At a Glance
- In Ender's Game, "games" are never what they appear. Military simulations are passed off as skirmishes between students armies at the Battle School, where the games are really training devices designed to teach Ender military strategy. After graduating, he's given a video game with increasingly difficult "levels," which turn out to be real battles against the Bugger home planet, which Ender destroys without knowing it. These so-called games haunt Ender for the rest of his life.
- War is the underlying theme of Ender's game. Everything Ender goes through—the war games in Battle, the destruction of the Bugger home planet, and even the deadly fights with bullies—trains him to become an effective military leader. Little attention is paid to the devastating effects of this training on children until after the war, when Colonel Hyrum Graff is put on trial for child abuse.
- With the theme of war comes the theme of politics. Ender himself shies away from politics, but his brother Peter doesn't. With the help of their sister Valentine, Peter creates the personas of Locke and Demosthenes, two political thinkers who influence national policies. He leverages this notoriety into a position as Hegemon, or world leader.
The themes of Ender's Game are related to its social concerns: the danger of military control, the need for ethical training, and the danger of computers used without regard for humane considerations. The military in Ender's Game sees its mission as literally saving Earth from an insectoid alien race called the "buggers." Military strategists create hysteria, resulting in a mostly united Earth as previously antagonistic countries ally themselves to prepare to fight the perceived threat. Thus the military, an alliance of the super powers and their minions, gains control over the Earth while maintaining the facade of civil government. Even though the upper echelon knows that the previous bugger expedition was exploratory rather than aggressive and that the buggers are no longer a threat to Earth, they nonetheless plan the utter annihilation of the race. In doing so they ensure their continued power. Even after the buggers are wiped out, the military plans to remain in power as the heroic saviors of the planet, but the military leadership has no sense of ethics; they want to win and hold on to their power at all costs.
Ender and his siblings are perfect tools of such men. Because of their parents' decision to foreswear their religion, the Wiggins children are deprived of religious and ethical training. Because of their inexperience and naivete, Ender and Valentine believe the military leaders and do as they are told without question. From the age of six, Ender is cruelly manipulated by the military to concentrate on personal survival at any cost. He is then used to wipe out the buggers. At no time does the military show any concern for Ender's well-being or for training him in any way that does not benefit their goals. In a discussion of Ender's training, faceless military men talk about training strategy: "He has to be a genius and nice, too." exclaims the first voice. "Not nice. Nice will let the buggers have us all," explains the second voice. Later the trainer, Graff, says to his superior, "There's greatness in him. A magnitude of spirit." The boss replies, "A killer instinct, too, I hope." In the end, Ender is deprived of a homecoming. He is the hero who saved Earth and a political hot potato. The end of the bugger threat causes a break-up of the alliance, and every political aspirant wants Ender's endorsement. The military realizes that they cannot send Ender home, even if he would go, because it would cause chaos — and more importantly, Ender would have the power to undo the military if he chose.
Ender's older brother Peter hatches a scheme to gain political power by first gaining respect on the Internet. He realizes that the net conceals his age and allows him to manipulate people with his intellect. The sociopathic...
(The entire section is 2,955 words.)