by Orson Scott Card
Strength and Skill Quotes in Ender's Game
How we cite our quotes: (Chapter.Paragraph)
So it was from the buggers, not the humans, that Ender learned strategy. He felt ashamed and afraid of learning from them, since they were the most terrible enemy, ugly and murderous and loathsome. But they were also very good at what they did. To a point. (11.113)
This is like a one-two punch, reminding us how good Ender is at what he does. How good? Well, for one thing, he’s so good that he can no longer learn from humans. (Which is a fun line we suggest you try out in class: “Can I be excused from class – I can no longer learn from humans.”) For another thing, Ender is so good that he can pick out problems with the buggers’ strategy. For us, this is a reminder that Ender’s so good that he’ll win everything. But this does raise a question: if we’re so sure that Ender is going to win, why do we keep reading?
He thought of a half dozen ideas before he went to sleep. Ender would be pleased – every one of them was stupid. (11.233)
This is not the first time that the book makes the connection between something smart and something stupid. (See also 7.269.) See, if everyone uses the same strategy (which is the buggers’ method), then there’s not going to be any good way to win. Ender – who is so darn smart and skillful – sees that there might be some value in trying out new things that seem stupid. This shows us how smart Ender is. He can see potential value where others can’t, and he seems to realize that the games are a good place to experiment.
Still, thinking back on his life in Battle School, it occurred to him that although he had never sought power, he had always had it. But he decided that it was a power born of excellence, not manipulation. (13.205)
Ender’s very good at what he does, but this raises a problem for him – because what he does isn’t very nice and it reminds Ender of what Peter would do (there are zero WWPD bracelets, we can assure you). In order to feel less like Peter, Ender comes up with a distinction: I have power because I’m excellent, whereas Peter has power because he’s manipulative. Now, this doesn’t entirely seem convincing to us – after all, Peter is excellent at what he does. (Like figuring out secret troop movements by looking at ordinary train schedules.) Not to mention, Ender can be manipulative, too. (Remember, he starts out being friends with Alai because it’s a way to undermine Bernard’s authority.) In some ways, the fact that Ender is uncomfortable here just shows us one potential downside of being so successful: he’s responsible for what he does to other people.