Thursday, June 6, 2013

Speaker for the Dead: Parables Re-told

So, I mentioned a while back how impacting Ender's Game was.  Well, I'm now on my 4th book in the Ender Saga.  Yah. 

First there was Ender's Game. Then Ender's Shadow, a parallel novel.  Then Speaker for the Dead, the first sequel to Game (and the one that gave me major book hangover today).  And I've started Shadow of the Hegemon, the 2nd of the 4 Shadow novels.  It's a bit confusing... but then I guess it's sci-fi.  

I know there's a lot of controversy surrounding Orson Scott Card.  Some of it may be just exaggeration or rumors; some is probably true.  I don't know.  But Card's writings have reached depths of empathy and sacrificial love that other writers can barely scratch.  The Hunger Games?  Yes, I loved them - but Card's first novel packed the same emotional punch as Collin's entire trilogy!  All I'm saying is I've been amazed. 

But how to share my enthusiasm without sharing too much?  Well, there's an excerpt from Speaker that I came across yesterday and wanted to share to give you a taste of Card's power as a writer.  It's a retelling of a parable, rather than a direct relation to the plot.

The only context is that, within the story, this is found in the writings of a devout Catholic:

A great rabbi stands teaching in the marketplace.  It happens that a husband finds proof that morning of his wife's adultery and a mob carries her to the marketplace to stone her to death.  (There is a familiar version of this story, but a friend of mine, a speaker for the dead, has told me of two other rabbis that faced the same situation.  Those are the ones I'm going to tell you.)

The rabbi walks forward and stands beside the woman.  Out of respect for him the mob forbears, and waits with the stones heavy in their hands.  "Is there anyone here," he says to them, "who has not desired another man's wife, another woman's husband?" 

They murmur and say, "We all know the desire.  But, Rabbi, none of us has acted on it."  The rabbi says, "Then kneel down and give thanks that God made you strong."  He takes the woman by the hand and leads her out of the market.  Just before he lets her go, he whispers to her, "Tell the lord magistrate who saved his mistress.  Then he'll know I'm his loyal servant."

So the woman lives, because the community is too corrupt to protect itself from disorder.
Another rabbi, another city.  He goes to her and stops the mob, as in the other story, and says, "Which of you is without sin?  Let him cast the first stone."

The people are abashed, and they forget their unity of purpose in the memory of their own individual sins.  Someday, they think, I may be like this woman, and I'll hope for forgiveness and another chance. I should treat her the way I wish to be treated.

As they open their hands and let the stones fall to the ground, the rabbi picks up one of the fallen stones, lifts it high over the woman's head, and throws it straight down with all his might, crushing her skull.

"Nor am I without sin," he says to the people.  "But if we only allow perfect people to enforce the law, the law will soon be dead, and our city with it."

So the woman died because her community was too rigid to endure her deviance.

The famous version of this story is noteworthy because it is so startlingly rare in our experience.  Most communities lurch between decay and rigor mortis, and when they veer too far, they die. Only one rabbi dared to expect us such a perfect balance that we could preserve the law and still forgive the deviation.  So, of course, we killed him.


  1. WHOA! That's SO good! You are not making my waiting to read these any easier! ;) haha!

    1. Good! Because once you finish one of your big books, you should jump into these!!

  2. Ummm, I think I need to add these to my summer reading list [!!!!]