Essays and Criticism
Characters as Children
There can be no question that Orson Scott Card's novel Ender's Game is a graceful and useful piece of fiction, with a convincing sense of time and place that only comes from a writer in complete control of his or her material. To certain fans, Ender's Game is one novel brave enough to really look at children without making them childish. They are relieved that somebody finally got it right, and they praise Card for his unflinching honesty about the cunning and cruelty, the wisdom and humanity, of children. But is it really about children? They are called kids, but they don't act or talk like kids. Card seems to take pride in this, considering it an innovation, as if the only alternative would be having the cadets in the Battle School play marbles and talk baby talk. I suspect that the children in Ender's Game are written as adults and then called kids—like stunt doubles in the movies, fresh-faced, diminutive adults playing the parts of kids, snubbing out their cigars to go out and lick lollipops before the cameras.
Let there be no mistake: I don't object to his characters because I foolishly think they are not any more vicious than kids are in real life, or could be. I can tell the difference between childhood innocence and sweetness, and the first does not necessary lead to the second. In the book, the nastiness that Peter, Stilson, and Bonzo show toward Ender is unprovoked, but it still makes sense as their characters are drawn....
(The entire section is 1728 words.)
Ender's Beginning Battling the Military
Control resides in large institutions, not individuals or parochial units The military paradigm abides by a strict utilitarian philosophy in which ends overcome any and all means; human costs are unimportant. Within the paradigm is an accepted paradox that the individual must be sacrificed in order to maintain the rights of other individuals. Because it accepts its own built-in flaws, the military paradigm is extremely robust. Graff lectures Ender: "The Earth is deep, and right to the heart it's alive, Ender. We people only live on the top, like the bugs that live on the scum of the still water near the shore." Graff's aerial view distances him from the unpleasant decisions he must make if the war is to be won. There is no room for doubt that all wars, or contests, must be won—especially when these "bugs" cling so tenaciously to life (the word "bugs" is loaded with meaning; Card uses it to refer both to humans and "buggers"). Graff is proud of, rather than ashamed of, the power that allows the military to "requisition" Ender. At the core of the military paradigm is a mechanistic view of humans, who are to be shaped to the purposes of the machine. Anderson expresses the utilitarian military code tersely: "All right. We're saving the world, after all. Take him"; he picks up Ender as one might choose a tool from a tool kit.
Much of the paradigm's invulnerability comes from the fact that the characters are aware of their roles in the machine. The reader...
(The entire section is 2739 words.)
Ender's Beginning: Battling the Military in Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game
Card endows each of the three Wiggin children with a particular strength: Peter is a conqueror, another Alexander; Valentine is an empath; and Ender is a warrior who hates fighting but must win.
Given this trinity it is not hard to separate the three and then join them into one. Ender functions as a cross between the head and the heart, with Peter as the head and Valentine as the heart.... As Ender absorbs each of these he eventually becomes the wise old man. Even further afield is the possibility that the three form a religious Trinity. Rather than push any of these readings on the characters, attempting to make them into one, the author accepts the fact that Card saw fit to write three separate characters, where each listens to, and learns from, the others. It seems wiser and more useful, in terms of opening the text, to consider them as three discrete individuals, each representing a separate paradigm.
Ender's pacifism separates him from the other soldiers, the military, and his society. His apparently fatalistic attitude toward beating others is remarkably similar to what Eastern philosophy would call Bushido, or the Way of the Warrior (Samurai). Ender represents an elite, powerful warrior class which is at heart pacific but often fights in order to prevent further battles. Ender is a triple outcast. On Earth he is an "outcaste," wanting "to scream at [his father], I know I'm a Third I know it." Ender is a persona non grata who "has no...
(The entire section is 1984 words.)