by Orson Scott Card
Ender's Game Theme of Manipulation
You can almost count the number of times that adults tell Ender the truth on the fingers of one hand. Ender sums it up pretty succinctly when he notes, “I've spent my life as someone's pawn" (15.97). Much of this novel is about how adults manipulate Ender in order to fulfill their needs; they trick him and lie to him and tell him just enough so that he can defeat the buggers. Basically, manipulation in Ender’s Game is a gray area. On one hand, it seems wrong to lie to and cheat a kid. On the other hand, the adults manipulate him to ensure the survival of the human race. Does that make it OK?
Besides the manipulative relationship between the adults and Ender, there are a number of other relationships full of manipulation: Peter (sort of?) manipulates Val; Peter and Val manipulate the world; and, frankly, Ender manipulates a bunch of the other kids throughout the book. Manipulation sure sounds negative, but it sure gets the job done.
Questions About Manipulation
- Is manipulating others ever OK? This is another way of asking the age-old question "Do the ends justify the means?" In Ender's Game, do good things ever come of manipulating others?
- Imagine this: what if, at the end of the book, Ender found out that the buggers really were planning on killing off the human race. Then how would you have felt about the way Ender was tricked into destroying them?
- Ender notes early on that “sometimes lies were more dependable than the truth” (1.12). Are there other instances where this theory is proven correct? When does Ender see through others’ attempts to manipulate him?
- What ways do the characters manipulate each other? Are there particular characters that are better at doing so? What makes them better?
- Some characters claim they’re manipulating people for their own good. For instance, Graff notes that he’s proud of his job in breaking down little kids because they’re better afterward (4.11). (We assume he means they are better soldiers.) Do you think this book supports that view of manipulation?
- Manipulation in Ender’s Game is sometimes generational. You know, the young folks get manipulated by their elders. This is one of the reasons why Petra claims teachers are the enemy. But is that a really fair description? Is manipulation here mostly generational? Is it mostly the adults tricking the kids? Is it fair to say that someone who manipulates you is your enemy?