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QUESTION:

I have read every book in the Ender Series, finishing "Ender's Shadow" just today. Because of my love of the series, I managed to work it into a research paper topic for school. I love the didactic motif that I've identified in the novels. Therefore, I'm using that as my basis for the research paper.

I read several reviews of "Ender's Game" that mention the delineation of good vs. evil being a matter of empathy. One does the same act, and the motive for the act is what really makes it good or evil. I identified that in "Ender's Game." What is your take on this and what were your intentions in the novel by its inclusion?

Also, it is my interpretation that Ender's book, "Speaker for the Dead" in which he told the story of the Buggers, and caused humanity to feel great sorrow for their destruction, ultimately turning the populous against him, was very similar, and symbolic in my opinion, of the Catholic Sacrament of Reconciliation. I would really like to use this argument in my paper. Am I on track?

Did Catholicism have any basis in your writings for the Ender Series? I also noticed the religious conflict between the parents, and the placing of Saints' names on all the children, in accordance with the Catholic requirement of raising children in the Catholic Church.

Any comments you could offer would be greatly appreciated.

-- Submitted by Hazel Warde

OSC REPLIES: - September 4, 2000

"The motive for an act is what makes it good or evil." This is the fundamental instinctive moral reasoning of most people. There are always some who, with greater rigidity, insist that the act itself is either good or evil, regardless of motive, but most people, in practical situations, judge a person's culpability on their intention rather than the actual outcome of their actions. However, since people can lie about their intentions after the fact, and since rules can be changed to accommodate popular wrongdoers, moral judgment is always forced to some kind of accommodation with the needs of the community. I don't think this obvious trait of human moralities can be regarded as a theme or "teaching" of the Ender series. Rather it is part of how the world works, and any moderately observant fiction writer will take it into account in creating stories.

As to empathy, it is the essence of all "golden rules," but is not required for moral behavior. Society has many means of enforcing or encouraging obedience to rules without requiring empathy. However, civilizations generally value empathy and regard empathic persons as paragons of virtue; nevertheless, power is usually wielded by people who are not overly endowed with empathy. Empathy can, in some situations, block actions that must be taken for the survival of a community. (For instance, Ender, who might have empathized with the Hive Queens, was kept from knowing that he was really in combat with them so that empathy with them or with his own soldiers would not interfere with his taking the necessary actions.)

I have no idea what the Catholic Sacrament of Reconciliation is. I thought I knew all seven of the sacraments. As to religious conflict between Ender's parents, I'm not sure there was much. Both parents came from religious backgrounds that rejected the population control laws, and while Catholicism requires saints' names, Mormonism certainly does not bar those names, so there would have been little or no conflict over naming. Catholicism was not a basis for the overall series, but of course Catholicism was the sponsoring religion of the Lusitania colony and therefore it played a role on Lusitania, as a sort of future-synthetic Taoism played a role on Path. As a non-Catholic myself, I have no particular reason to base my fiction on a Catholic foundation; but as an American, I grew up with an awareness of Catholicism as a sort of all-purpose American hierarchical religion, as opposed to the all-purpose Protestant congregational religion that we see in many movies. In short, I use Catholicism where it's useful or indicated as a source of cultural detail.

None of this contradicts your premises, except that I simply have no conscious program along the lines you suggest. What is going on unconsciously is, of course, for others to guess at and for me to avoid knowing ...

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