by Orson Scott Card
Keeping it Simple
Ever notice that sometimes people use “simple” as a negative word? Like, you can imagine someone saying, “this book is simple,” and they really mean “this book isn’t very smart.” Well, that’s not what we mean when we say it. Sometimes a book might be simple for a reason. Which happens to be the case with Ender’s Game and its writing style.
We had a little fun in the summary of the plot about how Orson Scott Card sometimes is so clear in what he’s saying. On occasion, didn't Card seem overly obvious? As if he was afraid that you wouldn’t get his point if he didn't hammer you over the head with it?
For instance, remember when Ender plays the mind game and he finds a playground full of wolf-children (in Chapter 7)? And when he tries to use the playground, Ender’s character falls through? It sure looks like this game is telling us that Ender a) can’t play children’s games and b) can’t play with children. But this is just a game, it’s not Ender’s real life, so we might ask ourselves why this scene is important. What does it tell us?
But this scene is important because the situation in the game is exactly the same as what’s happening in Ender’s life: he can’t play with children’s toys because…well, there are a few reasons for that. And he can’t play with other children because…well, actually, there are also a few reasons why he doesn’t play with a lot of children. For instance, one reason is that the other kids – kids like Bernard and Bonzo – are kind of like monsters, or wolf-children.
This scene doesn’t use complicated symbolism to tell us something we don’t know. Actually, it uses pretty clear symbolism to tell us something we already do know from earlier scenes, and something that will come up again in later scenes. There are a few scenes like this, where Card comes right out and tells us about Ender’s life in a simple way (or tells us the same thing about Ender's life over and over again).
In this way, Card writes simply – by which we mean that he wants the readers to get his point. His writing style may be simple and clear, but it’s not stupid. He’s being clear for a reason. Once we understand the things that are simple, we can really start digging into the more juicy and complex questions the book raises.