Study Guide

Ender's Game Warfare

By Orson Scott Card


Chapter 1

I have to win this now, and for all time, or I’ll fight it ever day and it will get worse and worse. (1.78)

This is Ender’s justification for wrecking Stilson – to send a message to all the bullies in school. (He has practically the same thought with Bonzo and his gang: “If I'm to walk away from here, I have to win quickly, and permanently” (12.92).) Although Ender doesn’t plan to kill these boys, he has a notion of winning “for all time” that seems more like war than, say, like a game. So we see pretty early on how war is a part of Ender’s life.

Ender knew the unspoken rules of manly warfare, even though he was only six. It was forbidden to strike the opponent who lay helpless on the ground; only an animal would do that. (1.79)

Here Ender comes out and says it: when he’s beating Stilson, he’s engaged in “warfare.” (Eh, haven’t we all felt that way about other people at school?) What’s also curious is that Ender realizes he’s acting in a way that will isolate him. By conducting war in this way, he’s making himself look like a monster or an animal. This leads him to question over and over whether or not he is a monster.

Chapter 4

Ender felt sick. He had only meant to catch the boy’s arm. No. No, he had meant to hurt him. (4.66)

Here’s Ender fighting that internal battle with himself. Check out the argument he’s having with himself: I didn’t mean to hurt him… well, yes, I did. And we also see one of the effects of this war: Ender doesn’t like the dangerous, Peter-ish part of himself, so he feels sick when he acts that way. In other words, Ender has lost this little battle against that part of himself, and he’s his own casualty.

Chapter 8
Dink Meeker

"Because as long as people are afraid of the buggers, the I.F. can stay in power, and as long as the I.F. is in power, certain countries can keep their hegemony.” (8.162)

This is Dink being Dink – according to him, if everyone thinks the aliens are out to get us, then the military can effectively have control. And who doesn’t want to have control, right? Man, being in charge of everything is just super great. (Sarcasm alert.) This helpfully reminds us that the war (which Ender never really sees) is considered really important – but that no one else has really seen this war either. (With the exception of Mazer.)

Chapter 9

Ender never surrendered to Peter, but I have turned, I've become part of him, as Ender never was. (9.266)

Ender isn’t the only one facing a war; Val has her own war against Peter, but hers takes a different turn. Now, let’s be honest here. Are Peter and Val really at war? Well, they’re not shooting at each other or putting mines in each other’s bedrooms, but notice that, even if Val isn’t shooting at Peter, she’s thinking about her relationship as something like a war: she’s “surrendered.” Why is their relationship sometimes described in such terms?

Chapter 11

They couldn't beat him in the battleroom, and knew it – so instead they would attack him where it was safe, where he was not a giant but just a little boy. (11.108)

This nicely contrasts two areas where Ender is at war: he’s at war in the battleroom (in the game) and he’s at war in the rest of his life (with the other kids). According to this quote, Ender is more vulnerable in the rest of his life than he is when he’s playing a war game. So in a strange way, Ender seems safer when he’s fighting a war…

Chapter 12

[…] the power to cause pain is the only power that matters, the power to kill and destroy, because if you can't kill then you are always subject to those who can, and nothing and no one will ever save you. (12.110)

Here’s a philosophy that Ender tries out for a while – that the power to kill is the only real source of power. In other words, war (in some form) is the ultimate basis for all relationships. This might be a momentary position of Ender’s, but it seems to match up with a lot of his relationships – even the one with himself. But does he hold onto this thought?

Chapter 13
Ender Wiggin

"Maybe they gave up and they're planning to leave us alone." (13.253)

This is Ender’s (correct) guess about the buggers. This hints at Ender’s big wish in his wars: that people would just leave him alone. For instance, he fantasizes about Peter leaving him alone (1.16) and he cries out to Dink that he didn’t want to attack Bonzo and wished that people would just leave him alone (12.122). What’s curious here is that Ender’s personal enemies simply won’t do that, but the buggers really are leaving humans alone.

“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it's impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves. And then, in that very moment when I love them –"

"You beat them." For a moment she was not afraid of his understanding.

"No, you don't understand. I destroy them. I make it impossible for them to ever hurt me again. I grind them and grind them until they don't exist." (13.127-129)

Ender may be a product of war, and he may be very good at it, but in some ways, he’s also a casualty. Think about it. If Ender loves the enemy, then destroying the enemy is always going to be a little painful. (Or very painful.) This is part of why Ender seems like a sad character in this book: the thing that he’s so great at (war) is painful. (Although the fact that we see Ender’s pain but not the pain of, say, Stilson, does strike us as a little odd. It’s important to remember that Ender isn’t the only casualty of his wars.)

Chapter 14
Mazer Rackham

"You made the hard choice, boy. All or nothing. End them or end us. But heaven knows there was no other way you could have done it. Congratulations. You beat them, and it's all over." (14.374)

OK, let’s get it out there: how does Mazer know that “there was no other way you could have done it”? Well, that tiny genocidal mistake to one side, Mazer shows us here how all of Ender’s wars work: there’s no such thing as a limited war with Ender – it’s all or nothing. (And usually it’s all.)

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