Ender's Game Theme of Warfare
The most important part of Ender’s life is the war against the buggers. If there were no war, then Ender wouldn’t go to Battle School. (Heck, if there’s no war against the buggers, then the government wouldn’t have authorized his parents to have a third child. So no war = no Ender.) Interestingly, in Ender's Game we never get to see the war against the buggers directly. Ender watches some video of the earlier bugger invasions, and then we see the Third Invasion through a computer simulation that’s made to look like a game. The only war we ever see directly is the other war that Ender fights every day – the war against the other children, against his brother, against himself. Ender’s entire life is made up of these little battles.
Ender's Game also raises questions about the ethics of certain tactics in battle. Is it OK to invade the bugger planet when they haven't been bothering Earth in almost a hundred years? Is it acceptable to kill off the entire alien species? Is it necessary? There's plenty about this in the book, but for some extra brain snacks, check out what Orson Scott Card thinks:
I'm trying to tell people that it's a very hard decision, but that a species has a right to do what is necessary to protect its own survival. […] The challenge to decent people is to recognize when the danger is real and there is no alternative but destruction.
I wonder if there has ever been a time in human history when utter destruction of an enemy was required. Usually all that is required is the destruction of an enemy leadership that seeks genocide against you, and then decent treatment of the replacement government. […] In the Ender series, however, we're talking about interspecies conflict, not intercultural. […] IF we met such a species, and the only way to stop them from destroying our genetic heritage completely were to destroy theirs, then I believe, morally, we would be completely justified in doing so. At the same time, we have the moral obligation to make sure that we do not pose the same threat to others. (Read more here)
Questions About Warfare
- Are there any characters whose lives are not talked about in terms of war?
- Is Ender the character whose life is most involved in the war? What about Mazer?
- We tend to think of Ender’s relationship with bullies as being warlike. (For instance, when Ender battles Bernard via rumor, he says that Bernard is “contained,” which is a pretty significant word from the Cold War between the US and USSR since the US had a policy of containment.) How is Ender’s relationship with bullies shown in this book? Is it fair to say that Ender is at war with these bullies? Do the bullies know they’re at war?
- Ender fights (according to him) to win. He doesn’t fight according to the rules of war and he doesn’t fight with honor (12.223). How do you feel about Ender’s ruthlessness? Does the book make us think that Ender is right to fight this way?
- Are there benefits to going to war? Dink claims the war is a scam meant to give power to the military. Does anyone else benefit from this imagined war? Does being at war help any of the students who are preparing for it?