Which does the novel validate more within human nature-the instinct for empathy or the instinct for survival? 

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wordprof | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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These two ideas are indeed the major questions in determining the author's "message" in this novel.  While Ender is obviously a "survivor" in the "training" game the trainers have devised, it is his human understanding, his "empathy" for the other trainees, and of course his empathy  for the alien"enemy," that is his "game."  

In the final analysis, if the book is to join the ranks of "moral Bildungsromanen" with Catcher in the Rye, Lord of the Flies, Franny and Zooey, etc., it will be its lesson in empathy that will prevail.  In this respect, it holds the moral lesson of the New Age--that all people are more alike than different, and that the combative impulse toward othness is a tragic flaw in human nature.

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