by Orson Scott Card
Ender's Game Theme of Strength and Skill
No one can beat Ender – not at anything. Ender is the smartest boy in the world, but he also has some serious hand-eye coordination, is very empathic and caring, and, um, is the best killer out of all the Battle School kids. This might strike you as a little unfair to every other character in Ender's Game, as if Orson Scott Card was tipping the scales a little too much for Ender. Sure, we could look at it like that. But how about this: even though Ender is so amazing at everything, he’s really not a happy little boy. The Battle School is set up so that genius kids will compete to see who’s the best, but just because Ender ends ups winning all the competitions doesn’t mean we should envy him. Maybe there’s something else to life than being the strongest and most skilled. But what could that be?
Questions About Strength and Skill
- Well, we’ve said that Ender is the best, and he certainly seems to be the best at Battle School. But is he really the best at everything? For instance, Peter seems pretty smart and Ender doesn’t appear to be able to beat him. Should that make us reconsider what we said about Ender? Is Ender not so great at some things? (Well, one thing does come to mind: Ender isn’t really funny.)
- What’s the relationship between being skillful and being in a community? For instance, Bernard isn’t very skilled or smart – he’s just mean – and that seems to win him some friends. By contrast, Ender is very skilled and smart, and he doesn’t have any friends at first. It’s only later, when Ender and Alai seem to match each other in how skillful they are that Ender makes a really close friend. Do people only make friends with others who are as smart/skillful?
- Did you ever worry that Ender wasn’t strong enough or smart enough to win the battles he was involved in? Not just the battles in the battleroom, but the battles against the buggers and the bullies? If you did worry about Ender, what in the book made you nervous for him? If you didn’t worry about Ender, did you find these battles boring? Or was there something else that grabbed your attention?
- Ender later declares that he used Petra up because she was one of the best. Are there any other examples of times when being the best seems to lead to some bad event? Is Ender an example of someone being so skilled that he ends up being broken? Or is Ender’s situation different from Petra’s?