Seventh Son

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Alvin is the seventh son of a seventh son, born when his six older brothers are still alive. In the alternate America Orson Scott Card has imagined, this makes Alvin a person of special magic power, perhaps even a “maker.”

In this America are many people with knacks, or particular magic powers, who were expelled from England as the result of an ultimately successful Puritan revolution. America is different in other ways too, containing several separate nations, for example.

A maker is able to understand and consciously oppose the force of unmaking that continuously breaks down the universe. In this opposition between making and unmaking, one sees echoes of William Blake, who appears as a character. Readers familiar with Ursula K. Le Guin’s EARTHSEA trilogy will also recognize similarities to the Taoist magic that is at the center of her fantasy.

In structure, Card’s book is much like the opening of EARTHSEA, but in every important way, it is unique. No one in Alvin’s world understands the rules and uses of magic as do the wizards of Earthsea. Magic is actively opposed by organized Christianity as the devil’s power. Magical powers are psychologically disturbing to those who have them and lead to social, familial, and internal conflict.

Card’s novel is gripping in part because he portrays these conflicts so vividly. The story is lovingly crafted, the familiar yet strange world realized in eye-catching detail, and the characters revealed in ways that draw the reader to them, even to those who do evil. This is a book to be read aloud in the family.


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The story is set in about 1800 in what is now Indiana on the Wobbish River. That the Wobbish is the Wabash, reveals one way in which the...

(The entire section is 240 words.)

Literary Qualities

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Seventh Son combines suspenseful narrative and rich realistic description with moral seriousness. Almost every chapter contains an...

(The entire section is 325 words.)

Social Sensitivity

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

While all of his fiction is morally serious, some of Card's work, notably Hart's Hope and the award winning Ender's Game, is...

(The entire section is 280 words.)

Topics for Discussion

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Alvin Miller, Jr. learns several lessons that lead toward his realizing his potential as a "maker." What does he learn from "the shining...

(The entire section is 298 words.)

Ideas for Reports and Papers

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Review Benjamin Franklin's American Compact in chapter 10. Describe the nature of this compact and explain how it is different from the...

(The entire section is 297 words.)

Related Titles / Adaptations

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

So far, only three volumes of a projected six of the Tales of Alvin Maker have appeared. The second, Red Prophet narrates from...

(The entire section is 195 words.)

For Further Reference

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Collins, R. A., and R. Latham, eds. "Author of the Year: Orson Scott Card." In Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Review Annual 1988....

(The entire section is 123 words.)