At a Glance

  • Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game has become a science fiction classic since its publication in 1985. Its premise—that a child prodigy could be trained to become Earth's greatest military leader—transcends its genre, raising questions about the ethics of war, its psychological effects on soldiers, and the danger the military poses to democratic government.
  • Ender was born Andrew Wiggin. His nickname stems from a mispronunciation of Andrew, but the word "Ender" has many fraught connotations. It could be taken to mean, for instance, that he's the final or "end" child in the family. It could also reflect one of Ender's fundamental character traits: that he ends or win conflicts by using strategic and brutal means to neutralize his enemies. In this way, "Ender" becomes an adjective describing someone who finishes what others can't.
  • The names Locke and Demosthenes are allusions to John Locke, an Enlightenment thinker, and Demosthenes, a Greek statesman and orator. In Ender's Game, Locke and Demosthenes are assumed personas, political thinkers who represent two very different approaches. Locke is more of a pacifist and rationalist, whereas Demosthenes tends to support war efforts. This is generally true of the historical figures as well.

Download Ender's Game Study Guide

Subscribe Now


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Most of Ender's Game is told by a third person narrator with the exception of the discussions between the military men. At the beginning of each chapter, the reader is allowed to eavesdrop on these conversations as though listening to a wiretap. Only the dialogue is provided, set off from the rest of the text in boldface type. The speakers are nameless at first, but later identify themselves. These conversations serve almost as a Greek chorus, letting the reader know what is coming. After the first chapter when Ender is separated from his family, the action in the chapters alternates between Ender and Valentine/Peter. The reader is made a participant in the military secret-keeping because the reader has information denied to the children. Because the reader has access to Ender's thoughts, which the military does not, the reader understands Ender's decisions made with only the input allowed by his military keepers. Ultimately, this arouses the reader's compassion for the child groping to do the right thing without moral guidance or practical knowledge.

Historical Context

(Novels for Students)

The Cold War in the 1980s
Ender's Game takes place in Earth's future, one in which all countries are cooperating together to save the planet from alien invasion. Nevertheless, the novel does suggest that the international conflicts of the twentieth century will not be forgotten, as an American hegemony (a group of nations dominated by one) will be pitted against a Second Warsaw Pact, led by the Russians. In this world, Russia rules Eurasia from the Netherlands to Pakistan. Peter believes that Russia is preparing for a "fundamental shift in world order." Once the bugger wars are over, the North American alliances will dissolve, and Russia will take over. This conflict may have seemed inevitable in the early and mid-1980s, when the novel was written. Since the end of World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union had engaged in a "cold war" which involved military buildups but no direct military confrontations. Almost forty years later, this conflict showed few signs of being resolved peacefully.

The two sides of the Cold War were led by the democratic United States and the communist Soviet Union. The Warsaw Pact, signed in 1955, established an alliance among the Soviet Union, Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Romania. It served to defend the group against any potential military or economic threats from the West. It also strengthened the Soviet Union's hold over its Eastern European satellites and prevented them from making close ties with the West. On the other side was the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which bound Western Europe and the United States together in defense against the communists. From...

(The entire section is 3,074 words.)