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QUESTION:

In Ender's Game, are the names of the characters symbolic?

-- Submitted by Thomas Thompson

OSC REPLIES: - February 2, 2000

Are the character names in Ender's Game symbolic? Only in the crudest sense. Because of the part-Catholic parentage, I made sure that Ender and his siblings had saints' names -- Andrew, Peter, Valentine. But since St. Valentine has been linked to the idea of love, I suppose that consciously or not (I really don't remember) there is such a symbolic value to Val's name. Andrew and Peter have no significance that I can think of; "Ender" was chosen for the short story solely so that I could have the title "Ender's Game." The other names -- Mazer Rackham, Graff, Anderson, etc. -- were simply taken off the top of my head, with no intentional symbolism whatsoever. In the short story, Mazer's name was Maesr, and I named him for the founding president of Brigham Young University (I was doing an index of the one-volume BYU centennial history at the time); his last name was taken from the name of a then-favorite children's illustrator. But those names had no meaning for the story, that's just how I happened to think of them.

I'm not above using names for symbolic purposes. This is especially explicit in Hart's Hope and Wyrms, and if you speak Russian there are some symbolic names in the Homecoming series. Since the Alvin Maker series takes place in an America where last names are based on occupations and people are often nicknamed for character traits, those names are actually more labels than symbols. "Hooch," "Taleswapper," etc. Sometimes names are given ironically, too, almost the opposite of what the character actually is.

In short, I don't have any regular custom. If a name seems symbolic to you, cool. If not, that's fine too.

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