by Orson Scott Card
Ender's Game Theme of Community
A large part of Ender's Game is about Ender trying to find his proper place in the world – a community to which he can belong, a community where he can live without worrying about competition and manipulation and war. Now, we see Ender go through a number of communities in this book: his Earth-side school, his family, the various armies at Battle School. Each of those communities seems to have some problem. Then, at the end of the book, we get an entirely different type of community: the alien hive, where each bugger has its place and they’re all working for the queen. Now, there are issues with that sort of lifestyle. (Have you ever worked for a queen? It’s exhausting.) But we can see how that example is radically different than many of the other communities that Ender has tried to be a part of. Which raises the question: would Ender be happier as a bugger in a bugger community?
Questions About Community
- While most of the book may focus on Ender’s relation with the community (whether his family, the kids at school, or the armies at Battle School), what does the book show us about other characters’ relationships with communities? For instance, Petra seems to be something of an outcast in Salamander Army, while Dink keeps his toon somewhat separate from the rest of Rat Army. Are all of Ender’s friends outcasts?
- Ender notes (somewhat creepily) that Carn Carby is on “his private list of people who also qualified as human beings” (11.87). On one hand, this is simply because Carn is a gracious loser and not a bully. But on the other hand, this does raise some questions about human communities. That is, can people who are nice form a community with people who are bullies and jerks? At the extreme end of this question we could ask: can the humans and the buggers could form some sort of community?
- What kind of feelings do people have in communities here? Do people love each other? Or respect each other? Or is it enough to understand that the other has his or her own feelings? Does Ender’s invented religion of the Speaker for the Dead tell us something about community feelings in this book?
- One of the biggest issues in this book is about the relationship of a single person to the group. At the beginning of the book, the two voices note that Ender’s problem is that he’s too willing to submerge himself into a group (1.4), so they keep him isolated. Yet, later, one of Ender’s problems is that the group isn’t coming together (6.9). So which is Ender’s problem – that he disappears into the group or that he prevents the group from coming together in the first place?
- Graff explains to Ender that individuals are just tools that the species as a whole uses to survive (4.83). So the big, billion-dollar question is, what does this book tell us about the relation of the individual to the group?