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Cloud Atlas

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Yew Bei

on 19 July 2013

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Transcript of Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas consists of
six nested stories
. Each tale is revealed to be a story that is read (or observed) by the main character in the next. The first five stories are
interrupted at a key moment
. After the sixth story, the other five stories are
returned to and closed
, in reverse chronological order, and each ends with the
main character reading or observing the chronologically previous work
in the chain. It shows how history not only repeats itself, but also connects to people in all time periods and places.
Brief Synopsis
The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing

In 1850, Adam Ewing, an American notary from San Francisco during the California Gold Rush, awaits repairs to his ship. He saves a slave's life and the slave later returned the favour by stopping him from being poisoned.

Letters from Zedelghem

In 1931, a young depressed musician named Robert Frobisher moves to England, where he works for an old, dying composer Vyvyan Ayrs by helping him transcribe his music. In between having an affair with Ayrs's wife and falling for his daughter, Robert outdid himself and composed "The Cloud Atlas Sextet", after which he killed himself.
Brief Synopsis (part II)
Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery

In 1975, Luisa Rey, a young journalist, investigates reports that a new nuclear power plant is unsafe. She learns that the businessmen in charge of the plant are conspiring to cover up the dangers and are assassinating potential whistleblowers. She eventually managed to expose the company.

The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish

Set in present day London, Timothy Cavendish is an elderly publisher who is tricked into checking into a nursing home by his brother, and is trapped inside. He spends his time trying to escape from the nursing home and eventually succeeds.
An Orison of Sonmi~451

In a dystopian future, Sonmi is a fabricant, clones who are mass produced and used as slaves in various industries. One day, she develops self-awareness and sets out to abolish the authoritarian government. However, she was eventually caught and set to be executed.

Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After

Set a few hundred years after the events of Sonmi~451 when mankind has been reduced to primitive ways because of "The Fall", Zachry recounts his youth where he, together with Meronym, a woman from a strange land, sought to discover their origins. When Zachry came under attack from a hostile tribe, Meronym saves him and together, they migrated to a safer island.
In-depth Analysis
- Style & Genre
- Plot Structure
- Setting
- Characterization and Conflicts
- Themes
Thank You!
Brief Synopsis (part III)
- A variety of styles, depending on which part of the story you are reading

Adam Ewing
: Use of archaic, colonial English
Robert Frobisher
: Epistolary style, very personal. Dated use of language.
Luisa Rey
: More contemporary; short sentence structures in the style of a mystery/detective novel.
Timothy Cavendish
: Most contemporary usage of English, injection of wry humour, sarcasm etc.
: Entire storyline written in the form of an interview, usage of many made-up words; long complicated sentences to reflect character's intelligence
: Fragmented sentences, made-up hybrids of modern English words. Emotionally charged and personal, compared to Sonmi~451

Cloud Atlas

David Mitchell

Employs both first and third person narrative techniques
Overall, Cloud Atlas's style(s) are intensely descriptive.
Word choice: usage of big words that are not commonly used
Plot Structure
Non-linear, chiastic structure
Chiastic structure --> the plot goes in a circle:

Adam Ewing
Luisa Rey
Timothy Cavendish
Robert Frobisher
- Different stories, different genres

- Overall, the genre is classified as
speculative dystopian fiction.

- This is because of the various dystopian-like themes such as slavery of mankind, death (both physical and emotional), and the fall of mankind.

- Multiple settings, because the stories are set in different times and places

- Integral setting: places are clearly described and specified

example: A ship crossing the Pacific in 1849; the home of an elderly composer in 1936 Edinburgh; San Francisco and a nearby nuclear power plant in 1973; London and an Edinburgh nursing home in 2012; Neo-Soul, the capital of a half-ruined Korea in 2144; a valley and a mountain on a post-apocalyptic Hawaii in 2321.
- Characters are central to Cloud Atlas, because they are the ones who are key to the story's themes

Indirect characterization
: the author shows the readers what the characters are, instead of telling them

- Character's actions, inner monologues, relationships with other people, daily routines

- Various types of conflict exists in Cloud Atlas, namely:

Man vs Nature, Man vs Society/Government, Man vs Man, Man vs Self

Zachry: Man vs Nature
Sonmi~451: Man vs Society/Government
Timothy Cavendish: Man vs Man
Frobisher: Man vs Self
Interconnection of all things
concept of karma & reincarnation
human beings' natural inclination to slavery (e.g. Adam Ewing, Sonmi~451)
Change & Evolution
our destiny is fluid; a soul can evolve through time to become better or worse (e.g. Luisa Rey, Timothy Cavendish)
Doing the right thing
, despite overwhelming odds
- Birth mark: represent the soul passing from one body to another; all central protagonists in the story have it

- Plot device used by author to indicate to readers that the characters are reincarnations of the same person
Personal Response
Why I liked the book

Themes are strongly woven into the book, reinforced multiple times in the six storylines
The author's narrative is rich in detail and highly skillful
Characters were relatable
The settings were refreshing; especially the post-apocalyptic settings
Concepts of cloning, human oppression, primitive mankind, are well-executed
Personal Response
- Why I didn't like the book

Laborious read at times, because a chiastic structure is not commonly used.
Confusing and difficult to get into at first
Archaic usage of colonial English and hybrid English and terminology makes it difficult to understand the book at times.
Personal Response
- Special on many levels: plot, structure, characters, themes, setting

- Leaves a moderate degree of uncertainty that forces the reader to think about the events of the story (e.g. Are Luisa Rey and Cavendish simply fictional accounts?)

- The common themes, conflicts, and ideas expressed even in such vastly different settings show that the human condition is universal and timeless
Cloud Atlas: Movie Trailer
"A half-read book is a half-finished love affair."

- Robert Frobisher

“Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.”

- Sonmi~451

"“Souls cross ages like clouds cross skies, an' tho' a cloud's shape nor hue nor size don't stay the same, it's still a cloud an' so is a soul. Who can say where the cloud's blowed from or who the soul'll be 'morrow? Only Sonmi the east an' the west an' the compass an' the atlas, yay, only the atlas o' clouds.”

- Zachry
Full transcript