Thoughts, notes, etc.

View the Site on GitHub

View my GitHub Profile

View my LinkedIn


14 January 2022

Chapter 2: Trondheim

by Florian

This is one of the weakest chapters in the book and I find Andrew insufferable in it. Andrew\Ender is actually insufferable throughout a lot of this book. So, let’s clear some things up.

Ender is Jesus

Not literally, but he is a Christ-like figure:

He has taken on the sin of humanity by killing the buggers. He’s written a prophetic Biblical text. He’s an itinerant wander who lives forever. Later in Xenocide, he literally splits himself into three beings. Should I keep going?

I think this makes him a great foil for all the other characters, but Ender himself isn’t all that compelling and he’s downright obnoxious at times. He’s too perfect in a lot of ways, and his laser vision into people’s souls is a lot of fun as a reader, but pretty unbelievable as a character.

He has his moments, and they come out more as the book goes on, but right now, he really comes off as a self righteous prick:

“You think you’re annoyed because of Plikt’s arrogance, but that isn’t so. Plikt is not arrogant; she is merely precise. You are properly ashamed that you have not yet read Demosthenes’ history of your own people, and so in your shame you are annoyed at Plikt because she is not guilty in your sin.”

Thank you for coming to confessional today. Jeez, imagine somebody talking to you like this. It would be maddening!

I find it interesting that in Battle School, Ender was repeatedly isolated and then singled out by instructors, which only increased his isolation. He then does this to Bean, and now he’s doing it to Plikt. I wonder if he really believes this works, or if it’s just a reflexive habit at this point. He, as much as anyone, should know how traumtic that can be but he keeps doing it anyway.


Is this, like a thing people discuss regularly?

… who took Calvin more seriously than Luther.

This is such a weird way to bring up this theme. As is blatantly stated in the text, Card is trying to ask what makes an act evil - the actor or the motive?

This is a good, normal philosophical question for Ender to bring up in a history class at a unviersity. I’m not sure why Card had to shoehorn this Calvinist\Luther plotline in here. It’s incredibly strange, like I don’t even know that many Calvinists today, much less 3000 years into the future.

It was the fashion among Calvinists in Reykajavik to deny any weight to human motive in judging the good or evil of an act. Acts are good and evil in themselves, they said; and because Speakers for the Dead held as their only doctrine that good or evil exist entirely in human motive, and not at all in the act, it made students like Styrka quite hostile to Andrew. Fortunately, Andrew did not resent it - he understood the motive behind it.

I can’t tell if this is Card’s attempt at humor, but what a smug way to put it. In fact, the Calvinists are always portrayed as complete morons:

The boy was bright, Andrew knew; his Calvinism would not outlast his undergraduate education, though its excision would be long and painful.

Ah, yes. If only the Calvinists were educated they would understand how stupid their position is.

I can’t stress how bizarre this chunk of the chapter is. We could have discussed the merits of evil actions in so many different ways. In fact, you could just make Stryka a normal obstinate college student who argues with Ender and strip the entire Calvinist thing out.

It just feels like Card wanted an excuse to poke some fun at Calvinists, and Ender comes across as a jackass during it, not the pure, compassionate humanist the way he is with the piggies and most other people, and it’s a terrible introduction to his character.

As for the question itself? I don’t have a lot to say. Are the piggies evil? It certainly doesn’t seem so.

Framling, Raman, Utlanning, oh my!

These words are finally defined and I really like them. They’re a convenient shorthand for classifying alien life and their linguistic roots fit into Valentine’s story arc well.

Early writing advice is to say what you’re going to say, say what you have to say, and then say what you said. I think Card fails a bit with his terminologies here and elsewhere throughout the book. They are defined here, and only here. That’s compounded by the fact that they’re also a little vaguely used, for example:

Doesn’t the very fact of this incomprehensible murder make the piggies varelse instead of ramen?

Um, no? Varelse means “… for with them no conversation is possible.” You can most definitely communicate with the piggies and quite a bit. It’s the artificial limitations of the law which stifle true and honest communication. That said, I appreciate the spirit of the question - verbal communication may be possible, but does that imply true understanding? As we see with the buggers, Andrew is able to communicate with them, but often finds them incomprehensible.

All in all, I think these terms and their vagueries are pretty minor in the grand scheme of the novel. Apparently the author of Neuromancer rewrote the first chapter twenty times to make sure it was understandable to a lay audience. It’s a tough thing to do.

Once again, though, we see how damned annoying Ender is these days:

“If you had the only gun in your village, and the beasts that had torn apart one of your people were coming again, would you stop to ask if they also had a right to live, or would you act to save your village, the people that you knew, the people who dependended on you?”

“My argument? I asked a question. A question isn’t an argument, unless you think you know my answer, and I assure you, Styrka, that you do not. Think about this. Class is dismissed.”

What is your answer Ender!? It’s a fairly binary choice, but instead of grappling with it, he dismisses the class. What a terrible teacher! And what a self-centered way to present an idea. It just comes across as such a smarmy thing to say: “I assure you, you cannot begin to plumb my depths!” I get that Stryka is being annoying, but Ender is much better at handling people than this.

Like Valentine’s statement as Demosthenes in the first chapter, it’s especially odd because Ender, like Valentine, is more or less on-board with the decapitation of the descolada in Xenocide. This suggests that Ender’s answer is that he would kill the djur beasts. Which doesn’t seem all that counter-intuitive?



This chapter is bizarre and the latter half serves as mostly exposition of where Ender’s been and why. I get the sense it exists for the people that wanted to read this book without having read Ender’s Game and that’s fine.

I just wish Card had gone about it any number of other ways. The Calvinist side-plot and Ender’s “holier-than-thou” attitude towards his students makes a necessary but perhaps dull chapter flatly bad.

tags: posts - speaker for the dead analysis