While the law in America no longer states that the punishment for the rapist is death, I believe this punishment and even castration to be fitting.
Religion connects to Station Eleven with the obvious connection of the prophet twisting the words of the Bible to enforce his dictatorship over the people and his reach into the other villages that have formed after the devastation of the plague. The prophet uses words from Revelation, specifically Revelation 18:8 which references the destruction of Babylon. It seems that the author was trying to draw a comparison between the virus that wiped out most of humanity in Station Eleven to the plagues that are spoken of in Revelation that will wipe out Babylon. However, to me, this seems to be an odd analogy. Babylon in the Bible often is the oppressor of the Hebrews While it is likely that people who died oppressed people, it is doubtful that all of them did. Perhaps, a way to deepen this connection between Babylon in Revelation (in the Bible) and the virus victims in Station Eleven would be to depict those who died as oppressive. If we decide that the people who died from the plague oppressed others than the survivors can believe the plague was helpful not harmful. Another mention of the Bible is when the prophet mentions how the virus has effectively reset the earth so that only the pure remain. The author tries to compare this to Noah’s ark and the destruction of sinful people. This comparison doesn’t work because the plague randomly killed people. People were not killed based on their actions and motives on earth. Also, Noah did not become a dictator and he stayed married to his one and only wife. Given that this is a narrative story the “important” characters survived, but there is never a reason given as to why that would support the prophet’s theory of the virus cleansing Earth. Most of the characters seem to survive simply because they are lucky. Kirsten and Jeevan are extremely lucky because the Georgian Flu is airborne and begins spreading on a flight from Moscow. Kirsten and Jeevan both come into close contact with Arthur Leander who died from the Georgian Flu. Jeevan gives Arthur CPR and miraculously does not get sick. If the virus is a cleansing agent, it would make sense that these two are spared as they are protagonists, but this is doubtful as neither of them wonder about why they survived. The matter of them being so near to a man dying of the Georgian Flu and not becoming infected leads me to believe the author forgot that they should have died. What was the author thinking when Kirsten is more concerned about a clean dress than her own brush with death?
Social Justice connects to topics of history such as colonization in Africa, climate change, and the Haitian Revolution. Social Justice also connects to literature in books like, In the Time of the Butterflies, A Long Way Gone and Othello.
The Haitian Revolution and Othello both show evidence of gender inequality. In the Haitian Revolution, when the government was being formed, women could not vote or make any decisions. This was likely a remainder of France’s influence over their old colony. This is because women could not make any decisions in France at that time either. The first country to allow women to vote was New Zealand in 1893. This is interesting because New Zealand, like Haiti was a colony. However, New Zealand was a colony of Britain while Haiti was colonized by the French. Perhaps the difference in laws regarding women’s rights comes from the colonizers. In Othello, gender inequality can be seen in the gender roles throughout the story. Women are expected to be submissive to the men. The men are in power over the women. Desdemona, the main female character in the story, follows these rules almost perfectly. Emilia, the other main female character, does not obey these societal rules. Both women are dead by the end of the story. Both died because of their views on the way that women should live in relation to men. Desdemona dies because she does not fight back as Othello chokes her, submitting to him. Emilia dies because she speaks up about Iago, her husband, and his part in the conspiracy to kill Othello. She speaks against Iago, Iago kills her after she reveals that he masterminded the whole plot. The audience is left to decide which woman was right. The story ends with both women dead for taking opposite sides on a conflict that affected their lives and the lives of all women in the story.
Othello and the Haitian Revolution connect to each other in regard to gender equality. Italian women were not allowed to vote. This means that Desdemona and Emilia would not have been able to change their circumstances if they did not like them. Because the environment in Haiti was similar to Italy, with women not having the right to vote, a similar story could have happened if Shakespeare had set his story there.
Human rights are another important issue of social justice. Human rights were ignored or shattered in the book A Long Way Gone. Climate change in today’s world is another issue. A Long Way Gone depicts a true story of Ishmael Beah whose village is destroyed by rebels. He is forced to be a child soldier. Eventually he gets to the United States for a United Nations Conference where he finds a new life. Ishmael is set free from the oppressive political web that captured his home. Along this journey, most of his basic, fundamental human rights are stripped away. He does not have shelter and he can’t find safety. He runs from the rebels who continue to chase him. His search for essential food and water is practically impossible and he is hungry and thirsty for long stretches of time. It is only towards the end of the book that his basic human rights are met; he finally has access to food, water, and shelter.
Human rights can also be seen in the way that climate change is handled in today’s world. Human rights in the book A Long Way Gone were ignored. The essential need to eat, drink, and exist under some type of shelter is more important than our choices to handle climate change. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t still rights ignored by national and international political structures. Rights are restricted by governments when governments issue laws that force people to live in different ways to combat or mitigate climate change. Creating carbon taxes and cap-and-trade systems would cost businesses profit and revenue. They would have to create higher carbon emissions to meet the wants and needs of their consumers and the world as a whole. In these systems there is also the question of who would receive the large amounts of money that are generated. Forcing countries to pay for climate change depending on where they are located in the world would severely limit the economies of these countries forced to pay. This would be detrimental if a large-scale war broke out. Countries forced to pay for adaption would likely not be able to put up any resistance to invasion. They also would not be able to aid other countries that might not be as militaristically advanced. Another way that rights are limited within climate change happens when the governments force countries into sustainable development. This could be especially destructive for countries in the global south because they have not reached the modern, western ideas of development. Forcing them to get their energy only from sustainable sources would change their ways of life and potentially take away important cultural aspects. It would also create a taxing drain on their resources, as sources of sustainable energy are generally expensive. Forcing the countries in the global north to pay for the sustainable energy for the global south is unfair. It would take away the rights are choices of the global north.
Religion can be seen within both the colonization of Africa and the book In the Time of the Butterflies. In the colonization of Africa, the people of Africa followed indigenous religions like voodoo. The colonizers of Africa were primarily Catholic and were in Africa to civilize the people. Native Africans were civilized through schools, places where people could get medical treatment, and the spreading of Catholicism. The people of Africa resisted the Catholics. They refused to practice Catholicism. They also blended their native religions, like voodoo, with Catholicism. They did this so that they could continue to practice even some semblance of voodoo. It is interesting that the two religions, Catholicism and voodoo, blended so well. Modern-day voodoo has similar doctrines to Catholicism such as praying to the saints to be able to pray to God. There are also many figures within voodoo that represent various saints and angels.
The book In the Time of the Butterflies depicts Catholicism as well, with it being the official religion of the Dominican Republic. Trujillo uses Catholicism to deepen his control over the Dominican Republic as the dictator. He limited the power of the Catholic church but used its authority over the lives of the citizens. He was able to control the people with fear. Usurping divinity from the Catholic church led people to consider him a god-like figure. This gave him extreme power over the Dominican Republic. The people of the Dominican Republic were harmed by his abuse.
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