Recently on an online listserv, a member posted some objections re Ender’s Game and I responded with the following. (I will be paraphrasing and truncating the original objections):
Since I have read (and listened to the audio book) multiple times, I hope that potentially I have done the “close reading” that [the listserv member] and her students have done with the book. I am going to address each of the four points:
1. A question on how could Ender repent/whine/moan when he obviously knew he was enlisting in the military for a total war?
We must consider the world that Ender is born into. He did not really have a choice to be on the training path to be chosen or not. His existence as a THIRD is quite literally unbearable, and his living in the house with a monster brother who at any moment might murder him definitely does not make staying home as a desirable option. He went up to Battle School at age 6 — even as brilliant a strategist as he was, he was naive in many many ways of the people — he was NOT given the opportunities to develop those. Just consider his first encounter on the launch shuttle, how he BELIEVES that Graff is his FRIEND and gets his wish shattered into pieces. So, to say that he “signed on to be the killer” because he joined the military and blame him later on for not being able to deal with not just WAR and KILLING but GENOCIDE — seems to me not fully understanding the book’s themes. Ask many service men, how many of them are shocked (in their late teens, early 20s or even later?) when they actually are put in combat? I’d say a LOT of them. So why can’t Ender be repentant? (He never moans or whines — his sorrow is SO much deeper than those emotions.)
2. Orson Scott Card praises children’s intelligence in the foreword but then makes his child character so manipulatable — that’s self-contradicting.
Not at all — In fact, in the end, Graff’s “intelligence” and “manipulation” – although ensured the winning of this ONE total war, makes him and the world leaders look like the worst people possible while Ender comes out as a lot more Humane and Saint-like. We must not forget that they live in a post-Alien attack world where everyone’s brainwashed to a certain extend, and there is a whole entire system of manipulation, lots of secret keeping, etc. For those of us who have read Ender’s Shadow, we would know how Card created another brilliant child who was NOT AT ALL manipulated by the System — and the reason why Ender was so manipulatable was the fact that he’s incredibly trusting and has “a flaw of wanting to form connections with others” — which is EXACTLY why he is a BELOVED leader and Bean is just his second in command whom everyone respects but cannot truly adore. So, no, the author (Orson Scott Card) knows exactly what he’s doing with his child characters.
3. Orson Scott Card romanticized total warfare and the video-game-style warfare, making him socially irresponsible.
I don’t really have much to say about this point except that I do not see how this book or the whole series is romanticizing total warfare where the ending was the strong sentiment AGAINST fighting against another group of people AT ALL — Ender finally understands The Other and spends the rest of his life to make peace and to make others see the peace that is necessary and achievable. And I am totally at a loss as to how “predicting the video-game-style warfare” that we are developing these days is “irresponsible.” Please elaborate.
4. To favor elitism is offensive. The book dismisses anyone who is not a genius.
I think this is definitely where people have to agree to disagree. For me, it is SO great that we have a book that celebrate intelligence and political savvy over brute forces or some sort of magical talents. I cannot understand how that is offensive. Are we saying that if we have characters who are geniuses, we should somehow portrait them as undesirable leaders of the society? We should make fun of them? We should “put them in their places”? and refuse to let them tell others what to do??? I also am not sure that there are ANY “not geniuses” characters in the book — and that’s kind of the point — Battle and Command Schools are for those who have the capacities to fight and to lead — we are not given the rest of the world and Card didn’t set out to write about the rest of the world. That’s the scope of the book’s setting — if Card included other aspects of the world (which he did in Ender’s Shadow and definitely in Speaker for the Dead and other sequels) and botched it, we should definitely discuss the flaws — but as an author, he made a choice: he CHOSE to set the tale within a confined environment. Surely we cannot fault him for that? (That would be like faulting Baum for not giving a good picture of Kansas at the turn of the 20th century when he wrote OZ stories!)