Re-Reading Cloud Atlas Part III

By Kim Hollis

October 31, 2012

Which Alice in Wonderland character is this?

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An Orison of Sonmi~451


An “orison” is effectively an interview for the novel’s purposes (though it also is a technologically advanced device, as we’ll discover later). Essentially, Sonmi~451 is giving her final words to an archivist. Interestingly enough, although she is considered a criminal, the archivist gives her considerable leeway through the course of the conversation, allowing us to perhaps believe that although Sonmi~451 and her cohorts are defeated, there are still people whom she has impacted.

This story is somewhat reminiscent of 1984 or Brave New World, placing its heroine in a distant future where clones must abide by strict rules and routines, and anyone who breaks from them is threatened with extinction. There’s a strong element of science fiction present, and carries over somewhat nicely from Timothy Cavendish’s warning to the denizens in the previous novella’s nursing home that “Soylent Green is people!”

The Chinese Box/Russian nesting doll design is carried over into this section of the novel as Sonmi~451 watches a movie version of The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish, enraptured by its storytelling and stimulated to thought by seeing a past where the seeds were only just being planted for corporations to rise as rulers of the planet.


Sonmi~451 is a fascinating character, because hearing her story is like watching a child blossom into an adult. She moves from being an innocent who simply follows the rules to being the ultimate rebel.


Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of Sonmi~451’s personality is her language, which is simply magical. The archivist is shocked a number of times by her turns of phrase, and indeed she has some of the most beautiful and lofty commentary of any of the characters in the novel. “Perhaps those deprived of beauty perceive it most instinctively,” she tells him, and that comment is given real weight because of her eloquence. Sonmi~451’s daily experience had been full of rote, mandated activities; thus, when the world opens to her, it expands that much more than it would for an everyday human being.


As has been the case throughout the book, we have degrees of evil, from the very, very small and seemingly insignificant all the way to an entire political system. The lesser villains include Seer Rhee, the “manager” of the Papa Song restaurant where Sonmi~451 works, who takes advantage of the replicants and consumes Soap for pleasure. When Sonmi~451 goes to assist graduate student Boom-Sook Kim, she finds that he is an unenlightened, lazy young man who has only gotten as far in life as he has because he is the son of a corporate exec. He is careless with Sonmi and would kill her if it made him look better in the eyes of his peers.

All villainy is relative, though, and Sonmi~451’s previous persecutors are nothing when compared to the corpocracy of Neo So Copros. Not only are they enslaving clones to do menial tasks, but they also plan Sonmi~451’s entire ascension, escape, and eventual arrest as a way to continue their reign.

Themes and Ideas


Mitchell explores religion to some degree with Adam Ewing and the people surrounding him, with Adam representing the light side and men like Reverend Horrox symbolizing the evil that it can cause. Here, religion is simply a creation of the corporate political machine to keep the fabricants in their place. They instill the clones with six Catechisms that they recite daily, and they hear sermons that reinforce the oppression by making it appear palatable. We learn that the supposed “heavenly” location and ultimate reward for the clones is anything but. They go to their final destination happy, never realizing that they will be killed and recycled as food for the newer, less degraded clones.

This is a fairly cynical view of religion; yet, it feels all-too-topical in today’s political climate where evangelicals seek to impose their beliefs into policy and law. The world of Neo So Copros is a cautionary tale that shows a potential future.

Continued:       1       2       3       4       5



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