While reading Seventh Son, by Orson Scott Card, a character that did not make sense to me was the visitor that Reverend Thrower kept seeing. It was not until after Alvin Junior’s leg got hurt that I realized who visitor is. I believe the Visitor to be the Unmaker.
When Reverend Thrower and the Visitor are alone in the church they are talking about Alvin Junior. The Visitor says,
“Let me put a case to you, reverend Thrower. Purely hypothetical. Let us suppose you were in the same room with the worst enemy of all that I stand for. Let us suppose that he were ill, and lay helpless in his bed. If he recovered, he would be removed from your reach, and would thus go on to destroy all that you and I love in this world. But if he died, our great cause would be safe. Now suppose that someone put a knife into your hand, and begged you to perform a delicate surgery upon the boy. And suppose that if you were to slip, just the tiniest bit, your knife could cut a great artery. And suppose that if you simply delayed, his lifeblood would flow out so quickly that in moments he would die. In that case, Reverend Thrower, what would your duty be?” (198-199)
The Visitor wants Alvin Junior dead. The Unmaker wants to destroy the Maker. Since Alvin Junior is a maker that leads me to believe that the Visitor is the Unmaker.
In Orson Scott Card's Seventh Son, he uses fantasy and the American Frontier to tell the story of Alvin Miller, the seventh son of a seventh son. Seventh Sons of Seventh Sons are extremely rare, important and powerful. He is the golden child of the Miller family. His family is always worried about Alvin's wellbeing because of his ability to get into harmful situations. Because of his abilities, Alvin becomes a target of the Unmaker. On several occasions, the Unmaker tries to kill Alvin but he always fails.
Alvin's younger brother, Calvin becomes very jealous of the attention that Alvin always receives. Alvin is the favorite child of his father, who was also a seventh son. They share a special bond because of that. When Alvin gets injured, Calvin visits him and he is upset that Alvin didn't die. He says-
" And I got to thinking what it'd be like if I was the one they all took care of. All the time, everyone watching out for you and when I say one little thing they just say, Get out of here, Cally, Just shut up, Cally. Nobody asked you, Cally, Ain't you spose to be in bed Cally? They don't care what I do. Except when I start hitting you, then they all say, Don't get into fights Cally."
When I first read this part, I paid no attention to it. But when I read this part over again, I noticed something very similar. Sibling rivalry is present within Seventh Son. Sibling rrivalry comes from jealously, envy and hate.
Sibling Rivalry is also present within the Bible as well. For instance, with Cain and Abel. Cain and Abel were the first sons of Adam and Eve. Cain was the oldest son and a crop farmer. Able was a shepard and the youngest son. Cain was envious of his brother because God accepted Abel's offering of animal sacrifices instead of accepting his offering. Cain committed the first murder of mankind by killing Abel because of his jealousy.
Sibling rivalry will always be present in families, one way or another. Even the stories of Cain and Abel and Calvin and Alvin are different but they still relate to each other. But the question is: How far are you willing to go to become the favorite child of your family?
Seventh Son, by Orson Scott Card, is written about an imagined history. Families protect their homes with hexes and some individuals are believed to have special gifts or powers. In this time, the seventh son of a seventh son is believed to hold great power and is revered for his status in the family. Alvin Junior is this son.
Alvin Junior was born to the Miller family, and at the moment of his birth, it was sure to be seen that he would become a special child. His family respects his natural abilities but there seemed to be a dark force hovering at the edges of Al Junior’s life, waiting for the opportunity to take the child out of the world where he would do so much good. Alvin Junior is helped by a traveling story teller named Taleswapper, he helped Alvin Junior understand what he is and what his purpose will be in the world. He is the sole Maker who can battle the Unmaker and help move a new country into the future. Alvin Junior is a vulnerable character that came into the world unintentionally having his special powers.
Alvin Junior was very important because of his role being the seventh son of a seventh son. People knew how important he was, which was why he was always looked out for. People protected him and always kept him in attention as if they cared so much about him.
"What drew him to the child was something else entirely. Not any property in the boy himself, but rather something about the people near him. They always seemed to keep him in attention. Not that they always looked at him-- that would be a full-time occupation, he ran about so much. It was as if they were always afware of him." (42)
He had a big role in the family, and wherever he went, whether he was with family or not, he seemed to always be protected. "As if the raising of this boy were a community project, like the raising of a church or the bridging of a river." (42)
In Orson Scott Card’s Seventh Son, the idea
of the Unmaker was one I had never heard before. Although the Unmaker wasn’t a
thing, it was still talked about almost like a person in the book. The Unmaker
was mentioned a lot, but one passage intrigued me. Taleswapper said,
“My story isn’t about the devil. In the great war
against the Unmaker of your vision, all the men and women of the world should
be allies. But the great enemy remains invisible, so that no one guesses that they unwittingly serve him. They don’t realize that war is the Unmaker’s ally,
because it tears down everything it touches. They don’t understand that fire,
murder, crime, cupidity, and concupiscence break apart the fragile bonds that
make human beings into nations, cities, families, friends, and souls” (128).
Taleswapper shows similar beliefs to Benjamin Franklin in this dialogue. Benjamin Franklin believed that the greatest thing he ever did was to bring people together. Because of the state names and associations, sectionalism drove people who lived in North America apart. Franklin’s idea of being “Americans” brought people together as a nation. According to Taleswapper, this is exactly what people needed. People needed to be together to fight the Unmaker, even if their fighting was not a conscious decision.
Even though only Alvin could see the Unmaker, everyone dealt with it, and Alvin couldn’t fight it alone. Everyone dealt with war and fire in their lives, and murder and crime were present in most people’s lives as well. However most people did not realize that these things only aided their immediate destruction, and therefore the Unmaker succeeded slowly. I interpreted the Unmaker as a thing that succeeded by pitting people against each other, by making people destroy each other by killing, greed, lust, and pain. Taleswapper and Benjamin Franklin both knew how to defeat the Unmaker. People had to stick together and not let things come between them, and not destroy each other. Who knew that could be so hard?
Orson Scott Card’s Seventh Son is a book that uses fantasy and magic to create a new American frontier. Card grabbed my attention with his creative tale of Alvin and the character’s powerful presence. The addition of Taleswapper only strengthened my interest in the magical America filled with tales, magic, and unimaginable forces.
At one point in the book, Taleswapper is going through Cartage City he ends up at the house of Estelle who is Alvin’s older sister and her husband, Armor. When approaching the house Taleswapper observes that there is perfect hex on the base of the doorway. Taleswapper was surprised at the exact precision of the hex that seemed to be strongly protecting the house. When Taleswapper brings up the garden’s precise arrangement, Armor is completely oblivious to the fact that his wife had set a hex. Armor feels that magic is the devil’s work and goes against his Christian beliefs. Also his wife begins to set a calming spell with her hand and Armor has no idea.
I found this scene to have great importance because Card uses fantasy and magic to show real human behavior. These examples of hexes represent two things: hypocrisy and deception. The hypocrisy is shown because Armor’s wife pretends to be a Christian woman who does not support spells and magic yet she goes behind her husband’s back to do it.
While Card describes Taleswapper’s reaction to the town he says, “Even worse was the pattern of deception. The hidden powers were being used right under Armor’s nose and by the person he loved and trusted most” (104).
The fact that Armor’s wife does this to him behind his back shows the deception in their relationship. In reality humans are deceptive in communities, relationships, and in general life. Card uses the portrayal of fantasy to show the deception and hypocrisy in humanity.
crisy in humanity.
When Taleswapper goes to see little Peggy, at the end of the book, and has the conversation about Peggy being Alvin’s Guardian, the whole book came together. Up until this point I had some ideas about how the book was going to come together, but when Peggy admitted to being a guardian angel for Alvin something clicked. I made the parallel of Taleswapper, little Peggy, and Alvin Miller representing the Holy Trinity. The only difference was that they were not symbols for a Christian religion on the American Frontier; they were the icons of individualism.
Because Alvin Miller has the ability to find the inner workings of the things around him with out the guidance of others, he represents the birth of an individual spirit. I think he is portrayed similar to the messiah for individual thought.. He shows signs of individualism on pg 132where it reads”..If it feels true to me , then there is something true I it, even if it isn’t all true. And if I study it out in my mind, then maybe I can find what parts of it are true, and what parts are false, ..” Because there is only reference to the Old Testament it leaves plausibility for this assertion. This breakthrough also leads me to realize the symbolism for the other characters around Alvin.
My theory on Alvin Jr. led me back to Taleswapper, who earlier in the book recited Blake’s Garden of Love and Sick Rose. I think that Taleswapper represents the British Romantic influence on America, and because he is a traveler that idea can be magnified to Taleswapper representing the inspiration of Transcendentalism on the American Frontier. Taleswapper acts like a father to Alvin, passing down wisdom and values. This left me thinking about little Peggy as the completion to the Triad.
At the end of the book little Peggy has grown to a young adult and has grown cold towards her community. This is because she wants to leave her hometown to go see the rest of America. Little Peggy also tells Taleswapper that she exchanges her work for books, which shows her passion to learn beyond the knowing of her community. Litte Peggy fits into the triad as the Holy Spirit of Individualism. The symbolism of water applies here as it does to the Christian Holy spirit, which also supports my theory.
Even though I did not notice this trend until the end of the book, I think it is a very important idea to understand. I think because Card used Religion as a symbol for the idea of Government it gave me a better understanding of the rugged individual on the American Frontier.
In many cultures water is the essence of mystery. It is not fully comprehensible, but beautiful. To many it is a symbol of rebirth, a symbol of purification, a way to be cleansed, a way to be healed. Water is vital for all life on our planet, physically, but also emotionally.
Yet, in Orson Scott Card's book Seventh Son, water seems to be the essence of evil. It is an agent of the Unmaker, desperately trying to take the life of the hero, little Alvin Jr. In the beginning of the novel, the narrator notes: "Alvin Miller had learned never to trust water. No matter how peaceful it looks, it’ll reach and try to take you” (8).
For the people in Card's novel fire is the source of truth, and it is the ultimate good. Peggy, a "torch", can see into people's souls, she can know a person's true self. As Taleswapper puts it, she can "see clean into their heart" (238).
This was interesting to me as I read the novel because if I was going to pick an element of nature to be "evil" it would have been fire. To me, fire seems like the tool of ultimate destruction. It is wild and crazy, and when it is uncontrolled it can destroy everything in sight. When I think of fire I think of wild forest fires in California, destroyed acres of wilderness and wildlife, I think of the great Chicago Fire, one of the largest disasters to ever hit the Chicago area.
But I live in the 21st Century. I have electric lighting and heating, the fireplace in my house doesn't even work. That's not true for people on the frontier. For people on the frontier, fire is their only source of light when it gets dark, it is their only source of heat when it gets cold. For them, fire is as much as, or maybe even more, a necessity for their survival as water.
Because fire is their light, their way to see things that they wouldn't otherwise be able to see, it makes perfect sense that the power that comes from fire shows you things other people can't see. It shows you the truth out of the unknown, the light in the darkness.
For frontier America, fear of water also makes perfect sense. Water is unpredictable, and dangerous for people on the frontier, it can take away a person's life suddenly and with little warning. For us water is easily managed, we have machines to control it, ways to measure it, and televisions/cell phones/computers to tell us if there will be a storm and how strong it will be. With airplanes, we rarely ever have to cross water directly, and if we do, we have strong-hulled boats, or mighty bridges.
The explorers on the frontier carried all their worldly possessions on thier rickety wooden wagons, that were not made for any serious water travel. Once in the water, there was no way to control it, no way to be sure that it would cross the stream safely. There was also no way to predict a storm. The water could look silently stagnant one second and then could suddenly turn into rushing rapids the next. Rain storms, floods, or even crossing a river, threatened their possessions, their homes, their family, their lives.
Because of this, it makes sense for water to be the agent of the unmaker. It was an unpredictable murderer, taking away lives unexpectedly. It did not purify, it did not create. It destroyed. It destroyed ruthlessly and erratically. It was the worst kind of evil because you never knew where or when it would strike next.
Throughout Orson Scott Card's book, Seventh Son, the arguments about hidden powers and God are discussed. Towards the beginning of the book, Reverend Thrower comes to the town to correct the "uneducated" and "inferior" peoples' ways. When Thrower interacts with less educated and more common people, he begins to act as though he is superior. "In Britain, students learned to discard such elementary logic errors while yet studying the trivium. Here it was a way of life" (38). Because of Thrower's past, he only sees and understands one side of the story (Christianity) and does not take the time to understand the other side (sorcery) because he was raised thinking that hidden powers were a foolish superstition that only common people believed in.
Since Reverend Thrower is such a close-minded man, he thinks that he can go to America and convert all of the common people who believe in sorcery to Christianity. "Such ignorance, said Thrower to himself. I am needed here, not only as a man of God among near heathens, but as a man of science among superstitious fools" (37). He thinks he can accomplish this ambitious goal because he believes that sorcery is simply not a real thing. Reverend Thrower only believes in what he can see or what can be proved. "He was a rational man. He had to see something solid before he could believe in a dream" (86). I thought it was ironic that Reverend Thrower could believe so strongly in God, a man in the sky that does not talk back when he is prayed to, but could not believe in a spell that someone could do right in front of his eyes. Thrower tried extremely hard not to see the other side of the story. He didn't want to stray away from what he was taught and what he believed in for most of his life.
While reading through Orson Scott Card’s Seventh Son, I repeatedly noticed the negative connotations that given to water, and the evil properties that the characters believe it to hold. For example, Oldpappy describes the foul intentions of water when he states that “water… tears things down, it falls from the sky and carries off everything it can, carries it off and down to the sea” (25). He even describes it as attempting to kill the Millers on the bridge.
Alvin Miller (senior) himself seems to have a problem with water throughout the novel because he sees it as dangerous. This idea is no doubt incubated by the many times water has almost succeeded in bringing death to Alvin Junior, Miller’s seventh son. When the ridge beam nearly falls on Alvin Junior, Miller believes the water “tried to kill [Alvin Junior]” (68) by sneaking into the tree and weakening its structure. He describes this particular instance as the 14th time that the water “tried” to kill Alvin Junior, who is a child of only six at this point. Presumably, between this instance and the accident with the millstone years later that is also a result of water’s foul doing, Alvin Junior becomes involved with even more close brushes with death.
As I was tracking the negative traits of water in my reading, a very simple passage jumped out at me. After Alvin Junior fixes his leg, he is very weak. When he wakes up afterwards, he is forced by his parents to have a drink of water. In fact, “Alvin want[s] [the water] badly. His body [i]s dry, not just his mouth; it need[s] to make back what it lost in blood” (182). I found this simple idea very ironic. His injury occurs when water gathers and softens the soil on top of which the millstone is resting, causing the millstone to fall on his leg. Even though water causes the injury, Alvin Junior needs water to replenish his blood and to grow healthy again. This passage thus shows that even though many of the characters in Seventh Son resent water and believe that it is evil, water is still necessary for them to continue living.
The way that water is described suggests that it is an evil agent of the Unmaker, the enemy of all things. Since water is a likely agent of the Unmaker, it seeks to destroy Alvin Junior because he is a Maker, the Unmaker’s ultimate enemy. However, the Maker (as well as essentially every other organism in the world) needs water to survive and to be able to continue to fight the Unmaker. Thus, in Seventh Son, Card describes water as a necessary evil.
When Taleswapper reveals to Alvin Jr. that he knew Benjamin Franklin, Alvin is amazed because he, like many people, believes Franklin (otherwise known as Old Ben) to be a real Maker. However, Taleswapper tells Alvin that Ben believed he was not a Maker or a wizard. Franklin wrote in Taleswapper's book of tales, "The only thing I ever truly made was Americans."
Alvin is quite skeptical at first, but soon he realizes that Franklin created patriotism through the American Compact. He wanted to create a name that would include as many people as possible so that they could all identify with each other and thus be strong.
This reminded me of a political cartoon that we looked at in history. It was originally published in Benjamin Franklin's newspaper. Although Orson Scott Card's Seventh Son changed a lot of things about colonial American history, he did so to emphasize the idea of community and equality that the actual Benjamin Franklin desired.
Taleswapper emphasized this idea of equality and its positive effects in this passage on page 137:
There were plenty of people who wanted a White man's nation, but Old Ben wouldn't hear of it. The only way to have peace, he said, was for all Americans to join together as equals...White, Black, and Red; Papist, Puritan, and Presbyterian; rich man, poor man, beggarman, thief - we all live under the same laws. One nation, created out of a single word."
There is a scene or passage in the novel, Seventh Son where Alvin Junior is talking to Taleswapper and they are on their way to church. Alvin Junior said, "words never stay straight. Now, when I make a thing, then it's the thing I made. Like when I make a basket. It's a basket. when it gets tore, then it's a tored-up basket. But when I say words, they can can get all twisted up. Thrower can take those same very words I said and bendthem back and make them mean just contrary to what I said." (123-124). Taleswapper looked at that as being a positive instead of a negative thing like Alvin Junior.
Taleswapper said, "Think of it another way, Alvin. When you make one basket, it can never be more than on basket. But when you say words, they can be repeated over and over, and fill men's hearts a thousand miles from where you first spoke them, but things are never more than what they are."(124). The quotes above shows how one persons views is different from another persons views. It also show how you can either look at the negative side of thing or you can look at the positive side of things. The person look at the negative in this scenario is Alvin Junior and Taleswapper is the person looking at the situation positive and i think people should start looking for more of the positive then just jumping to the negative side of things and thats what Taleswapper was getting at with that quote.