ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Updated on October 20, 2009

Imagine a time when the Earth's population has grown to the point where population control isn't something done by repressive regimes, but by every nation in order to keep society from overwhelming every resource. Imagine that families are limited to two children and must have the governments approval for a Third. Imagine that religion is forbidden, because the conflicts it causes are too dangerous in such a world. Now imagine that the world is under attack from beyond, an alien race, the Bugger's, has discovered Earth and invasion has begun. How would we handle it? What length would you go to, as a soldier, as an officer, as a politician, to protect the world?

In Enders's Game, originally written by Orson Scott Card as a novelette in 1977, we catch a glimpse of one possible way such a future could unfold. And we follow the story of one young man, a Third, as he makes his way from his home to the forefront of battle, all before he turns 18.

The Story of Ender.

Andrew Wiggen, known as Ender, is a Third. Resented by his brother, loved by his sister, and wanted by the military, he shows a unique and keen strength, and is chosen by the government to leave all he knows behind to take his place in the Battle School, an orbiting training ground where the International Fleets takes the Earth's best and brightest to become officers. It isn't under the care and love of his family that Ender grows to maturity, it's under the watchful eye and careful manipulation of the military.

See, mankind is under attack by the Buggers, and the military knows that to find the right leader, they need to start with someone young that can be molded and developed into the leader they really need. And through testing and observation, they believe they have seen something in young Ender that will fit their needs. But just finding the right person isn't enough, they have to be in the right environment. So the Battle School is built in orbit, away from the distractions of the world and the prying eyes of the politicians. With all the best that the military can offer, young men and women from around the world are brought to the school, trained and tested, before going out to lead the military's fleet.

And Ender is the best there ever was, no doubt. A genius who is the best hope to save humanity. And so the military designs a special program for him, one designed to test him to the fullest, and if necessary, break him, before he can break while leading the fleet. They isolate him, not just from his family, but from his men, from his comrades, from anyone who might keep him from reaching his fullest potential. And Ender survives. Every day he improves. But everyone has their limits and eventually Ender reaches his, and when he does, his decision will leave a lasting impression on a world, and a race.

A Family Affair.

Ender isn't the only genius, though. His older brother, Peter, and sister, Valentine, are finding their own genius. Peter has found that he wants what his brother doesn't, power. Authority. Dominion. And when Ender was home, he found that by tormenting his younger brother. But with Ender gone, Peter chooses to direct his plans outward, and manipulates Valentine into assisting him. Using the Internet and its system of message boards (as Card imagined it), Peter finds an outlet for his dreams and ambitions, and combining his brains with Valentine and her ability to craft words, he is able to slowly begin building support for a political movement that will reshape the planet, once the alien threat has been dealt with.

It seems that Peter is one of the few people who have seen that the worldwide alliance is a fragile peace, at best, and that once the external threat is gone, the alliance will begin to crumble. By appealing to the masses, and building support from the common man, Peter begins to build his base of support so that when the threat passes, and the peace fails, he can be there to hold things together.But he finds he can't do it alone.

Valentine was always there to protect Ender when Peter sought to torment him. Now, with Ender a thousand miles above her, she finds herself in an unforeseen, and unhappy, alliance with Peter. She has seen what Peter has seen, and recognizes the danger. And what at first was a playful way to distract Peter from his more destructive tendencies becomes a far more serious development of ideas that will help Peter take charge of a world.

A Deeper Meaning

Ender's Game, as I said, was originally a short story, intended primarily as an introduction to Ender, as well as the world he's left behind when we find him in Speaker For The Dead. The expanded novel has since become one of the top science fiction books ever, consistently named a top choice by readers. Why should a simply story about a boy and his war have gained so much attention? I believe it's because the story isn't about war, or even politics, but about relationships.

The relationship between Ender and Valentine that pulls him back from his despair to return for the fight. Enders relationship with his team, the way he molds and drives them, and the way that when he needs them the most, they rise up to give back. The relationship between Peter and Valentine and how they find a way to use each other to get what they need. The relationship between Ender and the Bugger's. How he develops empathy for his enemy, and uses that to destroy them . Between Peter and Ender, and how the relationship between family members shapes us and molds us in ways we never expect, and how in the long run we can use it and turn even the worst things to good. 

I think it's the way Card develops and uses these relationships, shows how one person can be so strongly affected and influenced by the people around them, that they lose track of what their own limits are and can be pushed to any length. This is, to me the real point of the story.

Ender as Hitler *Spoiler alert*

I recently came across the article "Creating the Innocent Killer:Ender's Game, Intention, and Morality" by John Kessel, and thought it was an interesting look at the Ender story. I disagree with it entirely, but still interesting.The basis for his argument is in the morality of Ender and the death's of some of the boys that Ender fights throughout the book, culminating in an act of genocide, and the fact that Card demonstrates a morality based on intention rather than act: "we are urged many times to judge a character’s actions not on their effect (even when that effect is fatal) but on the motives of the person performing the action."

Kessel cites an essay by Elaine Radford that was published by Fantasy Review in 1987. This essay makes a comparison between Adolf Hitler and the character Ender and states that Ender's Game is an apologia for Hitler. And Card himself has responded in his own defense, pointing out that the actions of the two are significantly different.

I would point out that the intention of the two people are wildly different. Hitler intended to destruction of the Jewish race. Ended intended to end a game. One vital point that both Kessel and Radford seem to have missed is that until the end, Ender was the only person who didn't know that he was being manipulated and that he was commanding real people. Hitler can't say that. Would Ender have made those same choices if he knew? The same basic idea applies to the deaths before: Ender never learned that the boys were killed, only that he never encountered them again.

And how did he react when he learned that he was responsible for genocide? There was no gloating, there was no pleasure at defeating the enemy. He was deeply distraught and upset by what he had inadvertently done. Knowing that he had acted in ignorance, yet still feeling the burden of genocide, he took upon himself the task of bring the Bugger queen t a place where she could live once more. Would Hitler have brought the last Jewish baby to a place of safety to grow?

Intention is everything. A driver that swerves to avoid a kid, and kills an adult, obviously he is accountable for his actions, but would we compare him with the drunk or distracted driver that hits a pedestrian? The doctor who tries to save a life but accidentally cuts a patient, is he as culpable as a man who draws a knife in a bar? How do you judge any action as good or evil without looking at the intention of the actor, as part of the act?

Read the book? Like it or hate it? Which book in the series did you enjoy most or least? I'd love to hear your thoughts and insights, especially any opinions on the "Ender as Hitler" idea. Thanks. 


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      Sir G.O. 

      8 years ago

      Yes. Ender's game can be retitled Hitler's game. I didn't like the book when I read it over 20 years ago, and I don't like the series now. It's a pompous, self-absorbed piece of literature with awful characterization. Card himself even admitted that the writing wasn't very good, and the New York Times said it correctly when they called it Z-grade writing. Even if Card didn't intend it as Hitler sympathy, I'm sure he probably thought it as he wrote it. What surprises me is that folks continue to say "Oh but Hitler did it because of such and such, and Wiggen did it unintentionally. Of COURSE card would change things around a bit. You don't want to write a book that parallels Hitler's life too closely, just make sure that each book you write in the series has specific connections. Look it up yourself:

      Ender is Hitler. Oh and other little tidbits about Orson Scott Card: He hates gays, thinks that global warming is a bunch of bull, and worst of all, hated Star Wars. Finally, on interviews about the Ender's Game series, Card forgot about important events in which is apparently his own book, leading me and many others to believe that Card may not have even written it...

    • Lynn Nodima profile image

      Lynn Nodima 

      8 years ago from United States

      Ender's Game and the rest of the series are significant books in the science fiction genre. I have read the entire series and find the comparison of Ender to Hitler to be rediculous. I enjoyed these books, and looked for more Card fiction as a result of reading them. Songmaster, another of Card's books, is also excellent, giving insight to relationships and how happenings affect people's lives. To be honest, I haven't found an Orson Scott Card book, yet, that I didn't enjoy!

    • Winsome profile image


      8 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Thanks for the review. It brings back a lot of memories. Out of the thousand or more books I've read, Ender's Game is the all time favorite. My first edition signed by the author is proudly displayed in my study.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I've read Ender's Game and I am currently reading Speaker for the Dead. This is an amazing series! I enjoy Card's work, he is my favorite writer. Everyone should read Ender's Game, I recommend it to all!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)