Ender's Game (Ender's Saga, #1) Ender's Game discussion


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This is very mystical and good at the same time.


Kristen Hair I loved Ender's Game. It has that sweet sorrow appeal to it, and that's the kind of story I always like. I can never stand the books that are pure happiness. Life isn't like that.


Tony This book hits me in my favorite read spot. I like books where the main character is young and assuming about their abilities, but ends up winning the admiration of those around them.

Ender's Game is one of my favorites.


Clayton Stuart This book is definitely one of my favorites ever. The part that is most interesting, I think, is how Orsen Scott Card mixes the action of Bean's life in with the psychological part of everything. It really goes in depth on the logic and thought processes that the characters go through.

It, and all of the other books in the Bean/Ender series are all must-reads.


Stef I really liked this book and it really surprised me when they tricked Ender into killing the buggers. I thought it was just the game and I was waiting for them to bring him into actual battle. This was a really suspenseful book and some parts in it were pretty sad--it makes you stop and think...


Norman I am curious whether it ever bothered anyone esle that Ender, the child hero of this book, was all too capable of KILLING someone whenever he was pushed too far.

In reality, he would likely have been put into a home for disturbed/dangerous young offenders, not made into some kind of character to look up to.

Or has everyone been Rambo'd and Rocky'd into seeing violent behavior as an acceptable, and even admirable, response to conflict?


message 7: by Stef (last edited Apr 16, 2008 12:33PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Stef To answer Norman's question, I think the reason Orson Scott Card made Ender so capable of killing is to contrast his combination of Valentine and Peter. On one hand, he is compassionate, not wanting to kill and sympathizing with the buggers. On the other hand, his strength and ability to kill is like the brutal Peter.

I was also a little disturbed when Ender did kill people, like Stilson and Bonzo, but it was for self-defense. He never meant to or wanted to do it, and he even didnt understand his true potential at these stages. So, it gives the reader an idea that Ender is still oblivious and easily influenced. That is probably why the others let this behavior go at the time.

He's just a kid who cannot see his power and the consequences. Later on in the book, when he is older (an adult), he realizes this and thus, he learns from it. It shows Ender has developed as a person.


Laura As was Norman, I too was disturbed - I kept thinking he's just a KID - but my concern was much more focused on what the society did TO him than what he did in reaction. I like Stef's comments on the combination of Valentine and Peter. It's what made Ender the "hero" that he is. I'm excited to read the rest of the series.


Kako Thank you to those of you who were disturbed! I mean, it was a great book, but he's a KID!!! And by the time he was, what, 12? He had killed 2 people and wiped out an entire civilization! i still haven't read the rest of the series, but I'm sure I'll get to it eventually.


message 10: by Anna (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anna Swenson You have got to realize that Ender never meant to hurt anyone. He killed Stilson and Bonzo for his own self defense. He never knew he was wiping out the civilization. They tricked him into it. Besides, at the end he tries to help the buggers.

I thought this book was great and I would suggest it to anyone.


Norman Sorry, Anna, but I cannot agree with your idea that "Ender never meant to hurt anyone." Perhaps he did not intend to KILL, but he knew he was going to do some hurting...and at such a young age he was already calculating that he would have to hurt his tormentors badly enough to make them think twice about threatening him again.

My concern addresses more the novels' readers than the characterization of Ender. Card has created a boy who is extremely skilled at using his bare hands as lethal weapons, and who has a certain 'savoir faire' when it comes to violent confrontations. Within the fictional world created this boy's talents are honed and ultimately exploited. Ok...fair enough.

But why should readers ignore the fact that in real life this boy would be at best a case for the psychologist...and at worst for the police? Perhaps we should question Card's reasons for creating this character, and for those who admire or sympathize with him, question why this is so.



message 12: by Meh (new) - rated it 5 stars

Meh Have any of you read the sequel books to Ender's Game? I don't mean Ender's Shadow, I mean Speaker for the Dead and company. That branch of the Ender story deals with a much older Ender who still hates himself for all the death and suffering he's caused. He's a very flawed character who's ultimately scared of himself. Ender can be taken as a metaphor for us. We all have a darker side we're a little scared of. Personally, I love the Ender series. He's done a very good job with those characters.


message 13: by Jill (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jill As a psychologist who works with kids, Ender is a fairly accurate portrayal of how a group of the population would respond to his life. If that weren't true, we wouldn't have had Columbine and all the knock-offs. If you want to get into what should be done with characters, what about the bullies that drove him to violence, or the adults who set up the situations and manipulated Ender into doing what they wanted. Besides, it's what Card does - writes books with disturbing things happening to characters with flaws we would rather not believe are reflective of real life.


Dacia Thanks Jill! And to elaborate into Norman's response....

Ender IS a case for a psychologist. What you seem to be missing is that it was created in him. This wasn't a boy left alone, and these weren't "normal" bullying situations. The adults in his life deliberately and systematically structured his surroundings to make him not only a pariah, but the envy of kids with true violent tendencies.

Most 6-year-olds do not have homicidal older brothers whose parents are encouraged to "look the other way". Most 6-year-olds are not so constantly touted by adults as the epitome of excellence specifically to drive the kids around them to hatred. Most 6-year-olds aren't put into a situation where they are in danger of serious violence (You think Stilson wouldn't have seriously injurred Ender? WRONG!) with no hope of having anyone intervene. The IF cultivated Ender's environment to be a life or death struggle from the moment he was conceived. They knew no NORMAL human being could do what was needed, no matter how brilliant. So instead they took brilliance and purposefully twisted it.

Also, if what you're implying is that Card has a dark nature, and is a bit twisted himself... well then I have to agree with you. His novels are nice a cheery (at least in my opinion) - but his short stories! I'd read the Ender Series and some of the Alvin Series when I first picked up a book of his short stories "The Changed Man". Oh my gosh! I couldn't believe they were written by the same man... they were so dark and twisted - not scary in a horror sort of way, but scary in the fact that any human mind could imagine such a deviant twisted story. "Freeway Games" haunts me every time I get into a car - and has for the last 5 or 6 years!

Still, darkness is a human trait. Seeing it in Ender, seeing his battle to conquer it in himself, seeing his being trapped by it even when his own intentions were benign (innocence, or at worst, survival) - it's something I think most people can relate to. If you cannot, then you are either completely self dillusional, or someone I must truly envy because you must have a lightness of conscience I can only imagine.


message 15: by Meh (new) - rated it 5 stars

Meh Some of Card's less famous stuff is seriously trippy, man. Lost Boys, Treasure Box, and Treason are all pretty weird and dark. I think I've read Freeway Games...that's the one about the two little kids that try to carjack somebody? I thought that one was funny. Oh well, what does that say about me?


Norman Hmm..."completely self dillusional" (sic) or someone with "a lightness of conscience." This is what you conclude about someone who cannot relate to Ender.

I guess I can now understand just how deep-seated violence has become in the American society...to the point where the necessity of violence is no longer doubted. No wonder Bush was re-elected, and no wonder your military might will continue to be used against anyone considered an 'enemy'.


message 17: by Dacia (last edited May 13, 2008 08:26AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dacia Violence and darkness are two different things - and darkness isn't AMERICAN, it's universal. It can be seen in literature as far back as Gilgamesh. And yes - if you've NEVER felt the urge to lash out at someone who hurts you then I think you're lying to yourself. Fight or flight is built into us, and most humans do eventually tire of flight when they begin to feel it will NEVER end. The thing about Ender is he doesn't LIKE his willingness to hurt and dominate in order to preserve his own safety. He sees it and accepts it in himself, but doesn't LIKE it. In that way he is like most people. Most of us would be willing to kill in order to save our children... but that doesn't mean we wouldn't feel sickened by the act. That we wouldn't wish we were somehow less - animal - than we are. Yet we are animals, and civilization is something we are always "almost" part of.


Also "Freeway Games" isn't the one with the two kids. I can't remember what that one is called - maybe titled with the boys names??? "Freeway Games" is the guy who starts playing different driving games to pass the time, and eventually becomes obsessed with games of "follow".


message 18: by Meh (new) - rated it 5 stars

Meh Don't think I've read that one, then. But Norman, violence has always been part of humanity's mindset. It's not a matter of violence becoming more deep-seated, it always has been. Americans don't have a monopoly on it, either. I'll grant you, the American pop culture can be quite disturbingly casual about violence. It definitely bothers me. But I doubt that any kind of military operations are based on the inner violence of the human character. I suspect it's more about cash than anything else.


message 19: by Stef (new) - rated it 4 stars

Stef I think it's more of power, or a feeling of authority over others. Take Peter for example...


Norman My point, Meh, was that several readers on this thread were commenting on how much they liked the book etc. with very little concern about Ender's characterization. That a 6-year-old boy would consider what Ender considers as he sees Stilson lying on the ground...is shocking to me.

I have recently watched the movie 'In the Valley of Elah' and been similarly shocked by scenes where a seemingly 'normal' young soldier casually relates how a wounded Iraqi civilian was tortured - "It was pretty funny" - or how he found himself stabbing his close friend to death - "On another day it could have been Mike with the knife, and me being stabbed".

Whether military operations are based on the inner violence of the human character is beside the point, what I am trying to get at is the audience (or the public's) reaction to a violent action such as Ender's killing of Stilson or the bombing of Iraqi 'targets'. If they are not disturbed by Ender's choice to do serious damage to Stilson (another young boy), then maybe this same audience won't worry about the choice to bomb Iraqis (other human beings), either. Both require a de-sensitization to violence or inability to recognize how truly wrong a violent action is.


Laura I see where you're coming from Norman; however, I think what people were responding to was seeing how someone in Ender's situation could make the choices he did. And the sympathy we have for him is that he doesn't WANT to make those violent choices but is in a position of the zero sum game - him or me.
What made Ender able to defeat the Buggers was the combination of his tactical abilities/training/intelligence (ie Peter-like stuff) AND his compassion/understanding (ie Valentine-like stuff) of the Buggers themselves. And recall that he was not told at the end that he was doing any more than playing the "game" - I don't think he would have succeeded had he known BECAUSE of his compassion for those he was sending out to die.



Norman Where Ender ends up is ok...just ok, not really good...but where he begins is definitely not ok. Let's not be too complacent in letting the ends justify the means when it comes to human lives.


Dacia What, Ender is supposed to say "Ok, keep beating me up"? He's SMART but he's still 6. Do you get that? He's smart enough to understand that he'll keep getting hurt, but not yet mature enough to understand that kicking an opponent when he's down might actually kill him. Ender didn't INTEND to kill him, he intended to teach him a lesson... one that Stilson probably needed to learn if it could have been done short of death!


message 24: by Meh (new) - rated it 5 stars

Meh I fully agree with you, Norman. It is very hard to justify any sort of violence whatsoever. The only time I think it's permissible is in defense of your life or the lives of those around you. I'm not trying to defend the Iraq war, I don't agree with it either. But I do agree, Ender's got some problems. The real thing is that his attitude is different from ours. Think of the name Ender. When Ender fights, he makes sure that the enemy is beaten so thoroughly that there'll never be another fight. We don't do that. We know what we're doing, and we don't like to destroy people. Beat them, yes, but a full-out scorched-earth extermination? Doesn't happen very often. People like Hitler and Stalin try to do things like that, and we know they're certifiably crazy. Yes, I am comparing the Peter side of Ender to Hitler and Stalin. However, Ender doesn't try to kill people, he just tries to beat them. It so happens that he does end up killing people, but by accident. Is this ok? Not really. Murder is murder. Ender does have some serious issues.


Norman Thanks for your thoughts and ideas, Meh. Yes, the Andrew who becomes 'Ender' provides several possible symbolic connections.

Dacia,

There is a disturbing tendency to dehumanize the enemy when one wants to justify the use of violence. Thus Stilson becomes a ruthless evil ogre WHO MUST BE STOPPED (something akin to 'he who must not be named'?)...and what is he, all of 6 or 7 years old? Doesn't he have parents, siblings, or anyone who may actually know him as a living, breathing human being who might be kind at times, might just need to be disciplined by a parent or figure of authority?

Just think about it.


message 26: by Stef (new) - rated it 4 stars

Stef Well, bullies don't really show that side to whoever their victims are, so as Ender was being bullied by Stilson, he doesn't really think of that stuff. I mean Stilson had always been giving Ender hell, like Peter. And Ender doesn't know any better; thus, he is prone to make mistakes at such an age. His incredile strength and smarts? It is Sci-Fi...

Yeah and what are parents doing these days? Kids are getting so violent...


Little First of all, to clarify: Ender is not an adult at any point in the novel Ender's Game. In the sequels he is an adult, but througout Ender's Game, he is a child.

While I did find Ender's violent behavior disturbing, even scarier were the adults surrounding him. Grown people act strangely under situations of extreme stress. Sleep deprivation and isolation are forms of torture. Plain an simple, the adults at Battle School were child abusers. And we wonder why Ender behaved in an abnormal way? Despite all of his brilliance, Ender never saw that the grown ups were in fact his enemies. And even more strangely, Graff insists (Insists!!) throughout the Shadow series that he really loves his Battle School graduates.


Dacia Ah, so Stilson can be human, but Ender cannot? I see...


message 29: by Meh (new) - rated it 5 stars

Meh Actually, Ender says after the last battle at Battle School to Major Andersen, "I beat you again, sir." He does know what the adults are doing to him. Yes, the adults are child abusers. But if that can save the human race? That's a very nasty moral decision. (I know, the buggers weren't coming again, but they didn't know that.) Which do you choose? Emotionally mutilating a child or letting billions of people die?


Norman Dacia, I don't think you'll ever understand my point.

Just try one thing: re-read the first chapter and focus very carefully on Ender's thinking and awareness of his actions and their likely consequences (I know he doesn't intend to KILL Stilson, but he is highly aware that he is deciding to cause serious damage). Once you have done that, go to any 6 year olds you are acquainted with and observe them for a while, or talk to them, and try to imagine whether any of them would ever think and act as Ender does...no matter what kind of background they had had.

And if they would, step back and wonder whether this is the type of child society should revere...or fear.

And if you decide not to re-read to check the evidence, then all I can presume is that you are arguing from pure ignorance, and I have nothing more to say to you. But thanks just the same for your opinions.



Little Meh,
That is a fascinating question. There are a couple of moral questions routinely posed that address the same issue. One of the best: you are hiding in a basement with a crowd of friends and neighbors while enemy soldiers search the town looking for survivors to kill. As you huddle in hiding, your baby begins to cry. What do you do? You can smother your baby to stop the sound, or you can let your baby breath, which means you, the baby, and the rest of the villagers will be found and killed. Do you kill your own baby to save the rest of the town? Purely logically, math says kill the baby. On the other hand, most people have a hard time personally committing atrocities, even if they are meant to prevent greater atrocities.

Also, Norman, please try to keep it civil.


Laura Interesting turn the discussion has taken :-)
Little's comments remind me of a measure developed in the 1970s to measure moral development. It takes questions like the one little posed and asks people to respond AND their reasons for their responses. I have discussed some the scenarios with high school students, and I'm always fascinated by their reasoning behind their responses.
And in the end that's what this discussion comes down to - our reasons for feeling the way we do about the book. Regardless of whether you like the book - it sure has instigated a LOT of great questions - like all great literature.


Derek I really enjoyed the book, but reading all of these posts regarding violence and how else Ender might have reacted given his circumstances has reminded me of a book my sister got me a few years ago that I'd definitely recommend: Toward a Nonviolent Future. Did Ender really HAVE to strike out against others? Maybe given that he was so young, he didn't know what other kinds of options were available and didn't have the psychological grounding to practice nonviolence. I haven't read Speaker for the Dead yet, but I wonder if, given his intelligence and sensitivity, he wouldn't eventually stumble upon satyagraha as practiced by Gandhi or Martin Luther King as a more desirable and effective option. Would it have worked against the buggers? Who can say? Would it have worked against the bullies he ended up killing? I think it would have, given that they were essentially human.


Dacia Derek - I don't think Card had come up with the term "Satyagraha" by the time he'd written the "Ender" Sequels... that was more in the Bean books. However, I think if you look at Ender in Children of the Mind, he definitely qualifies. We all need to remember, though, that "Satyagraha" as defined by Mr. Card is not "not violence" but rather willingness to suffer. Either way though - it's a bit much for a 6 year old to comprehend. Yet, when Ender is fighting the buggers... is he not willing to suffer? He does as much as he can. The violence only comes when he is pushed beyond the level of his endurance.


To Norman - Even though I've read Ender's Game enough to have the scene memorized... I went through it again. I also am extremely familiar with 6-year-olds... and with profoundly gifted youth. I can only come to one conclusion. Stilson was out for serious injury (you don't bring several kids out to push around one littler kid if you don't want him in REAL pain). Why do you think Stilson would have grown into something better? It also appears to me that Stilson had picked on Ender many MANY times... and Ender had never fought back at all before, because those times he knew it would end if he waited it out. Personally, I don't see anything EVIL or excessively violent in what Ender did. He was calculating... yes, and but he calculated WRONG. What part of that adds up to a non-genius 6-year-old in your mind? Besides, I have little patience for bullies... We all remember the few school shootings where the freak kid fought back, but turn our backs to the thousands of little cruel things that bullies do every day... We even create TV shows and Movies that glorify it. I have to applaud Card for redressing the balance a little bit, even if only in fiction.


Norman "Stilson was out for serious injury." - This is mere speculation. That Stilson brings several kids reflects more his own cowardice than any definite plan to inflict serious injury. Who is to say that Ender may have ended up with nothing more than a bloodied nose and some bruises? Were all the kids intent on violence? Could some just have been curious to see what would happen? Might some of them held back or cautioned Stilson not to go too far? Of course, these scenarios are all speculative...as is the one that suggests Stilson would have seriously hurt Ender.

Philip K. Dick's short story "Minority Report" is based on the premise of preventing crime before it happens...but it involves a special group who have the ability to predict other people's actions. As far as I know, Ender is not one of this group. And it is a dangerous precedent to act with excessive violence against a perceived threat. Say, for example, a nation is rumored to have Weapons of Mass Destruction. Should another nation automatically decide to invade this nation and execute its leader? Or would it be better to KNOW first that the threat is actually credible? (Just a hypothetical situation, of course.)

Or consider the situation from another angle. Let's assume that Stilson will indeed seriously harm Ender, and the gang he has brought are equally intent on injury. If all these other kids are as violent and dangerous as Stilson is alleged to be, then logically shouldn't Ender take them all on, one-by-one, until the whole group is hospitalized? Perhaps Peter (and a semi-automatic weapon, if one were handy) could help him do this...in the name of a 'peaceful' solution to the confrontation.

Finally, the idea that there is nothing "excessively violent in what Ender did" ignores the reality that Stilson has to be hospitalized...and DIES as a direct consequence of actions that are...what? 'appropriately' violent?

Violence begets violence. Jesus, Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela, three (of many) figures who personally faced injustice and violence, found the strength and courage to respond in a non-violent manner. Ender may not be of the same ilk as these figures, but their examples do suggest that he and others who are bullied have options.




Little Quaker much, Norman? No, no, I'm kidding... But in all honesty, the perspective you're espousing is a bit far to the pacifist side of the spectrum to be considered mainstream. You can take that as a compliment, if you like. After all, Ghandi was pretty far out of the mainstream in that direction too. However, you can’t fault Card for portraying a more mainstream sympathy towards arguably justifiable violence. And I think the posts here would indicate that the mainstream opinion is quite a bit sympathetic towards Ender’s actions. Is there a pacifist solution? Of course. There always is. Would most people look as hard as you are looking to find that pacifist solution? Probably not. Whether that’s a flaw in culture or human nature is up for debate.


Derek I didn't know Card was familiar with and used the term "satyagraha" in any of his books. I've only read Ender's Shadow (in addition to Ender's Game), and I don't recall him ever bringing up the notion of nonviolent resistance. I guess I'll have to read Children of the Mind.
Norman, I'm with you here, I think, at whatever point of the spectrum people might want to place us. Yes, it's perhaps far out of the mainstream, but I feel that that is mostly because of a lack of awareness of nonviolence and its effectiveness. (For comparison, how often does war "work?") To me, "pacifism" doesn't quite do the position justice, as that has connotations of weakness and capitulating to others' demands just to avoid violence. Rather, Gandhi says that often, the best warriors become the best satyagrahis because this kind of resistance requires so much courage. Was Jesus weak?
Popularity isn't really a good measure of the moral worth of an individual or a principle, and I often get frustrated when people reject something because it's not "mainstream." To me, that's avoiding the question. I don't think we need to fault anyone in particular for why most people don't consider nonviolence, but each of us, ourselves, has the responsibility to revisit the notion of "justifiable violence," especially at a time of so much conflict between nations and between individuals.


Derek Little,
The moral dilemma you presented earlier with the baby seems to have been an either/or scenario, which ignores a nonviolent approach. The math or logic that you've used takes into account certain givens, such as that, if the soldiers find you, they will kill all of you. The key is, though, that "most people have a hard time personally committing atrocities," as you mentioned. Killing innocent civilians seems like a pretty atrocious act to me. Might these soldiers, when confronted with the human dignity of the civilians and the moral depravity of the actions they are intending, reconsider what they've been ordered to do? There have been stories of satyagrahis who confronted soldiers in just this way. When ordered to fire on unarmed civilians, some of the soldiers went mad and started firing at their commanders instead.
It's a risk, of course, but to me, it's more palatable than smothering my own baby. It just might have a major impact on the larger conflict, as well.


message 39: by Meh (new) - rated it 5 stars

Meh The thing is, it depends on how well the "enemy" has been indoctrinated against you. If they really believe that you're worthy of death, no amount of nonviolent opposition is going to stop them from killing you. Think of Hitler's SS in WWII. The Jews were massacred in absolutely brutal ways, and nobody (that I've heard of, at least) in the Nazi establishment helped them. How can nonviolence help you survive in a situation like that, where an enemy simply doesn't care what you do as long as he kills you in the end? In that case, I believe that violence is justified. If nonviolence is a viable means of survival, by all means use it. But sometimes it's not.


Derek But I think that's exactly the misconception. People often think, "Oh, nonviolence never would have worked against the Nazis." With few exceptions (some spontaneous protests by German wives of Jewish men), the Jews didn't use nonviolent methods to resist. When Indians with Gandhi resisted the British, who were every bit as brutal as the Nazis, many of them died - BUT not nearly as many as would have been killed in an all-out war. In using nonviolence, one must be prepared to face serious harm or death. That is what makes it so hard. In the long run, though, it is better for everybody.

I'd recommend that you look at some of the historical cases of what actually happened when satyagraha was put into practice. It might give you a whole new appreciation for human nature, which is so often underestimated, and give you some idea of the power of nonviolence.


Mackay Adore Ender's Game, and even more its immediate sequel, Speaker For the Dead. Both are unusual (lots of rip-offs since, but when it was first published, unique). But the other sequels, including, alas, Ender's Shadow, are Card ripping off himself, doing hack work. Speaker is moving and spiritual.


Norman It's been interesting to read the assorted opinions on Ender's use of violence. I selected the two quotes below (both coincidentally from 'Little') because they represent the type of reaction I am concerned about:

1) "And the sympathy we have for him is that he doesn't WANT to make those violent choices but is in a position of the zero sum game - him or me."

The 'zero sum game' theory is often used to justify a pre-emptive strike or dubious use of excessive force. "It was either him or me" or "It was either us or them" thinking denies the humanity of the opponent (and, by extension, denies the humanity of the 'us' side as well when you think about it); in other words, that the adversary may have welcomed a non-violent solution or accepted some kind of compromise.

The recent (and rather bad) film Lambs for Lions (Cruise, Streep, Redford) has a scene in which American soldiers are trapped behind enemy lines in Afghanistan...and the enemy are approaching and will soon capture them. Who knows what kind of treatment they will receive? But it is somehow assumed that instead of surrendering, the sensible thing to do considering the circumstances, they should fight it out ala Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid...and die in the process. I guess the logic is that 'they might as well take out as many of the bastards as they can' and die heroes.

Why should this be a heroic action? The Afghanis are all faceless in the film - effectively dehumanized - and thus can be bombed or gunned down indiscriminately. A far more interesting...and humane...story...would have been to follow the dilemma the Afghani soldiers (or were they just peasants living in the area?) would have in capturing the American soldiers. What should they do with them? It is, after all, their country that is being attacked, but with the various factions and divisions in their war-torn society, who is to know what one should do with captured enemy soldiers? Would they be thinking 'zero sum game' as they approached the Americans? Somehow I doubt it.

2) "...you can’t fault Card for portraying a more mainstream sympathy towards arguably justifiable violence."

This is at the crux of the problem as I see it. Why should the "mainstream" position be acceptance of a brutally violent action? Why? And if it is, does that make it right? In one of the chapters of "The Things They Carried," Tim O'Brien's narrator ends with the following: "I was a coward. I went to the war." The war he is referring to is the Vietnam War, and the narrator had been considering dodging the draft by escaping to Canada. But that was too scary a prospect as it would have gone against the mainstream-society sense of 'honor' or 'duty'. So he did the cowardly thing - he caved to the mainstream mentality and went to war.

Returning to Little's quote, I am not so sure that Card actually was portraying sympathy for Ender's violence. He was portraying a sympathetic character who, when pushed, could display violent tendencies, and who in the end found out too late the ultimate consequences of this flaw in his character. He also showed how the adult society around Ender exploited this 'flaw' to their advantage, but Ender himself, one feels, would have made different choices if he could have done it all again.


Laura Norman - you've given me quite a bit to think about - thanks :-)
I would have to agree with your last comment - that Ender would have done things differently. I've ordered Speaker for the Dead from my library, and I'm excited to see how that develops.


Little Point of order: the "zero sum game" quotation is actually Laura, not me. :) However, I'll definitely buy the argument that while Ender is a sympathetic character, Card is not specifically sympathetic towards his violent acts.

Derek and Norman, I think the bone of contention that I have with your perspective is not about the book, but rather about the underlying idea that you’re espousing. Do I think Ender’s violence was justified? I’m not sure. Probably it was excessive for the situation, regardless of whether or not he intended it to be. Do I think violence is ever justified? Yes. I’ll concede that too often violence is plan A when it should be a last resort. But the same Jesus who said “turn the other cheek” also said “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Or go back to Ecclesiastes 3 “[There is] a time to love, a time to hate/ a time for war a time for peace.” There are situations where the appropriate response is physical force.



Norman Quoting Jesus is always tricky at best - translation of a translation of a possibly adulterated text? But in any case, Little, you may want to check the following as a rather inspired interpretation of that very quote about not bringing peace but a sword:



Ecclesiastes is Old Testament and therefore ascribes to a very different view on this issue than the one Jesus was promoting.

The question was never really whether violence was EVER justified, but whether the violent actions of a 6-year-old character in a novel should disturb us at all. People far too quickly, in my opinion, want to say, "Oh, poor Ender" or "He had to do what he did" without onsidering the possibility that his actions were excessive, or that his whole rationalization process could be flawed. Stilson and Bonzo bear some responsibility for what happened to them, but so does Ender!

When I read that first chapter, my first thoughts were, "Good for him; he's stood up for himself and knocked Stilson down." But when he decides to methodically attack the prone figure of a seven-year-old boy and leave no doubt in his attackers' minds that they'd better not mess with him again, my support of Ender was replaced with a feeling of shock and disgust, for I felt he had far over-stepped the boundaries of civilized and/or moral behavior. From that moment on, I was wary of any sense that Ender was a heroic figure or one we should have sympathy for. Yet it seems most readers consider his actions as being justified, and that causes me to question the ease with which people praise or accept extreme violence by a perceived heroic character or 'good guy', be it in fiction or in life, whenever an outside threat appears.


message 46: by Meh (new) - rated it 5 stars

Meh Huh, I read that interpretation of Jesus's comment. I'm a Mormon, and we believe the same thing. The sword Jesus is talking about is how the gospel can divide families and relationships, as one side accepts the gospel and the other rejects it.
But as you say, Norman, that's a bit off-topic.
I too think it's disturbing that heroes are expected to stop their enemies with deadly force in our culture. In too many situations, it's construed as the only solution when it really isn't. There are a few situations where I think it is justified, but those a very few and select. An example of which: You're on a bus, and somebody hijacks the bus with a gun. He's going to blow himself up and the bus in a few seconds. You have a pistol on you. (As well as your concealed weapons permit, of course.) His back is to you, and his gun is momentarily not pointing directly at anyone. Do you shoot? In this case, I think you do. If he didn't have the bombs, then it'd be possible to negotiate peacefully. But if he's determined to blow himself up, killing everyone on board, there's no time to negotiate.


message 47: by Ryan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ryan There is an important plot element to Ender's Game that seems to have been neglected in this discussion. There's a lot of debate over how Ender should have or could have responded to the various conflicts he encounters. Each confrontation could have been resolved a thousand different ways; if the confrontation had not involved Ender.

What made Ender special was his unique character. The school had been looking for years for someone with just his mental/emotional makeup; he is the one they were looking for because he responded the way he did.

They needed someone incredibly empathetic, so that he could get into the head of his enemy, whether it be human or alien, yet brutal enough to utterly destroy that enemy.

Long before Ender reached the Battle School, he had been hurt, and had learned to fear for his life. He learned it from his older brother. His response to that fear was to ensure that he only had to face each threat a single time.

Ender's teachers then engineered situation after situation in order to reinforce his isolation, and to reinforce his fear. They wanted to create an individual that approached every sitution knowing that the only escape was the one he himself created. No one would rescue him. He had only his own resources to rely on. And the odds would only be stacked further and further against him.

So, whether there were other resolutions to the conflicts Ender encountered is irrelevent. He is who is is because he responds as his does. It is these traits that the school is encouraging. Using cruel methods. Knowingly. They are destroying a person in the forging of a weapon to save humanity with.




message 48: by Kat (last edited Aug 19, 2008 06:42AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kat Helgeson The entire point of Ender is that he's a child forced into the role of an adult thanks to his brilliant mind - but that his psyche can't quite cope with it.

Yes, it's disturbing to see him hurt and kill people. That's SUPPOSED to disturb you. It disturbs Ender, because he understands that this is not what children are supposed to be doing - and yet he keeps being placed in situations where it's necessary.

The point is that this kid is a genius - but he's still a kid. If you don't see him and the other kids around him doing shocking and horrifying things, the book loses its impact.

Norman - just because we recognize a book containing violence as a quality read, that does not mean we would approve of actual violence.


message 49: by Anna (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anna Norman wrote: "I am curious whether it ever bothered anyone esle that Ender, the child hero of this book, was all too capable of KILLING someone whenever he was pushed too far.

In reality, he would likely have..."

Isn't every person capable of killing? In some situations you hope that self-preservation or defense of your family would protect you. I was almost car-jacked; I work in an inner city hospital and had my 2 daughters in the car as we have a daycare on campus. I reacted like a wild-cat, and the asshole got taken to prison. Or do you think victims have more honor?


message 50: by Anna (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anna I read Bean's story first somehow, and was sucked in to to ender's game next. I knew Ender was actually killing the aliens; the adults were too tense for that to have been a game for them. Ender was smart enough to have figured it out also, and he did before the end.


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