Study Guide

Novinha (Ivanova Santa Catarina von Hesse) in Speaker for the Dead

By Orson Scott Card

Novinha (Ivanova Santa Catarina von Hesse)

Novinha Here

Novinha kind of disappears.

In the long first chapter, as a thirteen-year-old, she's very much a presence. Angry, fierce, determined, and brilliant, we see her come out of her isolation, flowering as she studies with Pipo and Libo and grows to love them. Dona Crista says that "touching her heart is like bathing in ice," to which Pipo replies:

I Imagine. I imagine it feels like bathing in ice to the person touching her. But how does it feel to her? Cold as she is, it must surely burn like fire. (1.85-86)

Dona Crista says that that sounds like poetry, and it is one of the most memorable descriptions in the book. Novinha comes across indelibly, and in that first chapter, she's the most memorable thing — the story we're focused on. Her passion, her alienation, and her slow friendship with Pipo and Libo—that all seems like it's what the book is going to be about. Rather than Ender going from death to rebirth, it seems like the story is about Novinha's passage from death to rebirth—her move from isolation to love.

But then Pipo dies and Novinha retreats into herself, locking away her files and refusing to marry Libo because if she does he'll see them and then, she fears, he'll die too. "How clever of me," she thinks. "I have found such a pathway into hell that I can never get back out" (3.102).

And then… she's gone. It's like she really has thrown herself into some dank and stygian afterlife where we can't see her anymore. The thirteen-year-old Novinha grows up, and we catch up with her twenty-two years later; but more importantly, the focus of the book shifts to Ender. We see her mostly through his eyes, and when we are in her head, she's thinking about him. "Will he always come between us?" (16.129) she asks her daughter, and the answer as far as the reader is concerned is yes—Ender's always between us and Novinha. After the first part of the book, certainly after chapter 3, we have to go through him to get to her.

Novinha Nowhere

We're supposed to believe that going through Ender makes Novinha clearer—that Ender can speak for her better, more honestly, and more clearly than she speaks for herself. Ender is, after all, the all-but-mystical truth-teller, who shines a cruel but brilliant light into every heart. "Ender was a destroyer, but what he destroyed was illusion, and the illusion had to die" (15.164). When Ender says of Novinha that "No matter how much Marcao hated her, she hated herself more," and when he says that in her self-loathing she wanted him to hurt her—we know that that's more true because Ender says it (15.165). He understands the dynamics of her abuse better than she can, or will allow herself to; he can speak her experience better than she can.

Novinha in Ender

But isn't there something a little troubling about having Ender usurp Novinha's voice like this—to have her so completely disappear into him? Ender says her suffering was from failing to love her husband, but then he takes Marcao's place as her husband. Whose happy ending is that? Does Novinha have a choice? Is she even a separate person at that point?

When Ender tells her "'Thou art fertile ground, and I will plant a garden in thee," the text tells us insistently that Ender is "intimate, not arrogant" (8.84)… but surely the intimacy is itself a kind of arrogance. The book puts Ender inside Novinha, where he can plant a garden or tell a story or arrange a marriage, and her own opinions and preferences (maybe she doesn't like gardens, did he ever think of that?) get shelved.

Intimacy is of course part of being in love, and it doesn't have to be a bad thing. But it seems disturbing here in the context of Novinha's history of abuse. As Marcao dominated her physically, Ender overwhelms her narratively—and part of the way he overwhelms her is by insisting that she brought Marcao's abuse upon herself with her failure to love her first husband the way she is now supposed to love her second. The masochism which made her (according to Ender and the novel) want Maraco's abuse now makes her acquiesce to Ender's desires for her.

We never even see Novinha agree to marry Ender; we just see him thinking about how much he wants to be a good father, and then they're in the bishop's chambers getting hitched (18.229). The happy ending is supposed to heal her, but in its insistence, and in its disregard for her consent, it seems less like an end of violence than like a continuation of it.