Speaker For The Dead Essay Questions

Summary

The final chapter of the book begins with Graff and Anderson, speaking much more casually than they have in the past. Graff has survived his court martial trial, where the prosecution attempted to prove that Ender was a killer. Ender watched, and learned that he killed both Stilson and Bonzo. What he cannot understand is why the deaths of the bugger queens do not matter to anyone. To him they are crimes just like Stilson and Bonzo's deaths. On Eros Ender does his best to help out, although ironically no one thinks he can be of much use in peacetime. He learns to suggest ideas through others, since he does not care about reputation but merely getting things done. Valentine comes to him and tells him that Peter is in control of the earth and that he can never go home. Ender realizes that Peter would use Ender if Ender ever returned to earth. She is going on the first colonization ship to the bugger worlds and wants Ender to come along—he is to be governor of the first colony if he agrees. Ender does not want to populate worlds whose owners he killed. Valentine sees that he thinks she is trying to manipulate him and tells him that no one has a free life to live, so the least he can do is choose a path put forth by one who loves him. Ender decides to go, but tells her that the reason is to try to repay the buggers by learning about their past.

The colony travels to the new world and settles down. The people begin to live new lives there, and they are not concerned with what is happening back on Earth. New ships will be coming with other colonists and Ender goes off to find a place for the new colony to settle in. It is then that he stumbles upon landscape that is all too familiar—the giant's corpse and all of his images from the mind game. He follows them to the tower and climbs up to the room with the mirror. Ender realizes that the buggers must have built all of this for him in order to leave him some sort of message. Behind the mirror Ender finds the pupa of a bugger queen, and the queen communicates with him. She shows him the images of the battles, from the buggers' point of view, and then sends images to his mind of what he needs to do to let her live again and start a new bugger civilization. Ender figures out that they learned his thoughts through the ansible—it was, after all, a human attempt at mimicking bugger communication—and built this place because he was the only one they knew and the only one who could understand. She tells him that the buggers did not know that humans were thinking beings. When the buggers figured out that human beings were capable of thought, they did not attack again.

Ender writes a book based upon the knowledge he gathers from the queen, telling the entire bugger history, especially their sorrow that the two races could not understand each other, and signs it SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD. The readers of the book form something of a religion on earth, but on the colonies, where people live in worlds that the buggers lived in, the teachings of the book become a veritable religion. Ender speaks to Peter once (who is now in his seventies because the relativistic ride that took two years for the colonists was fifty earth years), and his brother tells him his story. Ender writes this up in a book as well, signs it with the same title, and the two books are the basis of the religion. Finally Ender convinces Valentine to fly with him to different worlds. He is looking for a place to start a new bugger civilization, and his search lasts many years.

Analysis

Valentine provides Ender with the final word on manipulation. People are always manipulated, all that they can choose is whose path they will follow. Ender will never be able to live his own life; in fact, there is no such thing as living one's own life without others' influence. Ender leaves with Valentine because at least once he gets to the bugger world he will be on his own. Peter will not be able to control him there, and he can attempt to understand better the race that he destroyed. When he finds the bugger queen Ender understands that the buggers know him very well, and that they understood that he did not hate. They knew that his compassion would be strong enough for him to help them. Even the buggers manipulate Ender, since they get him to dedicate his life to finding them a new home. The difference is that Ender has taken Valentine's advice and has chosen to follow the path that he wants to be on anyway. In this way Ender is able to finally win back his freedom, because, although he is on a mission that another race left for him, it is the mission that he wants to be on. The buggers understood Ender better than anyone else, because they saw his thoughts, and so they know not only that will he help them but that he wants to help them.

In the end it is Ender's empathy that wins out. He is perhaps the only human being who would be willing to listen to what the bugger queen has to say, and empathy is the same trait that allows him to destroy the buggers. Ender was right when he told his sister that after he understands his enemy, and before he destroys them, he loves them. Now there is no war to be fought, and he does not have to destroy someone else's enemy. Ender is free to understand and to love, and that is why he agrees to help the buggers find a new home. He has to make up for the crimes that he committed. Graff and Rackham thought that they were doing what needed to be done, and that the necessities of war meant they had no choice but to trick Ender into fighting, but Ender now knows that they were wrong. All of mankind was wrong. The buggers did not want to fight and would have been willing to communicate. They do not blame humans for killing them, but Ender blames himself because he always knew in his heart that there had to be a way other than war with other sentient beings. All of the manipulation that Ender had to endure was to win a war that never needed to have been fought, and this deeply troubled Ender's soul. Now, with the bugger queen, he has a chance to undo his wrongs and bring back the consciousness that he wiped out, and there is no one else to tell him what to do. Ender is finally free, and with his freedom he must make up for all that he did while under someone else's control. Valentine was right when she told him that his life would never be his own, but it is only when acting fully of our own volition, even if on a path prescribed by another, that we are truly free. It took years and billions of deaths, but Ender Wiggin has won his freedom, and he has still retained the compassion that will let him use that freedom to help make up for the crimes of his past.

Take the Chapter 15: Speaker for the Dead Quick Quiz


When I was 16, I lived with the Watkins family in Wichita, Kansas. Mrs. Watkins was the coordinator of the foreign exchange student program I was enrolled in. She had a nine year old son named Cody. I would babysit Cody every day after school for at least two to three hours. We would play Scrabble or he would read to me from Charlotte’s Web or The Ugly Duckling. He would talk a lot about his friends and school life, and I would listen to him and ask him the meanings of certain words. He was my first friend in the New World.

My second family was the Martinez family, who were friends of the Watkins’s. The host dad Michael was a high school English teacher and the host mom Jennifer (who had me call her “Jen”) taught elementary school. She had recently delivered a baby, so she was still in the hospital when I moved into their house. The Martinez family did almost everything together. We made pizza together, watched Shrek on their cozy couch together, and went fishing on Sunday together. On rainy days, Michael, Jen and I would sit on the porch and listen to the rain, talking about our dreams and thoughts. Within two months I was calling them mom and dad.

After I finished the exchange student program, I had the option of returning to Korea but I decided to stay in America. I wanted to see new places and meet different people. Since I wasn’t an exchange student anymore, I had the freedom--and burden--of finding a new school and host family on my own. After a few days of thorough investigation, I found the Struiksma family in California. They were a unique group.

The host mom Shellie was a single mom who had two of her own sons and two Russian daughters that she had adopted. The kids always had something warm to eat, and were always on their best behavior at home and in school. It would be fair to say that this was all due to Shellie’s upbringing. My room was on the first floor, right in front of Shellie’s hair salon, a small business that she ran out of her home. In the living room were six or seven huge amplifiers and a gigantic chandelier hung from the high ceiling. The kitchen had a bar. At first, the non-stop visits from strangers made me nervous, but soon I got used to them. I remember one night, a couple barged into my room while I was sleeping. It was awkward.

After a few months I realized we weren’t the best fit. In the nicest way possible, I told them I had to leave. They understood.

The Ortiz family was my fourth family. Kimberly, the host mom, treated me the same way she treated her own son. She made me do chores: I fixed dinner, fed their two dogs Sassy and Lady, and once a week I cleaned the bathroom. I also had to follow some rules: No food in my room, no using the family computer, no lights on after midnight, and no ride unless it was an emergency. The first couple of months were really hard to get used to, but eventually I adjusted.

I lived with the Ortiz family for seven months like a monk in the deep forest. However, the host dad Greg’s asthma got worse after winter, so he wanted to move to the countryside. It was unexpected and I only had a week to find a new host family. I asked my friend Danielle if I could live with her until I found a new home. That’s how I met the Dirksen family, my fifth family.

The Dirksen family had three kids. They were all different. Danielle liked bitter black coffee, Christian liked energy drinks, and Becca liked sweet lemon tea. Dawn, the host mom didn’t like winter, and Mark, the host dad, didn’t like summer. After dinner, we would all play Wii Sports together. I was the king of bowling, and Dawn was the queen of tennis. I don’t remember a single time that they argued about the games. Afterward, we would gather in the living room and Danielle would play the piano while the rest of us sang hymns.

Of course, those 28 months were too short to fully understand all five families, but I learned from and was shaped by each of them. By teaching me English, nine year-old Cody taught me the importance of being able to learn from anyone; the Martinez family showed me the value of spending time together as a family; the Struiksma family taught me to reserve judgment about divorced women and adopted children; Mrs. Ortiz taught me the value of discipline and the Dirksen family taught me the importance of appreciating one another’s different qualities.

Getting along with other people is necessary for anyone and living with five families has made me more sensitive to others’ needs: I have learned how to recognize when someone needs to talk, when I should give advice and when to simply listen, and when someone needs to be left alone; in the process, I have become much more adaptable. I’m ready to change, learn, and be shaped by my future families.

ANALYSIS OF THE "FIVE FAMILIES" ESSAY

Remember that movie “The Sixth Sense”?

I won't ruin it for you, but I will tell you that there’s a moment toward the end when a crucial piece of information is revealed that triggers in the mind of the audience a series of realizations that have been leading up to this Big Revelation.

That’s kind of what this writer does: he buries a series of hints (one in each paragraph) that he “explodes” in the final paragraph. In short:

  1. He buries a series of essence images in his first paragraphs (one per family).
  2. He doesn’t tell us what they mean until the end of the essay, when he writes “I learned and was shaped by each of them.” Note that each essence image is actually a lesson--something he learned from each family.
  3. When he reveals each lesson at the end, one after the other, we sense how all these seemingly random events are connected. We realize this writer has been carefully constructing this piece all along; we see the underlying structure. And it’s a pretty neat one.

Also note:

  • Each of the first five paragraphs works to SHOW. (He waits to TELL us what they mean ‘til that second to last paragraph.)
  • See how distinct each family is? He does this through specific images and objects.
  • The second to last paragraph answers the “So what?” question. (Q: Why did he just show us all these details? A: To demonstrate what each family has taught him.)
  • He also goes one step further. He answers the “So what?” question once more in the final paragraph. (Q: So what am I going to do with all these lessons? A: I’m going to use them to adapt to my next family--in college.)
  • The beauty of this is that he’s demonstrating (showing not telling) that he has an extremely valuable quality that will be useful for doing well at any college: adaptability.

TIP: And that’s one more way to write your essay. Identify your single greatest strength (in this case, it was his ability to adapt to whatever life gave him). Ask: how did I learn this? How can I SHOW that I’m good at this?

Here are all the “Show” and “Tell” moments clearly marked:

When I was 16, I lived with the Watkins family in Wichita, Kansas. Mrs. Watkins was the coordinator of the foreign exchange student program I was enrolled in. She had a nine year old son named Cody. I would babysit Cody every day after school for at least two to three hours. We would play Scrabble or he would read to me from Charlotte’s Web or The Ugly Duckling. He would talk a lot about his friends and school life, and I would listen to him and ask him the meanings of certain words. He was my first friend in the New World.

Show 1: "By teaching me English, nine year-old Cody taught me the importance of being able to learn from anyone."

My second family was the Martinez family, who were friends of the Watkins’s. The host dad Michael was a high school English teacher and the host mom Jennifer (who had me call her “Jen”) taught elementary school. She had recently delivered a baby, so she was still in the hospital when I moved into their house. The Martinez family did almost everything together. We made pizza together, watched Shrek on their cozy couch together, and went fishing on Sunday together. On rainy days, Michael, Jen and I would sit on the porch and listen to the rain, talking about our dreams and thoughts. Within two months I was calling them mom and dad.

Show 2: "the Martinez family showed me the value of spending time together as a family" (implication: he doesn't have this with his own family)

After I finished the exchange student program, I had the option of returning to Korea but I decided to stay in America. I wanted to see new places and meet different people. Since I wasn’t an exchange student anymore, I had the freedom--and burden--of finding a new school and host family on my own. After a few days of thorough investigation, I found the Struiksma family in California. They were a unique group.

The host mom Shellie was a single mom who had two of her own sons and two Russian daughters that she had adopted. The kids always had something warm to eat, and were always on their best behavior at home and in school. It would be fair to say that this was all due to Shellie’s upbringing. My room was on the first floor, right in front of Shellie’s hair salon, a small business that she ran out of her home. In the living room were six or seven huge amplifiers and a gigantic chandelier hung from the high ceiling. The kitchen had a bar. At first, the non-stop visits from strangers made me nervous, but soon I got used to them. I remember one night, a couple barged into my room while I was sleeping. It was awkward.

Show 3: "the Struiksma family taught me to reserve judgment about divorced women and adopted children."

After a few months I realized we weren’t the best fit. In the nicest way possible, I told them I had to leave. They understood.

The Ortiz family was my fourth family. Kimberly, the host mom, treated me the same way she treated her own son. She made me do chores: I fixed dinner, fed their two dogs Sassy and Lady, and once a week I cleaned the bathroom. I also had to follow some rules: No food in my room, no using the family computer, no lights on after midnight, and no ride unless it was an emergency. The first couple of months were really hard to get used to, but eventually I adjusted.

I lived with the Ortiz family for seven months like a monk in the deep forest. However, the host dad Greg’s asthma got worse after winter, so he wanted to move to the countryside. It was unexpected and I only had a week to find a new host family. I asked my friend Danielle if I could live with her until I found a new home. That’s how I met the Dirksen family, my fifth family.

Show 4: "Mrs. Ortiz taught me the value of discipline."

The Dirksen family had three kids. They were all different. Danielle liked bitter black coffee, Christian liked energy drinks, and Becca liked sweet lemon tea. Dawn, the host mom didn’t like winter, and Mark, the host dad, didn’t like summer. After dinner, we would all play Wii Sports together. I was the king of bowling, and Dawn was the queen of tennis. I don’t remember a single time that they argued about the games. Afterward, we would gather in the living room and Danielle would play the piano while the rest of us sang hymns.

Show 5: "and the Dirksen family taught me the importance of appreciating one another’s different qualities."

Of course, those 28 months were too short to fully understand all five families, but I learned from and was shaped by each of them. By teaching me English, nine year-old Cody taught me the importance of being able to learn from anyone; the Martinez family showed me the value of spending time together as a family; the Struiksma family taught me to reserve judgment about divorced women and adopted children; Mrs. Ortiz taught me the value of discipline and the Dirksen family taught me the importance of appreciating one another’s different qualities.

The "Tell" / "So What"

Getting along with other people is necessary for anyone and living with five families has made me more sensitive to others’ needs: I have learned how to recognize when someone needs to talk, when I should give advice and when to simply listen, and when someone needs to be left alone; in the process, I have become much more adaptable. I’m ready to change, learn, and be shaped by my future families.

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