Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas Essay Questions

  1. 1

    How does Ewing’s view of slavery change over the course of the novel?

    Ewing begins the novel with an outsider’s view of slavery. He is aware of its existence but it has not directly impacted his life. When he witnesses Autua’s whipping and learns of the enslavement of the Moriori, his interest is peaked. It is not until he learns of Autua’s story of being captured after years of freedom does Ewing begin to realize the devastating effect of slavery on the individual and its related impact on humanity. Later, after his own near death experiences, he recovers on an island near a school. There he witnesses a peace among the students, some of whom are biracial, and vows to dedicate his life to the abolitionist cause.

  2. 2

    Explain Robert Frobisher’s interpretation of reincarnation.

    In his last letter to Sixsmith, Frobisher explains his theory of rebirth or reincarnation as an endless circle of events. He believes the same life repeats itself and that he and Sixsmith would meet again. Unlike more traditional interpretations of reincarnation, Frobisher’s version does not center on the growth of the individual spirit or an ascension to a higher level of being but instead focuses on a singular moment of being that encapsulates the spirit’s essence. For Frobisher that moment was the completion of his sextet. He felt he had nothing else to contribute to the world and took his life in a vague anticipation of being reborn into the same life, under the same circumstances once more.

  3. 3

    Why is the connection between Robert Frobisher and Luisa Rey so strong?

    Frobisher and Rey’s section follow one another within the sequence of stories and, given their timelines, are only one life removed from their shared incarnation. Their comet-shaped birthmarks are the main proof of their shared soul but it is the presence of Rufus Sixsmith, lover of Frobisher and friend of Rey, that intensifies the link between them. Rey finds Frobisher’s letters to Sixsmith and feels a strong connection to the circumstances within and experiences several powerful moments of déjà vu especially when she hears Frobisher’s Cloud Atlas Sextet. As a result Rey’s sense of Frobisher’s life and her awareness of their connection is stronger than the awareness of the other main characters.

  4. 4

    What contributing factors influence Luisa’s determination to expose corruption at Seaboard Inc?

    Luisa Rey wants to be more like her father, Lester, an investigative journalist. At Spyglass she writes a gossip column and is eager to prove herself. When she meets Rufus Sixsmith she feels an unexplained kinship toward him, not knowing that she was his lover in a past life. When Sixsmith reaches out to her and asks for her help in exposing Seaboard Inc she sees an opportunity to both expand her career and help a friend. It is Sixsmith’s death and later her own attempted murder by Bill Smoke that are the biggest motivators in her quest to take down the corrupt corporation.

  5. 5

    Cavendish’s section is a study of the individual. Why is this important in relation to the other sections?

    As a character Timothy Cavendish is very self absorbed, he uses others to get his way and appears to have always done so. He receives his comeuppance when his brother tricks him into going to the nursing home. Cavendish’s section of Cloud Atlas is an examination of one man, his misadventures, and his impact on his immediate surroundings. It is the study of a microcosm in comparison to the other sections of Cloud Atlas, which primarily focus on the impact of an individual on a larger society. Cavendish’s section offers both a reprieve from the high concept plots of the other sections, with the exception of Frobisher’s, and is a contemporary view on the life of an individual. It also laments the passing of time, as Cavendish finds himself unable to keep up with youthful London and serves as bridge between b the modern era and the distant future of Sonmi-451.

  6. 6

    Why is Cavendish jealous of Ernie Blacksmith?

    Aurora House is an unintentional equalizer for the elderly. Cavendish, who prided himself on his wit and intelligence finds his talents inadequate for survival against Nurse Noakes, who views his rants as further proof that he belongs in the nursing home. Ernie Blacksmith, a jack of all trades, is allowed leniency in comparison to the other patients and drinks with his friends in the boiler room in exchange for doing odd jobs around Aurora House. Cavendish feels threatened or rather substandard next to Ernie because his skill sets are useless in comparison. The affections of Veronica Costello also fuel the flame of Cavendish’s jealousy toward Ernie but once the two men put aside their differences and concentrate on escaping Aurora House it is a combination of both their talents that enables them to escape.

  7. 7

    Why does the author use alternative words such as “sony” and “disney” to describe common words in the Somni-451 chapters? What is their significance?

    The author’s use of an alternative lexicon for common words corolates with the world of Neo So Corpos, a country driven by corporations who sell products to the masses in order to maintain their power. The words “disney,” “kodak,” “starbuck,” are easy to identify by the reader as brand names and are indications of the products they are selling. Seeing a “disney” in Sonmi-451’s world amounts to seeing a movie in contemporary culture. By renaming a product by its popular brand name, the author also subtly indicates to the reader the number of powerful corporations that rule Neo So Corpos without explaining with them in detail.

  8. 8

    Explain Sonmi-451’s rational in having sex with Hae-Joo after visiting the slaughterhouse?

    After witnessing the mass slaughter of the fabricants on Papa Song’s Ark, Sonmi-451 and Hae-Joo return to his apartment and have sex. She describes it as graceless but an act of the living. Still in shock by what she saw, knowing it would have been her own fate had she stayed a server in Papa Song’s, Sonmi-451 finds comfort in being with Hae-Joo. Her stem-type of fabricants lack sexual organs as they are unnecessary for the work they were born to do. Fabricants are considered sexless unless otherwise modified like the fabricants of PimpCorp who are made to provide sexual services to their customers. By entering into a physical relationship with Hae-Joo she distances herself from her sister fabricants in a corporeal act of ascension.

  9. 9

    Why does Zachry go against Sonmi’s warning and kill the Kona in his bed?

    When Zaschry goes against Sonmi’s warning and kills the Kona in the bed he acts out of anger and disgust for his circumstances. The Kona beat and captured him, destroyed his town, and he has no idea what has become of his family. It is a cowardly act to kill someone in their sleep but instead of blaming Old Georgie, Zachry takes full responsibility for the murder and willing to risk the fate of his soul and Sonmi’s displeasure for doing so.

  10. 10

    Defend Zachry’s belief that Meronym is the reincarnation of Sonmi-451.

    Zachry’s son reveals, after his father’s death, that Meronym may be the reincarnation of Sonmi-451. He cites Meronym’s comet-shaped birthmark as proof and within the confines of Cloud Atlas the birthmark is the essential indication of the shared reincarnation of Ewing, Frobisher, Rey, Sonmi-451, and Meronym. She is; however, the only reincarnation that is not the central narrator of her tale. The evolution of the shared spirit between the narrators concludes with Meronym, a self assured, intellectual, kind, and loyal woman who seeks to find a home for the Prescients. The search for truth, a reoccurring character trait among the main characters, is another indication of her rank among the reincarnations.