Sunday, September 15, 2013

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, Part 2 [Monomyth: The Hero's Journey]

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card;
Review, Part 2, by Sharon Powers

DEDICATION: This posting is dedicated to all teachers--especially those who teach others how to read, write, and analyze literature; also, those teachers in particular who teach Ender's Game as part of their curriculum in their classrooms. Just as an aside, my beautiful daughter, an incredible teacher who teaches at Hardin Middle School in Salinas, is part of this distinguished group of people...all of whom deserve our thanks and support.

RECAP: Last week we looked at some of Orson Scott Card's writing techniques including third-person narrative, empathy, character building, a couple of the themes in the book, and how Card advanced the story through the withholding of salient facts (another way of saying this is that Card utilized the technique of an "unreliable narrator"). I also left you with a number of questions to ponder.

I have a lot of information to share with you today about monomyth, the hero's journey, and Ender's Game. On top of all that, I also have a couple of fun surprises down at the end of the post for you to enjoy, so, let's get going.

MONOMYTH: Today, let's look at Ender's Game as it relates to the monomyth. The term, "monomyth" was originally coined by writer, James Joyce. Later, Joseph Campbell wrote a now famous book about the monomyth, entitled, The Hero With A Thousand Faces. Campbell explained that the monomyth is a story that follows a pattern, one that can be seen in stories from all over the entire world. The stages, into which the stories have been broken up, have been dubbed, "The Hero's Journey."

Joseph Campbell explained the monomyth in a now famous quote from the Introduction of The Hero With A Thousand Faces: "A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder; fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won; the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man."

Once you become familiar with the monomyth you will begin to see the hero's journey everywhere, in books (The Hobbit), movies (Star Wars, and The Matrix), music (Holding out for a Hero by Bonnie Tyler or Superman by Five for Fighting), video games (The Legend of Zelda), and even graphically, in cartoons (Superman, Thor).  Ender's Game, too, is a monomyth.

Check out this YouTube video about heroes, for fun, certainly, but also to get just a glimpse of Joseph Campbell's hero's as portrayed in cartoons and movies. This is also a great example of the hero's journey as portrayed in music [Holding Out For A Hero by Bonnie Tyler].

Now that we've had a little fun and had our introduction to the monomyth, let's take a closer look at just how a monomyth functions. Three stages exist for monomyths (The Hero's Journey). Those three stages are as follows: 

Part 1: THE DEPARTURE (or SEPARATION); Part 2: INITIATION; and Part 3: RETURN.  Here is a graphic of the journey from beginning to end, with all the stages set out for you.

Now, let's look at the DEPARTURE stage of the monomyth in Ender's Game; here, I identify the step and then show you the part in the book that is related to that particular step.   

The first step is the "Call to Adventure." Ender is living at home with his sister, brother and parents; but all is not happy, as he is bullied by his brother, Peter. At school he is also bullied by other students. Then, one day, things change, Colonel Graff arrives at Ender's home and extends an invitation: "My name is Graff, Ender. Colonel Hyrum Graff. I'm director of primary training at Battle School in the Belt. I've come to invite you to enter the school." Ender is "called to adventure."

The second step is the "Refusal of the Call." As Ender contemplates the proposal, he thinks about leaving his mother and father and Valentine and becoming a soldier. He thinks that he "didn't like fighting," that he "didn't like Peter's kind, the strong against the weak," and the "smart against the stupid." "Tears came to Ender's eyes, in spite of himself. He turned his face away...." He uttered, "I'm afraid," and "I don't want to go...." He is resisting the call to the adventure. 

The third step is, "Supernatural Aid." The IF (International Fleet) officers covered up Stilson's death to make it possible for Ender to join battle school. Even Ender's family thought that "[t]he Stilson boy [was only] in the hospital..." and not dead.

The fourth step is called "Crossing the First Threshold." Graff tells Ender that he could change his mind "[u]p until the time [he] got into the car with [the Colonel]." At this point, Ender stands at the threshold. Then, simply, Ender said, "Good-bye," to his family, and "reached up and took Colonel Graff's hand, walked out the door with him, and got into the car, having "crossed the threshold."

The last step of the DEPARTURE is "The Belly of the Whale." The trip to battle school in the shuttle: As Ender "walked the short bridge to the door in the shuttle...he noticed that the wall to his right was carpeted like a floor. That was where the disorientation began." For Ender, as he was confined in the belly of the shuttle, the ship became almost a living thing (like a whale) as he "...imagined the ship dangling upside down on the undersurface of the Earth, the giant fingers of gravity holding them firmly in place." In the belly of the whale (the shuttle), Ender meets his first challenge: Bernard, the other students and Graff's first pointed lesson.


The Call to Adventure:
Princess Leia's Message
The Call to Adventure:
"Follow the white rabbit."
In the table, just below, I have given you all the steps to the MONOMYTH in the first column and examples from two major movies, Star Wars (in the second column) and The Matrix (in the third column). 

In the fourth column, I have also given you the steps in Ender's Game for the DEPARTURE stage (only) of Monomyth: The  Hero's Journey. See how you can do filling in the rest of the stages in column four after you have looked at the examples. Have fun with it!

Monomyth: Comparison Chart for The Hero's Journey

The call to adventure

Princess Leia's Message

"Follow the white rabbit"
My name is Graff...I've come to invite you to enter the school.

Refusal of the call

Must help with the harvest
Neo won't climb out the window
Tears came to Ender's eyes, in spite of himself. He turned his face away...

Supernatural aid
Obi-wan rescues Luke from sandpeople
Trinity extracts the "bug" from Neo
Cover up Stilson's death so Ender can go to battle school.
Crossing the first threshold

Escaping Tatooine

Agents capture Neo
"Up get in my car with me, you can change your mind--he got into the car...."

The belly of the whale

Trash compactor

Torture room
In the shuttle. Ender deals with Bernard, the other students & Graff.

The road of trials

Lightsaber practice

Sparring with Morpheus

The meeting with the goddess

Princess Leia


Temptation away from the true path
Luke tempted by the Dark Side
Cypher (the failed messiah) is tempted by the world of comfortable illusions

Atonement with the Father
Darth and Luke reconcile
Neo rescues & comes to agree (that he's THE ONE) with his father-figure, Morpheus

Apotheosis (becoming god-like)

Luke becomes a Jedi

Neo becomes The One

The ultimate boon

Death Star destroyed

Humanity's salvation now within reach

Refusal of the return
"Luke, come on!" Luke wants to stay to avenge Obi-Wan
Neo fights agent instead of running

The magic flight

Millennium Falcon

"Jacking in"

Rescue from without

Han saves Luke from Darth
Trinity saves Neo from agents

Crossing the return threshold
Millennium Falcon destroys pursuing 
TIE fighters

Neo fights agent Smith
Master of the two worlds

Victory ceremony
Neo declares victory over machines in final phone call

Freedom to live
Rebellion is victorious over Empire
Humans are victorious over machines

I hope you have enjoyed the hero's journey with me today, but before we go, I have a couple more things for you. First, loving the book, Ender's Game, as I do, I find that there is just so much to talk about that even making the book review into two postings, I cannot possibly cover everything I wished to cover. Ahh, me!

I can hardly pass, though on leaving with you a little BONUS CONTENT that really didn't fit into either of the two postings (thematically, that is). So, to that end...

The following audio blurb is about the much-discussed "ansible" in the Ender's Game story. I hope you find it interesting. Here we go....

Second, when I attended college, I took a humanities class that was about (in large part) Joseph Campbell and his studies of myth. I loved the book, and wish to share that book with you, here. I highly recommend this book to you. Perhaps later, I might even do a review of this book for you. Meanwhile, the name of the book is The Power of Myth, by Joseph Campbell. This book also discusses many aspects of the hero's journey and has many lovely pictures to accompany the wonderful information included in its pages.

I hope you have enjoyed this week's blog posting about Ender's Game and the hero's journey. If you have any questions I have not covered, please feel free to send them on to me.

Until next time...

...many happy pages of reading.


Free Animated clip art from

______________________________________________________ definition of the term, "monomyth." - Lyrics to song, Holding Out For a Hero; - Superman, Five For Fighting, YouTube video; - Holding Out For A Hero, Bonnie Tyler, YouTube video; - Holding Out for a Hero by Bonnie Tyler; - You Tube video of Holding Out for a Hero by Bonnie Tyler; The Hero's Journey (+ table of The Hero's Journey examples); - by Joseph Campbell.