OSC Answers Questions
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.