How Manipulation Functions in Ender’s Game

The Ender’s Game, written by Orson Scott Card, presents a futuristic setting where the government selectively chooses, controls and trains young prodigies to win the endless battles against the “buggers” or aliens. Ender, the main character of this novel, is a six-year-old prodigy who lives with two siblings, Peter and Valentine who both underwent government monitoring. The government forces Ender to act the way they would like by monitoring him constantly, and tricks Ender into being a part of the International Fleet to fight against the buggers. Ender skips some ranks in the battle schools as he quickly learns the war techniques and skills. The teachers isolate and manipulate Ender on purpose to bring out Ender’s inner killer instinct like his older brother, Peter. Due to the officials’ strict control of Ender’s life and his time in battle schools Ender undergoes a series of challenges and faces a social isolation. How the government controlled Ender was inhumane, and the officials’ lack of recognition and reluctance on this issue eventually cause mental and emotional distress as well as depression.

In chapter one, Card portrays how the government manipulates Ender through the monitor. “‘We were connected directly to your brain. We heard all that you heard, whether you were listening carefully or not. Whether you understood or not. We understand’” (Card 23). The conversation shows that the officials have closely monitored Ender, even before he started battle school and took his privacy away. It also gave the government the capability to have an early manipulation on him. The government has invaded Ender’s privacy, even before he was mature enough to consider any contracts between him and someone else. The government took advantage of Ender’s ignorance in his childhood, taking away his privacy and manipulating him.

The officials isolate Ender socially to help him concentrate on his training, so that he would quickly be ready to fight the buggers. “With Ender, we have to strike a delicate balance. Isolate him enough that he remains creative – otherwise he’ll adopt the system here and we’ll lose him‘’”(Card 27). The conversation between the officials depicts what they are going to do to Ender – to isolate him so that he won’t have any friends that might “distract” him from being a commander to win the war with buggers. Also, the officials made Ender become brutal to other people, turning him into a murderer. Card manifests another social isolation by quoting, “The fear stayed, all through dinner as no one sat by him in the mess hall. The other boys were talking about things – the big scoreboard on one wall, the food, the bigger kids. Ender could only watch in isolation”(41). Card carefully describes the isolation of Ender in the dining hall, and his description shows that the officials have successfully isolated Ender. As a result, Ender becomes socially isolated, which made Ender emotionally and mentally distressed.

After the final game between Mazer Rackham and Ender, Colonel Graff reveals to Ender that the officials had manipulated him into killing the buggers, instead of playing war simulation games with Mazer Rackham. Colonel Graff quotes, “‘Of course we tricked you into it. That’s the whole point … You had to become a weapon, Ender. Like a gun, like the Little Doctor, functioning perfectly but not knowing what you were aimed at’”(Card 298). It is clear that the officials had manipulated Ender through feeding him endless lies and going against Ender’s actual desire. Ender didn’t want to be a killer or murderer, but the officials had deceived Ender to win the war. The government’s control and manipulation affected Ender emotionally, since Ender didn’t want to “become Peter” after decimating the enemies. The government’s lies to Ender were wrong, and they need to be responsible for affecting Ender’s emotion negatively, since Ender especially felt regretful for killing the buggers.

The government’s enforcement of abusive manipulation on Ender has affected his mental and emotional states. After all, the government initiated manipulation on Ender through the monitor, socially isolated Ender, and fed Ender endless lies to achieve what they wanted at the end. As a victim in the government’s devious plan, Ender underwent a great depression, both emotionally and mentally. However, the government did not even bother to help Ender out in the least bit. These events show the government officials’ cruelty and inhmane treatment towards Ender. What the government did to Ender to achieve what they want was inhumane, and their manipulation must stop so people like Ender and other prodigies can make their own decisions for more growth and independence.

Maturity in Ender’s Game: A State of Mind, Not a Physical Quality

When a person is referred to as ‘mature’, it does not necessarily mean that he/she must be an adult. In Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card, maturity is a recurring theme. Yet, the main characters are mainly comprised of children. This brings forth the idea that age cannot be the deciding factor when judging one’s maturity. The characteristics that typically make up maturity are only presumed to come with age. Shown throughout the novel Ender’s Game, maturity is a state of mind developed by experience rather than a characteristic that only develops with age.

In Ender’s Game, the main protagonist is a young boy named Andrew, or Ender, Wiggin. As the reader will find out right from the beginning, Ender is different from the other kids. However, there is one trait that he and his fellow students share: none of them are childish. “Ender’s Game is one novel brave enough to really look at children without making them childish” (Kelly 112). The children in the novel do not act like typical children their ages. In fact, they are shown to be quite mature for their ages, especially Ender. Ender is constantly bullied by the other boys he goes to school with. But when the reader sees how he reacts to it, it is not in the way that one would expect from a child as young as him. “Ender’s response to the other boys’ bullying is more intelligent and calculating, as everything Ender does is, and Card uses it to show another aspect of childhood, the struggle between intellect and fear” (Kelly 113). Normally, a child may cry and run away, or act completely on impulse, but not Ender. He seems to know what he’s doing. He is able to plan things out in his head efficiently. This assists in differentiating him from other kids, showing that he is smarter and thinks differently than them. This, of course, only makes him a target for more bullying. “Yet he possesses a genius and mature assuredness that makes him a target for abuse by peergroup bullies and adults who are in control” (Kelly 112). When Ender is involved in these types of situations, it is his quick wit and “mature assuredness” that gets him out mostly unharmed. He reacts almost as if he already has experience in these situations because he is able to calculate the results of his possible actions. This starts to bring up an underlying tone of maturity. Ender’s thought processes early on show that he is advanced and make him seem mature to the reader even though he is only a young child.

Although Ender seems to be the one character most obviously showing development of maturity, he is not the only one to act in this way. One of these characters who seems to already be grown up is Ender’s brother, Peter. “Peter…seems patterned on evil geniuses…but never does he show a hint of a child’s mental formation. He is fully grown from the start—an adult” (Kelly 114). As soon as the reader is introduced to Peter, it is evident that he is a very aggressive and violent character. While getting to know Peter as a character, the reader realizes that although Peter is technically a child, he shows no aspects of being childish. He also seems to have already developed his personality, which is not something that is common in a child. Peter’s multiple cruel actions are not impulsive, either, like a troubled child’s may be. For example, when Peter makes Ender play “buggers and astronauts” with him, he kneels on Ender’s torso, making it hard for him to breath: “‘I could kill you like this,’ Peter whispered. ‘Just press and press until you’re dead. And I could say that I didn’t know it would hurt you, that we were just playing, and they’d believe me, and everything would be fine. And you’d be dead. Everything would be fine’” (Card 12). Everything he does is thought out and planned, and he is fully aware of what he is doing. He is often shown to be smarter than the average adult. Because Peter is represented in this way – an “evil genius” – it is like he never had to grow up; he is already an adult in every way except age. This demonstrates the idea that maturity does not rely solely on age for development. Another portrayal of this idea is the character Valentine, the sister of Peter and Ender. Valentine is like Peter in the way that she calculates things. When the two siblings decide to cooperate in order to communicate their ideas with the world over the internet, the only things holding them back are their legal ages. “The only thing separating Peter and Valentine from adulthood…is the fact that the world can see that they are children and therefore discriminates against them for it” (Kelly 114). Once they are able to get on the nets appearing as adults, they are able to speak without being disputed. The recurring question of what effect age truly has regarding maturity is once again raised in the novel. Although children may have the same ideas as adults, they are often not taken seriously simply because they are children. Even if their personalities have already been developed, the world still sees them as nothing other than children. The character Bean is another example of the common theme of already being grown up. “He was a soldier, and if anyone had asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, he wouldn’t have known what they meant” (Card 224). Bean, although technically a child, knows what he is in life: a soldier. This not something typical of a child, but rather something an adult might feel. This also hints at the repeated idea of not needing to grow up. Bean already knows who he is and does not need to grow up to figure it out. It is also possible that Bean feels grown up by this time – maybe not physically, but mentally. And maturity is predominantly a mental quality, meaning that Bean is already mature because of his obvious lack of needing to grow up, similar to Peter and Valentine. Maturity is constantly being represented as something that is figurative rather than literal, because the most mature people in the book are the children.

The way it is illustrated in Ender’s Game, maturity is something that is forced upon the children if they have not yet developed it. One case of this is when the gifted children chosen for Battle School are introduced to the reader. “Children must also possess an ability to adapt quickly to new situations; empathy, or the ability to understand and care for others, is also a valuable character trait” (“Ender’s Game” 107). If they have not yet started to display certain characteristics, they are essentially forced into quickly developing their personalities to fit the military system. This is basically forced maturity. An example of this is when the adults that run Battle School are talking about Ender, after he has arrived: “‘His isolation can’t be broken. He can never come to believe that anyone will come to help him out, ever’” (Card 38). In this quote, it can be seen that the adults already have a plan to develop Ender to their liking. The Battle School system is specifically meant to take advanced children and make it so that they develop themselves even faster for the benefit of society. “The military is purposefully structured to be unjust, breaking those who cannot rise above injustice fast enough” (Blackmore 115). Those who run the military know what they are doing, and use unfairness to their advantage. If only the ‘strong’ children who are able to develop quickly can move on, then the system is kept at its most efficient. Yet, being able to deal with injustice effectively is generally something adults are faced with, and this time it relates to children. This shows that it is possible for children to be mature, because if it wasn’t, then the entire foundation of Battle School would fail. One of the tools that the adults of Battle School use to mold the kids – especially Ender – to their liking is isolation. “Isolation makes dependence on others impossible; Ender is forced to fall back on and develop his own resources” (Blackmore 117). Since Battle School is up in space, the children are extremely far away from their families down on Earth. This forces them to rely on themselves for their own well-being. “Parental authority is replaced by dependence on the self” (Blackmore 117). These kids no longer have their parents to guide them and tell them what to do. The only orders they’ll receive are those from their commanding officers. That is not something that children are used to; rather, it is something characteristic of adults. But in Battle School, that is what they come to expect and are forced to adapt to. So, in a way, it is like the children in Battle School are not really children. One of the characters who is a kid in Battle School, Dink, has been taking note of this fact during his time at the school. “‘…I’ve got a pretty good idea what children are, and we aren’t children. Children can lose sometimes and nobody cares. Children aren’t in armies, they aren’t commanders, they don’t rule over forty other kids, it’s more than anybody can take and not get crazy’” (Card 108). Dink acknowledges that the kids in Battle School aren’t really children, because of the thing that they are made to do – not normal ‘kid things’. When the children are put into severe situations more commonly associated with adults, it makes them seem less and less like actual children. This again illustrates the forced maturity brought onto the children when they are chosen for the school. The characteristics that make up what most people think of as maturity are also able to be seen in the children in Battle School. “‘That’s right, we never cry…Nobody ever cries. We really are trying to be adults’” (Card 109). Dink says this to Ender when he sees that Ender was starting to tear up after something he said but told Dink he was fine. Not crying is typically a stereotype of adults. Yet, the children in Battle School learn not to cry because it shows weakness, and weakness is the core thing that the adults at Battle School want to beat out of the kids. The children who are ‘weak’ do not make it up to becoming commanders. Most clearly evident in Battle School, the adults are forcing the children to ‘grow up’, but since they cannot literally age quicker, they must mature, once again showing that it is a state of mind.

When maturity is described in Ender’s Game, age is generally the last thing that comes to mind. Going back to the time when Peter is trying to convince Valentine to go on the internet with him to share their ideas with the world, they have the following dialogue exchange:

“Peter, you’re twelve.”

“Not on the nets I’m not. On the nets I can name myself anything I want, and so can you” (Card 129).

Peter is telling Valentine that he can create a fake representation of himself on the nets; he does not have to be 12-year-old Peter. This shows that Peter may literally be a child, but he is not in other aspects, such as his way of thinking. On the nets, people will believe he is an adult if he is listed as one because of the way he thinks and articulates his ideas. The contrasting viewpoints in the Ender’s Game also help to show the overarching similarities between the adults and the children. “Card forces the reader to move between two viewpoints: that of the suspicious, manipulated child and that of the paranoid, utilitarian machine worker” (Blackmore 116). There is a common understanding of the injustices at Battle School between the adults and most of the children. The “machine worker” refers to the adults of the military system, and a number of children know that they are being fooled by them. They are being tricked into believing that they are individuals at Battle School and they all have a chance at greatness. But there are a few of the kids who know that they are only being used collectively by the adults to attempt to save society. They know what the true intentions of the adults are. Dink is one of these kids. “‘I can’t believe you haven’t seen through all this crap yet, Ender. But I guess you’re young’” (Card 107). He says this to Ender after explaining that the corruption of the military system is what kept him from accepting promotions to become a commander. He doesn’t want to be manipulated anymore by the teachers. Dink’s reasoning for why Ender is still alright with the military system is that he is young. Being young usually means that one is naïve due to a lack of experience in the world. Dink realizes that because Ender is young, he is also naïve, and so he hasn’t yet come to see all of the corruption that goes on at Battle School. At this moment, Dink is shown to have an obvious sense of maturity because of his ability to recognize corruption, which is typically something that adults would do. The children and the adults in Ender’s Game are definitely not the same, but it is not their levels of maturity that separate them from one another.

Card has a discreet way of separating his child characters from his adult characters and making his child characters actually believable as children. Fear is often used in the novel to show the difference between the children and the grown-ups. It is a lot easier for fear to take over the minds of children. “Fear pushing intellect into the back seat is a reasonable characterization of childhood” (Kelly 114). Fear can be very powerful in people, most notably in children. This fact is used to portray many of the children’s emotions in Ender’s Game, as subtle as it may be. Feelings of fear and anxiety can cause rational thinking to be side-stepped, making reasonable thoughts hard to come by and resulting in impulsive actions, especially in fast-paced situations. “Insecurity is unavoidable in new situations, and in childhood everything is a new situation—maturity is just a matter of recognizing repeating patterns, and without comforting recognition, all these kids have to protect themselves with is violence” (Kelly 112-113). Most prevalent in Battle School, the children are shown to be insecure with their surroundings. This is one of the most contributing factors in differentiating between the kids and the adults. The adults who run the military system are obviously very familiar with what they are doing. The children, however, have no experience in this whatsoever. They are away from their homes and families, and being put in situations with other kids, such as simulated battles, that they have never been in before. So, in order to establish some sense of control, they tend to resort to violence. This ‘control’ would, of course, only be over other students at Battle School. The adults are the ones with the ultimate power and control in the military system. “…reviewers especially applauded Card’s compelling portrayal of Ender as an innocent child being manipulated by controlling adults” (“Ender’s Game 111). Throughout most of the novel, Ender is known as the child who is younger and smaller than everyone else. Even when he has become the top commander in school, he is still the “little boy” out of all of his fellow commanders. “They couldn’t beat him in the battle room, and they knew it—so instead they would attack him where it was safe, where he was not a giant but just a little boy” (Card 187). This portrayal causes the reader to feel sympathy for him, something that is not felt when the reader is introduced to the adults of the book. This also separates the adults and the children in the reader’s mind. However, even though there are these small differences between the two groups, there are much more noticeable similarities. “…no distinction is made between a child’s insatiable ego and the evil genius’s power-hunger” (Kelly 114). Adult characteristics, such as “power-hunger”, are combined with things that represent children, like naivety, almost making it seem like there is no difference between the two. This implies that is quite possible for children to be mature, even though it is not traditional. There is a fine line separating the children from the adults in Ender’s Game, which again suggests that it is completely plausible that children can be mature, just as adults are.

The mature way in children are characterized in Ender’s Game is fitting for the story, and, in a way, justifies how similar they can be to adults. If the kids in the novel had been like stereotypical young children, the plot would fail and nothing would make sense. Card feels this way about his portrayal of his child characters: “…considering it an innovation, as if the only alternative would be having the cadets in the Battle School play marbles and talk baby talk” (Kelly 112). He considers it a positive addition to the story. Card’s opinion is again evidenced in the novel, when Colonel Graff and Major Anderson are having a conversation about the way the children in Battle School act:

“Does it ever seem to you that these boys aren’t children? I look at what they do, the way they talk, and they don’t seem like little kids.”

“They’re the most brilliant children in the world, each in his own way.”

“But shouldn’t they still act like children? They aren’t normal. They act like-history. Napoleon and Wellington. Caesar and Brutus” (Card 66-67).

It would seem rather foolish if the children in the book acted how people may expect them to as typical children considering the extreme circumstances they are involved in. Having the children show adult characteristics is a large part of the story and helps it to progress. Not only does this characterization of children work very well with the story, but it also provides the reader with an honest perspective of children. “…they are not any more vicious than kids are in real life, or could be” (Kelly 112). The kids in Ender’s Game are made more relatable to the reader because Card is truly being honest about them. “…they praise Card for his unflinching honesty about the cunning and cruelty, the wisdom and humanity, of children” (Kelly 112). He is providing a correct interpretation of who children really are and how they behave in reality, rather than using the stereotypical child archetype. Most of the children in Ender’s Game are gifted children. They are more advanced, so of course they are going to seem more mature. The level of maturity demonstrated by children in the novel only makes their characters more fitting for the story and believable to readers because it shows that children can indeed be mature, just like how they may act in real life.

Works Cited

Blackmore, Tim. “Ender’s Game.” Novels for Students. Ed. Marie Rose Napierkowski. Vol. 5. Detroit: Gale, 1999. 115-118. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 10 Feb. 2015.

Card, Orson Scott. Ender’s Game. New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 1994. Print.

“Ender’s Game.” Novels for Students. Ed. Marie Rose Napierkowski. Vol. 5. Detroit: Gale, 1999. 99-121. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 10 Feb. 2015.

Kelly, David J. “Ender’s Game.” Novels for Students. Ed. Marie Rose Napierkowski. Vol. 5. Detroit: Gale, 1999. 112-115. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 10 Feb. 2015.

The Use of Perception of Reality: A Close Reading of Ender’s Game

“Real. Not a game. Ender’s mind was too tired to cope with it all. They weren’t just points of light in the air, they were real ships that he had fought with and real ships he had destroyed. And a real world that he had blasted into oblivion…” (Page 229)

This passage is quoted from the novel Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card — a narrative depicting a young boy’s isolated struggle whilst training to save the world from an approaching war with an insect-like alien species known as the buggers. Through the displayed example of Ender’s perception of reality being altered, Card uses symbolism to demonstrate the thematic concept of games vs. reality. When faced with factors such as Bonzo, and restrictions, Ender must be willing to do what benefits the greater good — carrying these skills over when faced to the Third invasion. Through the Fantasy Game, Ender is able to live through scenarios that directly reflect Ender’s life, and mind through symbolism. This can be exemplified by Ender seeing his own siblings in the game. When Ender dreams of the “End of the World,” he is able to replay the final chapter of his Command School life in order to cope with how he feels he is similar to Peter, due to his unintentional destructive nature and demise of the bugger world. This, as a whole, exemplifies a deeper emotional connection to the factors pressing on him outside of the game after he learns the game was merely the war in disguise. Through all three concepts, Ender’s game becomes his reality as time progresses.

When living in a society where the responsibility to save the world falls upon those of children, it can be assumed that the level of maturity would be sped up to adapt with the task at hand. However, there is irony in the fact that Bonzo Madrid, commander of the Salamander army, feels a strike in his pride when someone inferior to him appears to be better than him. Due to this, Bonzo tries his best to restrict Ender from having the opportunity to better himself; going as far as to restrict his free time. “You’ll do what I tell you, you little bastard. That’s right, sir. I’ll follow all the orders that you’re authorized to give. But free play is free. No assignments can be given. None. By anyone. While you’re in Salamander Army, you’ll obey me. If you try to control my free play, I can get you iced.” (Page 69) In this instance, Bonzo believes he can fully overthrow Ender, as he is perceived as someone who can be easily pushed over due to his age. However, when threatened to be removed from command at the cost of Ender’s free time, Bonzo switches his strategy to simply waiting to trade Ender out, and in the meantime, restricting all his authorized orders. When placed against the Leopard army, Ender exemplifies his dilemma of bettering himself versus following the rules; choosing to better himself by slowing slipping through the gate, into the game. “Everyone in Leopard Army assumed that it bad been a strategy of Bonzo’s, to leave a man till the last minute. It didn’t occur to them that little Ender had fired against orders. But Salamander Army knew. Bonzo knew, and Ender could see from the way the commander looked at him that Bouzo hated him for rescuing him from total defeat. I don’t care, Ender told himself. It will just make me easier to trade away, and in the meantime you won’t drop so far in the standings.” (Page 74) Through this conflict, along with many others, Ender is able to learn that the games can’t always be solved by the stereotypical strategies. These experiences allow for Ender to enhance his willingness to new ideas, due to the fact that he believes there will be minimal consequences. Even when taken to command school, Ender is able to apply the skills learned from Battle School and especially Bonzo because the perception of the game allows Ender to take risks that he wouldn’t have if he were to know it was real.

In the eyes of Ender Wiggin, going to Battle School was seen as a blessing to move away from his older brother Peter’s sadistic nature. However, while this came as an advantage, it also didn’t fully work out in his favor due to the fact that Ender had leave behind the only person who ever loved him: Valentine. Before Ender’s departure to Battle School, both his siblings had represented two varying things in his mind: compassion, and ruthlessness. Valentine was perceived as his protector, while Peter was seen as his abuser. “I could kill you like this,” Peter whispered. “Just press and press until you’re dead. And I could say that I didn’t know it would hurt you, that we were just playing, and they’d believe me, and everything would be fine. And you’d be dead. Everything would be fine.” Ender could not speak; the breath was being forced from his lungs. Peter might mean it. Probably didn’t mean it, but then he might. “I’ll tell,” Valentine said… “Oh, yes,” said Valentine. “They’ll believe that. ‘I didn’t know it would kill Andrew. And when he was dead, I didn’t know it would kill Valentine too.'” The pressure let up a little.” (Page 10) However, while Ender left both his siblings on Earth behind, they both lived in his mind, as well as in the Fantasy Game. Although, Ender holds compassion in his heart, and uses violence for reasons of self defense, he always believes that when he inflicts violence on others, he has liven up to the nature of Peter. After a battle strikes out between the Launchies, and older boys, Ender ends up hurting four people, resulting in an “ACCIDENTAL COLLISION IN NULL G.” (Page 91) Shortly after, Ender logs onto the Fantasy Game, and sees himself as Peter in the mirror, thus reflecting the events that happened prior. “He stepped on the head of the snake and crushed it under his foot. It writhed and twisted under him, and in response he twisted and ground it deeper into the stone floor. Finally it was still. Ender picked it up and shook it, until it unwove itself and the pattern in the rug was gone. Then, still dragging the snake behind him, he began to look for a way out. Instead, he found a mirror. And in the mirror he saw a face that he easily recognized. It was Peter, with blood dripping down his chin and a snake’s tail protruding from a corner of his mouth. Ender shouted and thrust his desk from him.” (Page 91) However, Peter does not only appear in the Fantasy Game, Valentine does as well. “This time he caught it in his hands, knelt before it, and gently, so gently, brought the snake’s gaping mouth to his lips. And kissed. And the snake in his hands thickened and bent into another shape. A human shape. It was Valentine, and she kissed him again…She arose from the floor of the tower room and walked to the mirror. Ender made his figure also rise and go with her. They stood before the mirror, where instead of Peter’s cruel reflection there stood a dragon and a unicorn…Tears filled his eyes, tears of relief that at last he had broken free of the End of the World. And because of the tears, he didn’t notice that every member of the multitude wore Peter’s face. He only knew that wherever he went in this world, Valentine was with him.” (Page 118) After many trials of facing the snake to only die as Peter, Ender ends up kissing the snake, thus transforming into Valentine. While Ender constantly views himself as Peter in the game, he realizes that with the use of compassion in the game, and in reality, there will always be a part of him that is Valentine. Through seeing a unicorn in the mirror, the symbolism of positive change in the world is shown through, being that Ender realizes there is an ounce of Valentine in him, and that he is not purely Peter. The ability of seeing he is capable of having both parts Peter and Valentine in himself allows for Ender to see that within himself, there is no dominant portion between the two, thus reflecting his ability to reflect his life, and mind.

To cope with unintentionally destroying an entire race without any knowledge of doing so, Ender begins to experience dreams about the buggers and the “End of the World.” In his thoughts, Ender leaps from a cliff and is brought to the bugger world, to repeatedly witness the destruction of the bugger world he had caused. “Nobody ever asked me if I wanted to kill anybody. But the forest laughed at him. And when he leapt from the cliff at the End of the World, sometimes it was not clouds that caught him, but a fighter that carried him to a vantage point near the surface of the buggers’ world, so he could watch, over and over, the eruption of death when Dr. Device set off a reaction on the planet’s face; then closer and closer, until he could watch individual buggers explode, turn to light, then collapse into a pile of dirt before his eyes.” (Page 231) The “End of the World,” essentially allows Ender to replay his last recollection of the Third Invasion, as he is tricked into ending the war. Not only does Ender feel remorse for his actions against the buggers, but upset at Rackham and Graff for using him. In addition to this, Ender being traumatized from a young age, as well as through the Fantasy Game is perceived to believe that he is the mere reflection of Peter. For Ender to be tricked into destroying an entire species without any knowledge, allows for Ender to draw a similarity to his brother, whom he never would want to be remotely compared to.

Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game depicts the distinction between games and reality; mainly exemplified through the willingness to disobey the rules to benefit the overall goal of saving the world, Fantasy Game, and the“End of the World,”. With the of willingness to benefit the overall goal of saving the world, Ender is depicted as being able to enhance his inclination to new ideas, due to the fact that he believes there will be no consequences. His experience with Bonzo further enhances this skill by examining his own moral compass as to what the most beneficial action he could do would be, such as disobeying orders to better himself, as well as the entire team. This carries over to his time in Command School because not only does it further his strategy to win the stimulation, but the overall Third Invasion.

With the Fantasy Game, Ender is able to live in the game with symbols that directly reflect Ender’s life, and mind. Through the game, Anderson and Graff are able to monitor this, and are able to detect Ender’s feelings, as well as what he is thinking whilst training at Battle School. Examples of this would be seeing Peter and Valentine implemented into the game, both symbolizing different images in Ender’s perception. In regard to the “End of the World,” Ender is able to replay the final chapter of his Command School life in order to cope with how he feels he is similar to Peter, due to his unintentional destructive nature and demise of the bugger world. While Card tackles many different themes and concepts throughout the novel, his most powerful literary elements are symbolism, and the theme of perception of reality which he exhibits through a variety of characters, and concepts.

The Mark of Isolation in Adolescence

Adolescence marks a time for social interaction. Between school, sports and other activities, these social settings are the platform for peer groups to form and either accept a child or create an outcast. “The peer group has been defined as the constellation of associates of similar age and interest” (Lombardi 307). When a child is simply different, they fall outside of this constellation of interest, and therefore, fall outside of the peer group as well. Depending on the stage of development, “peer group influence can be a most significant factor,” ranging from their effect on academic performance to the development of emotional intelligence in youth (Lombardi 308). In Mark Haddon’s “the curious incident of the dog in the night-time”, Christopher Boone clearly differs from other youth, and his disinterest in associating with others is readily apparent as well. While Ender Wiggin from Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game” also differs from other youth, he maintains an interest in forming bonds with others, and views them as useful for his personal development. This essay argues that even though both characters are isolated and considerable outcasts in their respective peer groups, in contrast to Ender Wiggins who despises his state of isolation and longs for the support of his friends and family, Christopher Boone does not comprehend or desire interactions with others due to his Asperger’s syndrome diagnosis.

As the first person narrator of “the curious incident of the dog in the night-time”, Christopher Boone’s Asperger’s syndrome becomes apparent because of his disregard for social norms and desire for isolation from peer groups and society. He begins by explaining the mystery of the murder of Wellington, the neighbor’s dog. He fails to introduce himself as a character until after he explains Wellington in chapter one, thus displaying his pre-occupation with the subject matter, and failing to follow social norms where one would typically introduce himself first. When he finally introduces himself in chapter three, it is almost as if he is following a script starting with “my name is Christopher John Francis Boone” (Haddon 2). He proceeds to explain his interests as if he is answering a question before someone has the opportunity to ask it: “I know all the countries of the world and their capital cities and every prime number up to 7057” (2). These facts are as important to Christopher as his identity; they are the same to him. Christopher goes on to display pictures of smiley faces with differing expressions, explaining how he understands happiness and sadness, but cannot recognize the others. Christopher has significant difficulty recognizing emotions in others where “if [he does not] know what someone is saying, [he asks] them what they mean or [he walks] away” (3). These are the reader’s first hints at Christopher’s features of Asperger’s syndrome where he exhibits “difficulty in communicating, difficulty in social relationships, and often a lack of creativity” (Dosani 33). Although Christopher cannot express or understand his desires, he is “subject to the same hopes and feelings as the rest of us, but [finds] it difficult to learn our ‘social’ ropes” (McClure 1247). One can also assume an individual with Asperger’s syndrome lacks emotional intelligence, which Salovey defines as “viewing emotions as useful sources of information that help one to make sense of and navigate the social environment” (281). Christopher’s lack of emotional intelligence hinders his ability to establish relationships with peers, as he cannot relate to or even recognize emotions in others.

In contrast to Christopher’s inability to read others, Ender has an extraordinary ability to sense his opponent’s weaknesses and extort them when necessary. Ender understands that “no one but the enemy will tell you what the enemy is going to do…Only the enemy shows you where you are weak. Only the enemy tells you where he is strong” (Card 263). When Stilson begins to bully Ender, he evaluates the escalating situation where “anything [he says] will make it worse. So [he] will say nothing” (7). Stilson refuses to stop, and even though his entourage releases their grip, Ender takes them by surprise and “[kicks] out high and hard, catching Stilson square in the breastbone. He [drops]” (7). Ender realises he has to “win this now, and for all time, or [he] will fight it every day and it will get worse and worse” (7). Ender is able to evaluate that by taking his opponents by surprise, their strengths are insignificant. To win this, Ender “[walks] to Stilson’s supine body and [kicks] him again, viciously, in the ribs…Ender [walks] around him and [kicks] him again, in the crotch” (7). By shocking his opponents, Ender reduces the possibility of future retaliation by urging them to “remember what [he does] to people who try to hurt [him]” (7). In contrast to Christopher, Ender not only recognizes, but also uses emotions to his advantage. In combat, Ender must completely understand his opponent in order to win; he predicts the emotional responses of others and plans accordingly. The reader notices that Christopher struggles to comprehend the subjects of his investigation, which subsequently suffers. While the consequences of losing are significantly more serious for Ender, Christopher would not be able to accomplish the same emotional understanding even under the pressure of Battle School.

In the highly competitive and dangerous environment at Battle School, Ender’s desire for the support of friends and family is readily apparent while he faces bullying and isolation. Ender’s relationship with his sister, Valentine, remains important to him even in Battle School. Valentine acts as Ender’s protection at home, where if his brother, Peter, bullies him, she diffuses the situation and defends Ender. Although Peter bullies Ender relentlessly, Ender still desires love and acceptance from Peter. He believes that once the monitor is gone, “Peter won’t hate [him] anymore” since that would mean Ender “[did not] make it either” and is “just be a normal kid now, like him” (2). Ender clearly desires acceptance from his brother and others, even at the cost of Battle School. When Ender enters Battle School, he understands his family is not present, but he still “[feels] his family around him, as they always [have] been” (43). But, not even Valentine can defend or support him there, and “the fear [stays], all through dinner as no one [sits] by him in the mess hall. The other boys [are] talking about things…Ender [can] only watch in isolation” (41). As Bernard assembles a group of bullies, Ender begins to recognize that isolation in Battle School not only equates with loneliness, but vulnerability as well. Ender’s inability to fit in on Earth and Battle School puts him in numerous vulnerable positions. His fight with Stilson bears a resemblance to his one-on-eight fight with Bonzo and his friends where “[Bonzo] meant to kill [Ender]” could have ended differently if Ender had more support (Card 212). Maybe the fight would not have happened at all or more people would have been present to break it up. Dink stands by and watches the event unfold, but does not feel comfortable enough with Ender to actually stop the fight. Regardless, Ender’s forced isolation results in Bonzo’s physical injury and Ender’s emotional damage. At least on Earth, Ender has the support of Valentine. At Battle School, Graff prevents Ender’s relationships with his peers resulting in complete isolation. Like Christopher, Ender does not feel like he belongs anywhere; he views Earth “as a planet, like any other, not particularly his own” (Card 30). Christopher and Ender do not have a specific place to call home where they feel they belong.

While Ender desires the acceptance of his friends, family and Battle School associates, Christopher willingly places himself in isolation in order to feel calm and safe. By placing himself in isolation, Christopher avoids the stress of social interaction. He sometimes goes “into the airing cupboard in the bathroom and [slides] in beside the boiler and [pulls] the door behind [him] and [sits] there and [thinks] for hours and it makes [him] feel very calm” (Haddon 50). The reader is offered insight “not only into what makes Christopher tick, but also what makes him afraid, what comforts him and what gives him hope” (Dosani 33). He finds it easier to remain alone where he can “walk up and down the street and pretend that [he is] the only person in the world” (Haddon 2). The notion of being the only person in the world is a recurring idea for Christopher where no one judges him or considers him different. He desires a world where “nearly everyone on earth is dead, because they have caught a virus. But [it is] not like a normal virus…people catch it because of the meaning of something an infected person says and the meaning of what they do with their faces when they say it” (Haddon 198). This type of virus would leave Christopher and others like Christopher immune, then the remaining population would be “people who [do not] look at other people’s faces and who [do not] know what these pictures [of faces] mean and these people are all special people like [Christopher]” (Haddon 198-9). While Christopher clearly desires isolation, this also shows a kinship with others like him and his resentment of his social disorder. In his dream world, he “can go anywhere in the world and [know] that no one is going to talk to [him] or touch [him] or ask [him] a question” (Haddon 199). Christopher can do whatever he wants because no one is alive to stop him. This concerning and morbid perspective on society is due to Christopher’s desire to escape the judgement he faces from his peers. This feeling is common among those with Asperger’s syndrome, where “someone speaks to [him], but [he cannot] listen, unless [he avoids] eye contact. If [he looks] at them, [he cannot] ‘read’ their face. [He cannot] control [his] own, so [he looks] bored when [he is] interested” (McClure 1247). The stress of social interaction forces Christopher to resort to coping strategies, which soothe his anxiety.

While Ender and Christopher differ in many ways, they both excel with and rely on mathematics and numbers in times of anxiety and isolation. Mathematics represents logic and order. When Ender finds himself in times of stress, counting soothes his anxiety. When Peter torments him, “Ender [does] what he always [does]…He [begins] to count doubles” (Card 44). The pattern of numbers removes his focus from the current stressor and places it on an attainable goal, counting doubles. Numbers have a cathartic effect for Ender, providing with a sense of control in an uncontrollable environment. From a young age, Ender focuses on mathematics where “Valentine had taught him arithmetic when he was three” (Card 5). His ability to critically analyze situations results from his focus on difficult math problems from such a young age. He is able to see various angles from which he can solve the problem. For both Christopher and Ender, their mathematical and analytical abilities relate to success in society. Christopher equates his intelligence and mathematical strengths with the ability to “get a job and earn lots of money”, then he “will be able to pay someone who can look after [him] and cook [his] meals and wash [his] clothes” (Haddon 45). Christopher’s perception of success includes paying others to support him rather than struggling to maintain emotional relationships. He also poses that he could “get a lady to marry [him] and be [his] wife and she can look after [him] so [he] can have company and not be on [his] own” (Haddon 45). Rather than marry for love as most attempt to do, Christopher views marriage as a business transaction; if he provides her with A, she must provide him with B. He understands he cannot be alone, but simultaneously lacks the ability to sustain emotional relationships. In contrast to Christopher whose superior math abilities result from the disorder which isolates him, Ender’s isolation becomes the means of preserving his creativity since “isolation is––the optimum environment for creativity” (Card 149). Graff struggles with the balance between Ender’s creative and analytical abilities, deciding to “isolate him enough that he remains creative…At the same time…make sure he keeps a strong ability to lead” (Card 27).

Mathematics and numbers represent a source of sensibility and reliability unlike human interaction, which is unpredictable and requires the intuition that Christopher does not possess. Numbers are analytical rather than creative; they remain unchanged by emotion or opinion; one can always assume that two comes after one, unlike social interaction where Christopher cannot assume all of the possible meanings of a peer’s words. His obsession with prime numbers carries through “the curious incident of the dog in the night-time” as Haddon only uses prime numbers for the chapters. Christopher notes that “prime numbers are what is left when you have taken all the patterns away…prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules, even if you spent all your time thinking about them” (Haddon 12). While numbers remain consistent, Christopher also notes patterns, which he does not comprehend. This is his comparison between numbers and social interaction, where there are obvious patterns present, but Christopher cannot decipher them. Prime numbers are not only a symbol for Christopher’s minimal understanding of society, but also him as an individual. Wolfram MathWorld defines a prime number as “a positive integer having exactly one positive divisor other than [one], meaning it is a number that cannot be factored.” Mathematics recognizes prime numbers as different from composite numbers; if Christopher identifies with prime number, he recognizes his difference and separation from his peers. Furthermore, significant debate remains over the number one and whether it is prime or not. Wolfram MathWorld defines the number one as “a special case which is considered neither prime nor composite”; one remains in isolation as the only number of its kind, it cannot identify with prime or composite numbers. While Christopher desires this number one position, seeking isolation is space as an astronaut, he currently represents a prime number amongst composites, where he notes the existence of other primes like himself, but they do not interact. In contrast to Ender, Christopher does not have the option of going to space, even though he wishes to be an astronaut where he would be alone. Even though he “would have to talk to other people” he “would do that through a radio linkup and a TV monitor, so they [would not] be like real people who are strangers, but it would be like playing a computer game” (Haddon 51). Ender understands that computer games can be more realistic than one would expect. While Ender is not an astronaut, Graff chooses him to leave his family and attend Battle School in space, where he practices for battle with computer games and also represents a prime among composites. Graff relentlessly struggles between maintaining Ender’s leadership qualities and creativity. His leadership requires interaction with peers, while “Graff [has] deliberately set him up to be separate from the others boys, made it impossible for him to be close to them…It [makes] him a better soldier than he would ever [be] otherwise. It also [makes] him lonely, afraid, angry, untrusting” (Card 167-8). Ender clearly has no option in the matter, even if he attempts to make friends; Graff stops him at every turn. His helplessness in this situation reminds the reader of his adolescence.

Whether by choice or by force, the isolation of both Christopher and Ender has a significant impact on their individual development. While Christopher does not understand social interactions, the reader can sense his desire to understand and have “company and not be on [his] own” (Haddon 45). He inadvertently expresses dislike for his Asperger’s syndrome, which forces his isolation. While he knows his limits with social interaction, he does attempt to further his knowledge and ask others what they mean. Asperger’s syndrome has definitely hindered Christopher’s ability to flourish as a child. Mark Haddon allows the reader to enter the mind of a child with Asperger’s syndrome and we can sense the frustration. The scattered thoughts and images throughout the novel make it difficult to follow, but that is entirely the point. On the other hand, Ender Wiggin strives for friendships, especially while attending Battle School, but Graff prevents these bonds from forming. While Ender flourishes as a solider, his psyche suffers significantly. He not only misses his sister, Valentine, but also bounces back and forth between leadership roles and isolation in Battle School. Friendships and bonds typically form at school, but Ender does not have the same experience as most children due to his gifted status. Both of these children lead far from average lives as Christopher struggles with Asperger’s syndrome and Ender remains a child prodigy. While adolescence marks a time for social interaction, it also marks a time for self-discovery.

Homophobia in Ender’s Game

Ender’s Game, a novel by Orson Scott Card, is a form of anti-homosexual propaganda. The essay “Kill the Bugger: Ender’s Game and the Question of Heteronormativity” by James Campbell goes in depth regarding the ways in which Orson Scott Card’s thoughts on heteronormativity are reflected through structural subtleties in the novel. The 2013 film adaptation of Ender’s Game also includes an emphasis on the element of heterosexuality, which further enforces Card’s distaste toward homosexuality. Card’s anti-homosexual thoughts are expressed through the underlying analogies in the novel that Campbell mentions. His opinions are emphasized in specific scenes throughout the novel, as well as through Card’s production choice, to increase the significance of heterosexual relationships in the film. In the article “Kill the Bugger: Ender’s Game and the Question of Heteronormativity,” author James Campbell mentions several subtleties that, when read closely, point to Card’s continued insults towards homosexuals. Ender’s Game tells the story of Ender Wiggin, a six-year-old boy who is recruited to attend Battle School to train to command an army to attack a foreign planet. He is instructed to save Earth from the aliens who inhabit it, called the “buggers.” Implied by the title of the response article, the term “bugger” is perhaps the most obvious of signs. The word “bugger” is a British slang term for either a male homosexual or a practice of sodomy. Ender is instructed to violently murder all of these buggers, which implies Card’s desire to eliminate all homosexuals. As quoted in “Kill the Bugger,” literary analyst Norma Spinrad said, “It is difficult to believe that Card was unaware of the obvious sexual connotations when he named the aliens the ‘buggers’” (493). Card also likely included the buggers in the story to serve as a political scapegoat. According to Campbell, “the bugger menace is a propaganda ploy of the powers that be in order to frighten the populace, ‘because as long as people are afraid of the buggers, the I.F. can stay in power, certain countries can keep their hegemony’ (Card 110)” (500). As long as people are unsure of how to understand and react to homosexuals, the politically advantaged are able to stay in power. Card writes the story in such a way that the enemy defines the accepted community, which corresponds with a quote from an article Card published titled “The Hypocrites of Homosexuality”: “[Gays] must, in other words, obey the rules that define what that community is. Those who are not willing or able to obey the rules should honestly admit the fact and withdraw from membership” (Card par. 14). Similarly, Card expresses his feelings about homosexuals’ true purpose through Mazer Rackham’s monologue about strategies to kill the hives of buggers: “Murder’s no big deal to them. Only queen-killing, really, is murder, because only queen-killing closes off a genetic path” (Card 270). According to Campbell, “to Card, genetic potential is synonymous with real life” (503). By employing this viewpoint, Card is implying that homosexuals are worthless because they provide no pro-creational benefit. By stating that the buggers’ murder would be insignificant, he is once again expressing his belief on the worthlessness of homosexuals.There are also several characters whose traits reflect Card’s beliefs. According to Campbell, Orson Scott Card created the character Bonzo to represent the convergence of “homosexual desire and homophobic violence,” (496). Ender points out his physical attractiveness: “A boy stood there, tall and slender, with beautiful black eyes and slender hips that hinted at refinement. I would follow such beauty anywhere, said something inside Ender” (Card 76). When Ender is transferred from Battle School to the Commander School, Bonzo angrily says, “I’ll have your ass someday” (Card 88), which Campbell interprets as a sodomy reference by Card. When Bonzo enters the bathroom with his sidekicks to attack Ender, he chooses a time and place when Ender is most vulnerable: the shower. Campbell equates this scene to a prison shower fight or gang rape: “such acts have a violent and sexual component” (Campbell 496). Ender ends Bonzo’s life by kicking him in the groin, which Campbell sees as a further anti-homosexual symbol from Card. It is also arguable that because Bonzo dies shortly after making a violent homosexual advance on Ender, he is killed. This could be Card’s way of subliminally pointing out that homosexuals have an inevitable end, should they choose to act on their sexuality. Campbell also draws a parallel between the physical structures in the novel to homosexual innuendos. Campbell compares the layout of the battle room to sodomy, stating that this “may represent the biggest nudge and wink in the novel, the battleroom itself” (Campbell 497), continuing to explain that “it doesn’t take an unusually perverse reader to detect a sexual underpinning: the armies struggle until the stronger team penetrates the opponent’s corridor” (Campbell 497). Each player strives to shoot the other players to freeze them, and stop them from penetrating the opponent’s corridor. Campbell argues that this is a subliminal message from Card, implying that the common goal amongst humans should be to end sodomical practices. The players’ desperate attempts to stop the opposing team from penetrating their corridor could symbolize Card’s wishes that all homosexuals would stop engaging in such relations. In addition to the underlying analogies throughout the novel that Campbell mentions, there are several distinct scenes where Orson Scott Card’s negative feelings on homosexuality surface. When Ender transfers to the Rat Army commanded by Rose the Nose, he is told by Rose not to “screw around with his desk [computer]” (Card 101). All the other children then laugh, and Ender realizes it is because Rose “programmed his desk to display and animate a bigger-than-life-size picture of male genitals, which waggled back and forth as Rose held the desk on his naked lap” (Card 101). This scene makes the homosocial relations in the novel more literal. Rose uses his computer to show his masculine power, while explicitly telling Ender not to “screw” with his genitalia. Card writes this homosexual reference in a way that has the other children laughing at Rose’s phallic display, which pokes fun at homosexuality in a potentially offensive way. There are several other clear moments in the story where homosexuality is portrayed in a negative manner. Ender sends an anonymous message as “God” directed at Bernard over the communication system: “Cover your butt. Bernard is watching” (Card 55). This is a clear expression of Card’s opinion of the unnaturalness of sodomy. Since the message came from “God,” we can assume that Card finds it divinely wrong and inappropriate on the highest level. Ender responds to this message with “I love your butt. Let me kiss it,” (Card 55) sent from the name “Bernard.” This message angers Bernard and he sees it as a challenge to his sexuality, and more deeply, his superiority: “Bernard’s attempt to be ruler of the room was broken. Only a few stayed with him now” (Card 85). This demonstrates that the quickest way to undercut an enemy in this story is to accuse him of being homosexual. Card’s beliefs on homosexuality are expressed through the effectiveness of this method of attack, by implying that being homosexual is a diminishing quality. A third direct reference to the prohibited nature of homosexuality is demonstrated through another character interaction. When Alai sends Ender off to the Salamander Army, “Alai suddenly kisse[s] Ender on the cheek and whispered in his ear. ‘Salaam’” (Card 69). The word “salaam” means peace, which should bring a positive reaction to Ender. However, Ender feels oppositely about this interaction: “Ender guessed that the kiss and the word were somehow forbidden” (Card 69). Even though there is no direct disapproval from any bystanders, Ender feels deeply disconcerted about Alai’s display of friendship. Card is once again demonstrating that any same-sex affection, whether a sign of peace, sexual attraction, or friendship, is wrong and should not be tolerated.The film adaptation of Ender’s Game, directed by Gavin Hood, increases the role of heterosexual relationships – suggesting that heterosexuality is dominant over homosexuality. The sexual tension between Ender and his friend Petra in the Salamander Army is so prevalent in the film, and yet hardly noticeable in the book. When Ender enters the Salamander Army, Petra coaches him to bring him up to par with the other members of their team in the battle room. There is a lot of dramatic physical contact between Ender and Petra, and their eye contact is cinematically emphasized as well. Through these intentional, yet awkward interactions, Ender and Petra’s relationship is highly sexualized, and a strong emphasis is placed on heterosexual values. Even though this romance was not written as a significant part of the novel, Orson Scott Card was credited as a producer for the film, so it is likely that he either initiated or approved this insertion. Particularly because the characters are so young—especially too young to be engaging in romantic relationships— this romance feels forced, and likely has a different purpose than to add to the storyline. By emphasizing the value and importance of heterosexual relationships, Card is expressing his opinion of the superiority of heterosexuality over homosexuality, without being offensive. Since this was a multi-million dollar film, it is understandable that Card would not want to scare away his audience with blatant anti-homosexual references on screen.Many people are still against the film regardless. There is a campaign called “Skip Ender’s Game”, consisting of LGBT protestors trying to urge people against seeing the film adaptation in theaters, to prevent Card from earning more money. Their message on the front page of their website states, “Ender’s Game author Orson Scott Card is more than an ‘opponent’ of marriage equality. As a writer, he has spread degrading lies about LGBT people, calling us sexual deviants and criminals. As an activist, he sat on the board of the National Organization for Marriage and campaigned against our civil rights. Now he’s a producer on the Ender’s Game movie. Do not let your box office dollars fuel his anti-gay agenda.” Card indeed does have a history of fighting against homosexuality that likely influenced his writing. In 1990, he advocated the criminalization of homosexuality, arguing, “those who flagrantly violate society’s regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society.” In 2004, when Massachusetts legalized gay marriage, Card responded by saying the following: “So if [gays] insist on calling what they do ‘marriage,’ they are not turning their relationship into what my wife and I have created, because no court has the power to change what their relationship actually is. Instead they are attempting to strike a death blow against the well-earned protected status of our, and every other, real marriage. They steal from me what I treasure most, and gain for themselves nothing at all. They won’t be married. They’ll just be playing dress-up in their parents’ clothes.” In 2008 he stated, “Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down.” He was a member of the National Organization for Marriage from 2009 to 2013, and gave his support to a group tied directly to anti-equality activism around the country. These numerous actions that Card has taken against gay rights clearly demonstrate his honest feelings about homosexuality. His continued financial support to anti-gay activist groups proves that his support has not dwindled, despite his revocation of some of his stronger anti-gay remarks and his step down from his position on the board of the National Organization for Marriage anti-gay hate group. These politically strategic moves were conveniently timed to the release of his film, perhaps trying to minimize the bad press from the LGBT community. The “Skip Ender’s Game” campaign saw through these moves, and continued to discourage support from fans.The anti-homosexual references in Ender’s Game are congruent with Card’s history of activism, so it is doubtful that they were unintentional. As Campbell pointed out, there are many underlying negative homosexual references throughout the novel, but Card’s beliefs are also indicated through the distinct scenes mentioned here. Ultimately reinforced by the heterosexual relationships in the film adaptations, Card blatantly expresses his anti-gay beliefs.

Empathy for the Buggers: The Change in Ender Wiggins’ Morality

Orson Scott Card’s novel Ender’s Game features an intense change in the protagonist’s morality and motivation. Prior to interacting with the alien race, the Buggers, Ender has a very logical, and strategic approach to his problems. He chooses to see the utilitarian picture, rather than focus on the details or the potential pain his victims may be in. However, this mindset changes once he begins to interact with the race he is fighting against and eventually destroys. The buggers begin to infest his dreams, causing him to learn from them and begin to be able to communicate with them. This causes him to have a volatile reaction when he unknowingly commits genocide, as he no longer has the solely utilitarian and unemotional mindset. Instead, Ender has become empathetic and connected to the Buggers which allows him to communicate with the Buggers at the end and choose to help them restart their civilization.

Even at a young age Ender displays a strategic-type mindset—one where he chooses to focus on the future and self-preservation. He enlists this approach during his first attack once his monitor is removed. Although he severely injures his attacker, he claims his reasoning for doing so was not out of malice, but rather a method to ensure he is never attacked again, “Knocking him down won the first fight. I wanted to win all the next ones, too, right then, so they’d leave me alone” (Card 23). Although he shows some remorse and empathy when he compares himself to his violent older brother Peter, this does not stop Ender from repeating the same mindset in similar situations. Later when Bonzo attacks him, Ender ends up killing him. Although he claims the death was unintended, Ender expresses before the fight that he knows what he must do, “If I’m to walk away from here, I have to win quickly, and permanently” (Card 284). Even though Ender reacts to the death by claiming he is done with war, this act was not enough to end his mindset as he is manipulated back into training by being told that his help could end all the wars to come. This shows that despite severely hurting others, Ender’s mind is focused on the big picture.

This big picture thinking is reflective of how a general views strategy—Ender treats every fight as if it is a battle in a larger war. Ender believes that to end a war, the battles must be fully destructive so that the enemy will not and cannot return. Ender displays this type of thinking during his war games and even his social interactions. When he first arrives at the training academy, he instantly begins to evaluate his social standing and start to make strategic choices as to assert himself. When his peers try to give him the worst bed area, he thanks them instead—learning how to win each social battle so he can win the war. Even in the war games, Ender focuses on ways to completely obliterate each team he fights in the most efficient way possible. This shows that his militaristic and logical way of thinking has seeped even beyond self-preservation—it consumes every thought and action, showing how his morals are based mostly on what can result in the most efficiency and most personal benefit.

Ender’s mindset stays predominantly strategic and unempathetic throughout the book, however, he does start to develop more empathy and start to drift away from his established way of thinking once the Buggers start to communicate with him. As the Buggers start to learn more about Ender, Ender starts to understand them more and starts to consider if killing them would be wrong. He begins to wonder whether the Buggers can actually communicate, and if they had realized humanity was an intelligent race which is why they hadn’t attacked again. This type of trying to understand his enemy, displays that Ender begins to develop more empathy and less of a “what is best for the majority” mindset. This type of change continues until the genocide of the Buggers.

When Ender unknowingly destroys the Buggers, he is distraught and completely enraged for he understands his enemy and has developed a greater sense that he shouldn’t begin harming people unless absolutely necessary. Due to his morality shift Ender is furious when he discovers that his training simulations were all real and he actually killed all of the Buggers, “I didn’t want to kill them all. I didn’t want to kill anybody! I’m not a killer! You didn’t want me, you bastards, you wanted Peter, but you made me do it (Cord 456). Following his breakdown, Ender goes into a deep sleep, unable to cope with the knowledge that he had destroyed an entire race who could communicate and were not going to attack humanity again. Once Ender comes to terms with what he has done, he chooses to continue in a life far from war or anything similar, showing that killing the Buggers truly affected him and changed his perception of life and the people around him.

When Ender finally stumbles upon the last remaining hope for the Buggers’ race—the last Queen egg—he has no debate as to whether or not he will help them restore what they had lost. His first question is, “How can you live again”, showing his eagerness to remedy his crime against the Buggers—something he never would have done prior to encountering them earlier as restoring the Buggers could result in vengeful destruction of the human race. Instead, Ender embarks on a mission to help others see and understand the Buggers as he does, so that he can peacefully restore the alien race. He writes “Speaker for the Dead”, an account of the Buggers’ lives, mistakes, and their side of the Bugger Wars. By doing so, Ender displays his complete moral change as he no longer focuses only on his own preservation and the utilitarian approach. Following his encounters with the Buggers, Ender develops a greater sense of empathy and understanding—making him detest war and try to fix his past actions.

Ender’s Game details the moral journey of its titular character, showing how a young boy can grow up with a strategic mindset perfect for war, yet lacking in personal empathy and understanding that hurting others can take serious tolls. Only by encountering the Buggers, first by dream-communication where he starts to understand them and their motivations does Ender’s mindset begin to shift. Eventually, Ender’s approach to the world is completely altered when he unknowingly destroys the entire Bugger race and he starts to realize the consequences of focusing on logical reasoning and future self-preservation. Finally, when Ender finds the new queen, his new mindset is set—being empathetic and ensuring the survival of everyone is now his new focus. This complete turnaround shows the growth and development of Ender as he navigates the world of war and its aftermath.

The Effect of Context on Characters’ Perseverance and Determination: Comparing ‘Ender’s Game’ and ‘Gattaca’

The true power behind the intrinsic relationship between a text and its context lies in its ability to evoke different responses form composers to the same universal message, as a result of the concerns in their respective social and political atmospheres. That is, a composer’s context is inherently linked to the representation of the characters’ personal determination to achieve beyond their society’s values of individualism and morality (or lack thereof). This is heavily explored in Andrew Niccol’s 1997 film, Gattaca, and Orson Scott Card’s 1985 novel, Ender’s Game, in which their dystopic societies offer a canvas to which characters can strive despite. This, however, is also altered between the two texts due to their contexts. While Gattaca alludes to the rising dependence on genetic manipulation and enhancement that compromises individualism and morality, Ender’s Game explores the same concepts differently through the lens of the Cold War. Thus, the character’s personal determination and resilience is illustrated differently as a result of their composer’s contexts.

Individualism is a highly distinguishable trait of any given character’s sense of resilience. That is, to be an individual in the face of a greater and seemingly more powerful society is an act of determination in itself, and Gattaca explores this thoroughly. The world created is illustrated as rather barren and sterile—despite its supposed “perfection”—through the use of indoor fluorescent lighting to create visually cool tones. This creates a setting in which there is a complete lack of any means of individualism and, thus, humanity, allowing the representation of the protagonists within the film to appear even more determined to strive against the odds. This illustration of individualism through such negative portrays of the lack of it is Niccol’s commentary that, if the extent to which scientific developments were taken was too great (and, at the time, that was a very real possibility), then the sacred value of individualism would be destroyed. Similarly, towards the end of the film, Eugene states, “I only lent you my body. You lent me your dream.” The use of a close up of his hopeful face ultimately shows that, despite the oppressive world that they live in, it is a commendable feat to be determined to achieve more than what society expects of you. However, this view is not replicated in Ender’s Game,” due to the composer’s different contexts. Though characters’ personal resilience is still praised, the concept of individualism itself is treated with more apprehension, as Card understands it to be a cause for isolation. “Peter won’t hate me anymore [now that I didn’t make it]. I’ll be a normal kid now, just like him.” The use of internal monologue allows readers to understand that, because Ender has such a great capacity and personal determination to strive above others, he is constantly alienated to the point that it ruins his entire sense of identity by the end of the novel. This is Card’s allusion to the fact that, at the time of writing, the Cold War created such a military focused society that people’s determination and “giftedness” became exploited and used as nothing more than weapons. Thus, the contrast between how individuals are portrayed in their texts as figures of resilience is great, due to the composers’ contexts.

Our morality is a universal issue that both texts explore and, more importantly, how the lack of it in any given society will inevitably lead to individuals to become more determined to value that above all else. Gattaca alludes to this lack of morality in society firstly through the repeated references to both the past and future, achieved by the sepia filter, film noir genre and older style architecture that is reminiscent of the 1950s. The allusion to such a time in which totalitarianism ideals were still very much relevant and, thus, led to discrimination of certain minorities, is Niccol’s attempt to represent his characters more clearly as their inner morality is emphasised in contrast to such a horrendous society. The allusions to the future, however, also shows that it is Niccol’s concern that, perhaps, if scientific developments were rapidly advancing the way they were at the time of the film’s production, it could potentially lead to a totalitarian society in which something other than our personal determination and resilience has total control over our lives. This is seen when Vincent tells Eugene that his invalid status will not matter on Titan. The mid shot of his determined features and the dialogue illustrate how Niccol responds to the potential problems of his context through the resilience and need for his characters to escape a society that, because of such scientific developments is ultimately corrupted and immoral.

A similar idea isnexplored in Ender’s Game, but with a much larger focus on the Cold war and that National Defence Education Program that arose out of it. The “gifted” children (namely those at Battle School) are a reflection of the Gifted and Talented program that many people in Card’s context saw as immoral, as they ultimately isolated and exploited children—the epitome of pure morality—all in hopes of winning a rather mindlessly destructive war. “Don’t you sometimes wish we were ordinary children?” The questioning utilised shows how the characters within the novel do have a determination to question their society, but ultimately lack the resilience to act upon it. It also evokes a sympathetic response from readers as they see childhood innocence through the atrocious and impure actions of the authoritative within the novel, which is a metaphor for that of Card’s world. The impact of military technology also plays an integral role in creating a world that characters can strive in spite of it, as seen through “Nuclear weapons, after all, were once weak enough to be used on Earth. The Little Doctor could never be used on any planet.” The high modality of “never” reflects Card’s concern that, without individuals who dare to challenge such a military focused society, weapons will be made with incomprehensibly atrocious consequences on our morality. Thus, Card and Niccol both emphasise the importance of one’s moral determination, but the ways in which this is done differ as a direct reflection of their contexts.

The idea of personal determination and resilience is a concept that is explored across both time and place. However, as Andrew Niccol’s Gattaca and Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game shows, this is done in varying ways due to their contexts. Ultimately, one’s morality and individualism is key to creating change, and we can see that a universal message is being portrayed through a medium that we, as responders, understand as the text.