Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Difficult Themes: The Power of Words

According to Bradley Will, Orson Scott Card is known for his ability to use young adult literature to address "difficult and ambiguous moral quandaries without reducing their complexities" (163). Card does this through an uncomplicated, direct writing style that can be accessed by younger readers while not resorting to inappropriate content that would alienate his young audience. This can be seen in his novel, The Seventh Son, where Card tells the story of Alvin Miller, a young boy with amazing abilities, known as knacks, and that enable him to do great things.Throughout the novel Card explores many difficult issues as Alvin and the other characters in the story use their knacks for better and for worse as they search for truth. However, Card's characters and writing style make it possible for his audience to understand these issues, regardless of their complexity.
One of these issues is the power and influence of words. At one point in the story Alvin expresses his frustration with words and how they can be distorted, their meanings changed. In response to Alvin's frustration Taleswapper, a traveling story teller that makes friends with Alvin and his family, states that, "Everybody ends up dead . . . But some who are dead live on in their words" (123), expressing the power of words when used correctly. He then goes on to explain that objects and things can only do so much, but that words can grow and magnify until they influence many individuals even thousands of miles away.
With this simple scene, Card teaches the importance of what one says and he does it in a way that is non-didactic and easy to connect to. It is this simplistic, but honest method that makes the lessons found in Card's novel easy to understand and accept. He not only teaches lessons, but he allows his audience to choose how to respond to these lessons. When it comes to The Seventh Son the audience chooses what they learn.

Bradley, Will. "Reviewed Work: Orson Scott Care: Writer of the Terrible Choice, Scarecrow Studies in Young Adult Literature 10 by Edith S. Tyson." Utopian Studies 15.1 (2004): 163-164. JSTOR. Web. 21 Jan. 2015.

Picture curtsy of Antonio Litterio found through Creative Commons


  1. Do you think that Card's ability to communicate these complex moral issues in a simple and relatable way that is easy for younger audiences to understand could be in part due to him being LDS and growing up with our beliefs about life?

  2. I, too, was fascinated by the way the power of words was portrayed in this book. The passage on this wise that most interested me was the one in which the men are talking and are careful not to let the word "jinx" be repeated three times because, apparently, the number three compounds the power of words. (Of course there are religious connections to the number three, which may or may not be relevant here, but I digress.) The brothers seemed worried that Alvin was already a jinx but that saying so three times out loud would make him more so. So I like your choice of the word "magnify" to describe the power of words.