One of the most remarkable aspects of Cloud Atlas is its structure, which could be described as palindromic or nesting. It is not for nothing that Frobisher informs us that Vyvyan Ayrs has written a piece called Matryoshka Doll Variations (52).
Fig.1. Matryoshka Dolls
Each story takes up themes and ideas from the previous stories and extends and reinterprets them. For your next assignment, I’d like you to explore the way the structure of the novel works. Please choose one of the following options: 1. The Seventh Story. Create a new story, in a genre that does not appear in the book. Your story should use some of the themes, symbols, and ideas of Cloud Atlas. Use the story as an opportunity to write in a new genre, but also to play with the ideas you’re interested in from the text. You may use story ideas from the text to write your version of Knuckle Sandwich, or one of Luisa Rey’s trashy celebrity profiles, or the Six Catechisms of Papa Song, if you wish. Or you can write something entirely original.Be sure to identify where your story should fit in the text, and where it should be divided.
If you choose this option, please include a paragraph explaining your choice of genres and elements from Cloud Atlas.
2. Thematic Analysis. Choose an important idea or theme that appears in each story and follow it through the book. Explain the changes you see in the idea as we move from story to story, and from beginning to end of the novel. How does each story introduce and deal with the idea? Does Mitchell, finally, give us a unified way of understanding the idea you’re following?
Here are a few themes and ideas I see repeated throughout the stories. There are plenty more, so feel free to choose another for your essay:
The will to power
Human greed and alternatives to greed
Difficulty in finding, or convincing others of, “the truth”