“I opened my briefcase for a bag of Werner’s toffees but came up with Half Lives- The First Luisa Rey Mystery. I leafed through its first few pages. It would be a better book if Hilary V. Hush weren’t so artily-fartsily Clever. She had written it in neat little chapteroids, doubtless with one eye on the Hollywood screenplay.”
This passage illustrates both Timothy Cavendish’s personality and serves as an example of how the author incorporates the other protagonists into each section. Here Luisa Rey is introduced to Cavendish through a manuscript of the story of her section in Cloud Atlas just as Frobisher was introduced by Sixsmith’s letters in Rey‘s own section. Cavendish’s remark about the author cleverly writing in chapteroids is a wink to the Cloud Atlas reader as Mitchell pokes fun at himself and his novel’s untraditional structure. The mention of “Hollywood” is a foreshadowing of the movie that Somni-451 watches about Cavendish.
“To enslave an individual troubles your conscience, Archivist, but to enslave a clone is no more troubling than owning the latest six-wheeler ford, ethically. Because you cannot discern our differences, you believe we have none. But make no mistake: even same-stem fabricants cultured in the same womb tank are as singular as snowflakes.”
Sonmi-451’s above response to the Archivist’s claim that fabricants are not slaves is based on two factors. First that fabricants are different from one another in personality and temperament even if they are from the same stem type thus disproving the theory that they have no individual identity and in turn a soul. Secondly Sonmi-451 concludes that if the fabricants are distinct individuals with souls and they are not being paid or compensated for their services, then they are in fact slaves. The Archivist feels betrayed by Sonmi-451’s revelation which indicates his country and government has lied to its citizens and encouraged the enslavement of the fabricants.
“Old Ma Yibber spread the news that the Zachry what came down off Mauna Kea weren’t the same Zachry what’d gone up, an’ true ‘nuff I s’pose, there ain’t no journey what don’t change you some.”
Each of the protagonists endures their own journey. In this quote Zachry is speaking of his climb of Mauna Kea with Meronym where he faced Old Georgie and turned his back on temptation. Zachry’s spiritual journey resulted in his trust of Meroynm, despite her revelation that Sonmi had been a young martyr that lived hundreds of years before and not a merciful God. Zachry was not angered by Meronym’s revelation, instead he felt pity toward her as she and the other Prescients lacked faith, something he and the Valleymen prized. He also held the knowledge of his encounter with Old Georgie and of Sonmi’s prediction concerning the burning rope to himself and chose to allow Meronym to continue with her own set of beliefs. The withholding of this information coincides with his character’s growing maturity and Old Ma Yibber’s observation that he had changed.
“Last there was the bart’rin’ hall, a whoah spacy building’ what Abbess said was once named church where an ancient god was worshipped, but the knowin‘ of that god was lost in the Fall.”
There are several references to Christianity within Sloosha’s Crossin’: An’ Ev’rythi’ After. In this passage Zachry and his kin are in the remains of a church, preserved from before the fall of civilization. The god of the church, presumably of a Christian denomination, has been forgotten; however, the ideals of the Christian faith are evident within the teachings of the Valleymen. Note the mention of the market set up in the church, a reference to the Gospel of Matthew 21:12-13 when Jesus Christ overthrew the tables of the vendors in the temple. Old Georgie, is a clear reference to the devil and his penchant for eating souls is a nod toward the theme of cannibalism in the text and a reference to Dante Algerihi’s Inferno where Lucifer eternally ate the souls of the betrayers, including Judas. The word “judas” in Valleymen lexicon literally indicates a betrayer. The stones that Old Geogie uses to weight down the soul of the Valleymen is similar to the concept of sins and the forgiveness of sins is comparable to praying for to Sonmi for mercy.
“Why does any martyr cooperate with his judases?”
The word “judas” in Neo So Corpos, as with the Valleymen, means to betray or betrayer. In the above passage Sonmi-451 speaks to the Archivist about Union and her decision to allow them to use her for their purposes. She admits she was aware of their intentions and that her actions would lead to her death. She calls herself a martyr believing her death will help inspire a successor who will in turn help to liberate the fabricants. Again the Christian undertones of the text are evident in Sonmi-451’s Christ-like behavior. Note the use of the masculine pronoun in “his judases,” an added admission to her knowledge of pre-consumer religions such as Christianity and the impact the death of martyrs like Jesus Christ had on their own societies.
“One or two things will have to go: the insinuation that Luisa Rey is this Robert Frobisher chap reincarnated for example. Far too hippie-druggy-new age. (I too, have a birthmark, below my left armpit, but no lover ever compared it to a comet. Georgette nicknamed it Timbo’s Turd.) But, overall, I concluded the young-hack-versus-corporate-corruption thriller had potential.
Ever the cynic, Cavendish plays devil’s advocate within Cloud Atlas and plants seeds of doubt in the mind of the reader concerning the plausibility of the reincarnation of the characters within the text. As mentioned Cavendish does not have a comet shaped birthmark and is not considered one of the reincarnations. His observations are that of a pretentious older man with years of experience in publishing, yet, he believes Half Lives The First Luisa Rey Mystery has potential. That being said, the above quotation is the closest instance in the novel to the author, David Mitchell’s, real voice. It is a reflection of the criticism, real or imagined, concerning Cloud Atlas’ unconventional format. Mitchell’s self deprecating remark and subtle praise of Luisa’s section further illuminate the humor of Cavendish’s section as a break in the seriousness of the rest of the novel.
“The nineteenth-century ship is indeed restored beautifully. Despite their mission, Luisa is distracted by a strange gravity that makes her pause for a moment and look at its rigging, listen to its wooden bones creaking… her birthmark throbs. She grasps for the ends of this elastic moment, but they disappear into the past and the future.”
This quotation describes Luisa’s state of mind as she passes the Prophetess on her way to find Sixsmith’s report aboard his ship. It is the only instance in Cloud Atlas that indicate a connection to Adam Ewing outside of Frobisher’s reading of the notary’s journal. Luisa is more in-tune with her past life experiences than the other characters and the sight of the Prophetess neatly ties the lives together. The throbbing of her birthmark is a physical manifestation of their connection. What is interesting about the above quote is the mention of the future, as if time within Cloud Atlas is malleable and operates outside of a linear pattern connecting both the past and future and combining them as a whole, as the novel itself is composed.
“When it ends, the Old One plays it again, for an eternity of eternities.”
In this quote, Frobisher explains his theory of reincarnation to Sixsmith before he commits suicide. Frobisher believes life repeats itself and that he and Sixsmith would go on forever reliving the same moments with one another in an endless loop. His theory does not include spiritual growth or the pursuit of a higher level of being as do most theories of reincarnation. Frobisher wishes instead to repeat the life he has already led in the hopes of finding himself writing to Sixsmith and preparing to die, his life complete now that his sextet is finished. “The Old One plays it again” is a reference to a higher power that oversees the cycling of lives on earth and to Frobisher’s sextet which acts as his legacy from one life to the next.
“The weak are meat, the strong do eat.”
Dominance and cannibalism, two reoccurring themes in the novel, are evident in this quote by Goose. Earlier in the novel Goose reflects on his belief that weaker races, such as the Moriori, should be killed. He thinks it is merciful to end their suffering now and not let their race deteriorate to the point of utter helplessness. He does not believe the stronger races should be obligated to help the weaker races and maliciously suggests the strong should hold dominance over the weak until they are either absorbed into another, stronger race or obliterated. Later, when Goose utters the above quote, he reveals to Ewing that he has been slowly poisoning the notary in the hopes of killing him for the contents of his truck. His dominance over Ewing is a reflection of his belief that the strong have the right to overpower the weak but unfortunately for the doctor, Autua realized Goose’s intentions and was able to get Ewing medical attention and saved his life. Autua’s will power, his role as the only free Moriori, and his unlikely friendship with Ewing is an exception to Goose’s theory and influences Ewing’s decision to dedicate his life to the irradiation of slavery.
“… & only as you grasp your dying breath shall you understand, your life amounted to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean! Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?”
As Ewing is recovering from Goose’s poisoning he witnesses the bond between the children of a mixed race culture in Hawaii and decides to become an abolitionist in the hopes of creating a better world for his son to inherit. Ewing knows others will doubt him but he truly believes he can make a difference in his life and in the lives of others if he stays true to himself and his cause. Ewing believes his life will have amounted to no more than a drop in the ocean, an ocean made of a multitude of drops is reflection on the connection of the main characters and their influence on the world. Their connection parallels Ewing’s greater message of the responsibility of the individual to be conscious of their impact on the global community.
Cloud Atlas Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Cloud Atlas is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.