Analysis

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 659

Orson Scott Card is deeply concerned about the impact of his stories. He has written several essays and books explaining how he creates characters and how he addresses ethical, moral, and theological issues in his fiction. As he matured as a writer, he repeatedly returned to his early work in order to rewrite his stories to make them more “true.” Card does not pretend that the incidents really happened; what he wants is for his readers to believe that his stories truthfully describe how people make ethical decisions and how they can improve the human condition.

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Card believes that a story should be an end unto itself and consciously writes to the reader rather than to the critic. He reveals his characters innermost beliefs and motives through their choices and actions. Card wants his readers to feel the choices his characters make and creates strong situations because he believes that a storys emotional impact is more important than its critical interpretation. Card believes that people have a hunger for stories that make sense of things.

Readers identify with Ender Wiggins loss of innocence. Employment of a child as a hero has become one of Cards most successful and most used techniques. His stories typically focus on children endowed with remarkable gifts that must be developed and used to provide salvation for their communities. Xenocides god-spoken, Gloriously Bright, is one such child facing almost unbearable opposition. Ender is brilliant, but as a boy he must pay the price of loneliness that is demanded of children who value genius more than athletic ability and strength. Readers also respond to Cards creation of futuristic battle training strategies. Each phase of Enders training, each new game, rings true. Enders training regimen, it is interesting to note, has been read as both a justification of and a denunciation of the military mind.

When Card rewrote Enders Game as a novel, his increased skill as a speculative writer was manifest through the new dimensions brought to the story. Ender is led to discover the true nature of the alien Buggers and becomes their apologist. Because of his sympathetic explanation of their lives, Ender, who became the literal savior of humankind by defeating the Buggers, became despised as Ender the Xenocide.

In Speaker for the Dead, the religious metaphor of Enders life is extended when he arrives to speak for the dead of Lusitania and discovers the secret of the descolada. Ender evolves from the role of savior and prophet to that of martyr, knowing he will become infected with the virus and be quarantined on Lusitania for the rest of his life. Speaker for the Dead is typical of Cards intent to expand science fiction beyond its adolescent action characters with no ties to mothers, fathers, or children. His unique blend of storytelling and morality mature in this tale of adult family relationships.

Card creates his most complex ethical dilemma in Xenocide. The Starways Congress has sent a fleet to destroy Lusitania, including the descolada, Piggies, and humans. Card succeeds in weaving an intricate tale that threatens the existence of four sentient alien species, the human colony, and the god-spoken elite of Path. In each facet of the tale, ethical dilemmas are created as individuals try to do the right thing but, out of ignorance, make cataclysmic mistakes that can lead only to annihilation. Enders character progresses from martyr to discoverer and creator as Card amplifies the themes of military might and obeisance to authority, adding an examination of religious excessive-compulsive behavior and theorizing on the nature of eternal intelligences.

Cards Ender Wiggin stories established him at the cutting edge of character-based speculative science fiction. Enders Game received the Nebula (1985), Hugo (1986), and Hamilton/Brackett awards (1986). Speaker for the Dead earned an unprecedented second set of science fictions highest honors, the Nebula (1986) and Hugo (1987), as well as the Locus award (1987). Xenocide received several nominations and received the best novel (1992) award from the Association for Mormon Letters.

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