Study Guide

Ender's Game Identity

By Orson Scott Card


Chapter 1

Ender leaned his head against the wall of the corridor and cried until the bus came. I am just like Peter. Take my monitor away, and I am just like Peter. (1.82)

This is one of our first impressions of Ender. He's just been fretting about how Peter will react to the removal of Ender’s monitor, and now he’s worrying that he might turn out to be just like Peter. From the very first chapter, we see that Ender is almost as scared of turning into Peter as he is about being killed by Peter.

Chapter 4

He toyed with the idea of trying to be like the other boys. (4.17)

Most of Ender’s identity problems come from his worry that he’s a bully and a killer, like Peter. But here, Ender wonders for a moment about what it would be like to be “like the other boys.” (We guess he means to wonder what it would be like to be just a regular boy – though we should keep in mind that these “other boys” are also Battle School super-geniuses. Not exactly regular guys.) The fact that Ender only thinks about this here – this one time – shows how Ender is really much more worried about whether he’s going to turn out like Peter.

Chapter 6

I’m a murderer even when I play. (6.120)

All of Ender’s other games are war games, so of course he’s “killing” when he plays those game. When he plays the mind game, though, he tries not to be a killer. Whoops. When he kills the giant in the mind game, this shows to him (and some of the administrators) that he’s like Peter. (Or at least like Ender’s idea of Peter.)

Chapter 8

Instead, he found a mirror. And in the mirror he saw a face that he easily recognized. It was Peter, with blood dripping down his chin and a snake's tail protruding from a corner of his mouth. (8.220)

This is Ender’s worst nightmare – that, when he looks into a mirror, he’ll see Peter looking out. Now, this is the same mind game in which Ender killed a giant, so the game has some evidence that Ender is a killer, just like his brother. (In fact, Ender kills a snake in the mind game right before this, just like Peter kills small animals in Chapter 9.) Now, only the game tells Ender that he’s like Peter, while just about every one tells Ender that he <em>isn’t</em> like Peter. Interesting. What do you make of that? Who's right?

Chapter 9

There was more Peter in her than she could bear to admit, though sometimes she dared to think about it anyway. (9.63)

Ender’s the focus of the book, but his sister Val probably comes in second in terms of page-count. Just like Ender, Val worries that she has Peter’s hankering for power and violence. They haven’t yet started their Locke and Demosthenes plan, but Peter is about to convince her. (In fact, Val wants to be convinced (9.107), so maybe there <em>is</em> some Peter in her.) But here’s a slight difference between Val and Ender: in this case, the narrator seems to come out and say that Val has some similarity to Peter, but the narrator never ever says that about Ender.

Chapter 13
Peter and Valentine Wiggin

"You've been discovering some of the destroyer in yourself, Ender. Well, so have I. Peter didn't have a monopoly on that, whatever the testers thought. And Peter has some of the builder in him.” (13.140)

Now, it’s worth asking whether Peter was always a mix of builder and destroyer, or whether he’s been changing from his earlier days, when he seemed mostly to be destroyer. Val doesn’t talk about identities changing, so according to her it seems as if all three Wiggin children have been complicated all along – Peter was never a monster, even though he seemed that way to them at the time; and Ender was never wholly the saint that he appeared to be. Do you agree with that idea of identity? Or do you think maybe Ender and Peter have changed over time?

Perhaps it's impossible to wear an identity without becoming what you pretend to be. (13.40)

Val worries that she might be like Peter (let’s get rid of the suspense: she is). But here she realizes that there’s yet another danger: that she might become like Demosthenes, the paranoid, anti-Russian author that she’s pretending to be. In a lot of other books, this would be the big issue of identity, but here, this is a momentary worry. Again, the fact that worry about becoming Demosthenes isn’t a huge deal reminds us how important worrying about Peter is.

Maybe he and Peter and I are all the same, and have been all along. Maybe we only thought we were different from each other out of jealousy. (13.102)

Oh, geez. After all that worry – after Val said that Ender and Peter were opposites (9.240) – now Val’s assurance just crumbles. This used to be something that worried Val, yet now she seems fine with it. (See the next quote for a little bit of why.) But one additional curiosity here is that Val gives a reason why the three Wiggin children didn’t get along – a reason that has nothing to do with the fact that Peter’s a violent psychopath (though, hey, that’s usually plenty for us). That raises the possibility that maybe Peter isn’t a violent psychopath. Maybe they just misunderstood each other.

Chapter 14

“But Petra is Petra, and you are you."

"Part of what I am is her. Is what she made me." (14.274-275)

While Ender and Val mostly worry about whether or not they’re like Peter, there are occasional flashes of other thoughts about identity. Like here. Mazer and Ender are talking about Petra’s breakdown, and Ender worries that he might crack up too, since part of his training was with Petra. Ender doesn’t crack the way Petra does, though – he’s cracking, what with the crazy dreams and eating his hands during his sleep, but he’s cracking differently. Ultimately, Ender doesn’t seem like Petra, but this thought does raise some interesting connections between the themes of identity and community – as if a person’s identity were related to his or her surroundings.

Ender Wiggin

"I didn't want to kill them all. I didn't want to kill anybody! I'm not a killer!” (14.391)

What’s the difference between killing someone and being a killer? Ender admits to killing but keeps asserting that he’s “not a killer.” Basically, it seems like Ender is asserting that the difference between killing and being a killer is because he didn’t “want to kill them all.” Or is the distinction something else – is it a question of identity that Ender is refusing? (Like, what if you type – does that make you a typist? Well, maybe for the time that you’re typing it does, but what about after?) This is the major issue in the book, and it’s a question that we can’t answer.