Re: Ender's Game - Chapters 13 through 15
As someone who writes fiction, I can tell you that's probably not the case. Even if you don't want to take my word for it, there are plenty of books and essays about writing which reveal the extent to which authors are often surprized at what crops up in their own books without their intent.
As someone who also writes fiction - and has made his living as a professional Writer for over 10 years - I disagree. Yes, stories do tend to take on a life of their own at times, but the author has ultimate control. And considering the thorough editorial process that novels go through before being published, I can say with extreme confidence that what is in Ender's Game
is only what Card wants in Ender's Game
When finished, works of fiction usually do look quite different from the author's original outline. That's just part of the writing process. But any meaning - moral or otherwise - that survives writing, revision, editing, and publishing is meant to be there.
I think it's intellectually dishonest to presume that you know what an author intended. Readers are only capable of judging the content of a book according to what they take from it. As far as I'm concerned, authorial intent is only valid up until the moment the book hits the reader's hands.
I know what the author intended because Card has stated, fully and precisely, what he intended. Therefore it is not presumption, it is fact.
The only valid meaning any work of art can have is the one that its creator puts there. Such meaning can be simple and dull (Scream III
), straightforward and interesting (The Lord of the Rings
), multi-layered and insightful (The Satanic Verses
), or intentionally cryptic and impenetrable (Gravity's Rainbow
). But regardless of the nature of the work, the person reading or watching it does not actually add anything to it; the best they can hope for is to be astute enough to grasp 100% of the artist's meaning.
People can look at Michelangelo's David
and get anything from "Naked dude!" to "What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty! In form, in moving, how express and admirable! In action how like a god! The paragon of animals!". In that sense, yes, people take different meanings from any work of art. But if someone says David
is an expression of the renaissance peasantry's apprehension over declining grain prices and emerging market economies on the Iberian peninsula, he's either crazy or full of shit.
That Card has been accused of any of those things is the fault of those who are more interested in authorial intent than in the specific reaction of the reader to the work.
They are indeed "more interested in authorial intent than in the specific reaction of the reader to the work", but the problem isn't their interest in authorial intent. The problem is that they're seeing intent that doesn't really exist. Their "specific reaction" is either woefully imperceptive or intentionally beligerant.
I'm actually a little surprised that distinction needs to be pointed out.
I agree, and I think that's the opposite end of a spectrum that you could chart along Nichomachean lines. On one end is the view that literary appreciation should attempt to conform to some nebulous conception of what the author intended. On the other end is the view that all works of art either can or cannot be interpreted as a kind of allegory for what the reader already believes, and that such works are only valuable when they can and are made to conform. And as with Nichomachean spectrums, I'd say the best path is the middle path.
Appreciation of any work should attempt to grasp the artist's meaning as completely as possible. It should not attempt to distort the artist's intent in order to make a moral argument on behalf of the reader or viewer.
"Dear Buddha: Please bring me a pony and a plastic rocket."
- Malcolm Reynolds, Serenity