To start with the obvious, the central character in each story "reads" (/views/hears..) the previous story. And they each have the story break off where we had it break off and they do not get to read the second half until the end, or near the end, of their own story.
So we get their thoughts on how the previous story is going (except with Zachry who does not speak Sonmi's language) which might prompt us to think more about how the story is going to turn out, and about what it might be saying in terms of big themes.
This makes one good reason to read the stories in the order they are in the book. There is a big temptation, as each story breaks off, to skip across to find out what happens, and I don't think you would lose an awful lot doing that (I did it with the first story but not the others). But you would lose the thinking time.
And there are other direct references. Like we know that Sonmi is going to involved in something big if she is to end up as part of future mythology. Or like Sixsmith was remembering looking for Frobrisher and I sort of gathered he wasn't remembering a happy reunion; and the record shop man said Frobrisher died young. So the end of that section was not a shock when it came.
Then there are the more glancing connections, like common references, and common themes.
This is why I don't like trying to split off into separate sections. Themes are connections, and are part of the discussion of each story... and I definitely feel that the book as an interlinked whole is way bigger than any of the short stories.
Post by Dear Dairy on Jul 23, 2008 15:05:18 GMT -5
What's your take on the comet-shaped birthmark?
I remember for sure that Robert Frobisher, Luisa Rey, Sonmi, Meronym, and (perhaps, though it's not specified) Timothy Cavendish all had a similar birthmark. What do you think it means?
In a practical sense, I'm at a loss to explain how they could all have shared a gene that would produce that same birthmark. Frobisher, after all, died without having children to pass on a birthmark. (I don't even know if birthmarks are the result of heredity.) It might make sense that Luisa is an ancestor of Sonmi's cloned genes, but how would that be passed on to Meronym if clones were enslaved and had no children?
I think, then, that the birthmark must be some kind of symbolic way to connect the characters, beyond their coming into contact with one another's previous stories. It seems to signify a deep connection among a variety of cultures and races during all ages of mankind.
Or failing actually being the same person, sort of born to the same destiny...
But I don't know what that destiny would be, except "to be the protogonist in a Cloud Atlas story". The stories are so different, and the protogonists are so different in their values and attitudes and in their roles in the stories, from the totally selfish and manic Frobisher to Sonmi's selflessness or Merenym's discipline and acceptance.
Perhaps the one persona is growing through the book? Ewing is pretty useless too in the first half of his story, or even right to his final resolution to change.
One idea I had was that Ewing's decision might now be going to somehow reverberate right through the actual future and change the depressing steady dying of humanitarian values that we have been shown?
That's what the author himself has said: Mitchell has said of the book: "All of the [leading] characters except one are reincarnations of the same soul ... identified by a birthmark." -- "Bookclub". BBC Radio 4 (2007-06)
Or failing actually being the same person, sort of born to the same destiny...
This idea seems to suit the events of the book more than the idea of all the leading characters being reincarnations of a single soul. Isn't a reincarnated soul supposed to make progress or some kind, toward perfection of spirit or something? As you say, the values and attitudes of the characters don't seem to progress spiritually through the stories. Ewing and Frobisher sort of learn life lessons before they die, I guess. All Frobisher really does is realize what a jerk he is. Cavendish is just out to restore his own freedom. Luisa Rey and Sonmi seem the most noble, but they both start out noble. I don't get enough sense of who Meronym is to know how (or whether) she fits the pattern. She seems a secondary character, more of a guide for Zachry; has the soul progressed to the point that it is now guiding other souls to the "right path"? Is that why Zachry is the narrator of the final story, rather than Meronym?
Perhaps the one persona is growing through the book?
There's some growth into humanitarianism (with some backsliding along the way), but it doesn't seem a victorious growth. The outcome seems to suggest that the people who have power (physical, economic, social, political) over others are always going to abuse it, while a very few "good souls" struggle toward freedom.
* * * * * * * * * ** * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Besides all this, the format of the book belies the theme of reincarnation, in my opinion. Why would the soul progress forward and then go back again? That format suggests that reincarnation of souls is useless; we just end up where we began, as selfish jerks who exploit others. ? ? ? ? ? ? (Maybe I just don't have enough background knowledge about reincarnation.)
Last Edit: Jul 24, 2008 9:42:17 GMT -5 by Dear Dairy
Something that confused me about the reincarnation was that Luisa's story takes place in the 70's, and Cavendish's seems to take place in the present. Even if Luisa died immediately after her story finished, it still doesn't fit in right with the timeline.
Post by Dear Dairy on Jul 24, 2008 16:38:57 GMT -5
I guess we should really be talking about the reincarnation theme in the Theme thread. Oh, well. If someone want to start a timeline thread, or take this part of the discussion to the theme section, please do.
I don't remember how the timeline worked (what stories took place in what years), and I don't have a copy of the book. Any help here?
Cavandish and Luisa's lives would definitely overlap.
But Zachry actually says, when he is considering the sleeping Kona, that you can be reborn in your own lifetime, that he could be killing himself. And the Valley people, as he says, do know about death. I have more of a reincarnation problem with the fact that Luisa is a fictional character in Cavandish's story. How would that work?
I think that you are absolutely right about the descent of humanity as a whole while the central character is, perhaps, ascending. Frobisher is a jerk because he is near the beginning. And Luisa gets lucky but she is not that clearly capable or good (she is never clear whether she really wants to prevent evil, or just to be a proper crusading journalist). If anyone is out of sequence it would be Cavandish, but he always seems to land up being less selfish than he means to be.
But I am now quite taken by the idea that we see Henry Goose successfully predating on Adam Ewing; then we see history unfolding according to Goose's vision of predator and prey. But finally we see Ewing escape the predator and resolve to give his life to the alternative vision - which he now understands as clearly as Sonmi and not in his old wishy washy hopeful way. So now maybe history will unfold his way instead.
Christmas becomes known as "Sextet" in Sonmi's time. Does this relate to Frobisher's composition? If so, what relation does it have to the holiday?
Luisa sees Prophetess, Ewing's ship, docked nearby.
Sonmi seeks shelter from the Abbess in the mountains. Later, in Zach'ry's time, the leader of the tribe is called the Abbess.
Is there another soul being reincarnated in these stories alongside the "hero" soul, in the form of Goose, Sixsmith, Yoona, Zach'ry etc? It seems the hero has a companion in each story. However, I didn't catch anything like the birthmark which would tie them together.
And Ewing finds sanctuary at a convent at the end of his story - although he doesn't mention the Abbess there would presumably be one.
Merenym learned to ride at Swannekke.
The companions are so different I would hesitate to identify them - but then the birthmark people are no less different. It does seem that all the heroes have a drive to find companionship, to make contacts, to attach themselves. Except maybe Luisa. Of course, that's a general human trait, but perhaps more obvious here because they are unrooted so we see them as they form their attachments.