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Ender S Game Theme Analysis Essay

Ender's Game

Mark, (8th Grade)
This book named Ender's Game is a science fiction book about a single boy. The author of this science fiction book is Orson Scott Card. Mr. Card has written four novels in a series about Ender and the story of his life. The publisher of Ender's Game is a big company known as Tom Doherty Associates, Inc. This novel is easy reading and is only 324 pages long. This book starts when Ender is only six years old. Ender's real name is Andrew Wiggin, but he was given the name of Ender as a nickname. Ender has one sister, Valentine and one brother named Peter. Ender loves Valentine very much and does not like his brother because he was very mean to Ender. All children wear a device on their neck that allows people to monitor their actions and intelligence. People do this because they want to get the smartest of all the children and make them into perfect soldiers and commanders. This is done because an alien race attacked the human race over fifty years ago, and humans want to be ready when the alien race named the buggers attack again. Will Ender be the only hope for the human race?

The protagonist of this story is Andrew 'Ender' Wiggin. Ender ages from 6 to 22 during this book, but in the last few sentences it becomes vague as to the time. He goes to school for six years training, at least that is what he thinks. Ender is a scrawny little, short and thin boy. Ender is a very confident and smart boy, smarter than all the other boys that he knows. He is afraid of his brother and some bullies at school, but he is fully aware that if he does not stand up to them he will keep being tortured. Ender is a very loving boy that loves his sister and loves his parents. He hates being called a third, but the name is given to him because people are only supposed to have two children, but the Wiggins were allowed three. He does not like being called a third, or any name at that matter, but he tolerates it. He does seem to be happy when he is around Valentine, but he is not overly happy all of the other time. Most of all, Ender hates being like Peter in any way because Peter is such a mean and bad child.

The antagonist of Ender's Game was the government. The government was in control of Ender from his childhood up to age twelve. The government tracked Ender using a device called a monitor which would allow the government to see and hear all the things that Ender does. Then, he was put to a test and he accomplished the test without even knowing about it. He was then taken to a school where the government taught the children and also had mock battles in zero gravity. In this Battle School the government tried to isolate him and kept moving him from group to group so he had to work to get recognized. The government then moved Ender to Command School where they lied to him. They said to Ender that this was just practice, but the game was actually real. The government believes that they are doing the right thing by isolating and lying to Ender.

The setting of Ender's Game varies greatly, because Ender Wiggin was on Earth, then he went to a school in space, then back to Earth, to another school in space and last of all to a distant world once occupied by the buggers. The season was not recognizable in Ender's Game, until Ender came back to Earth. It was summer or just around summer, this was shown by the heat and by sunburns that Ender got. The time was very vague, but it seemed to take place probably in the twenty-second century. This is shown through the advanced technology: the monitor, battleships, Dr. Device and other things such as computers. Most of the book took place inside Battle School, a very large school for very elite, young and smart children. The part of the book that took place outside was when he returned to Earth, and he stayed at a very large house, but the actual place was very vague.

The first rising action of this book is when Ender, after being taunted by a school, bully beats him up very badly over the monitor that was taken off of Ender. After the bully dies from the beating, the government keeps this from Ender so he believes that he is not a killer. Ender is then visited by a man from a military corporation, the International Fleet, named Colonel Graff. Colonel Graff convinces Ender to go with him to Battle School so Ender can be a soldier and help win the war when the Buggers, the alien race, comes. Ender goes with him, although unhappy to leave his sister Valentine whom he loves, and is also the person who protects Ender from Peter, his brother. When Ender is on the shuttle going to Battle School, which is in space, he is hit constantly by a boy named Bernard. In reaction Ender caught the boy's hand and threw him. Not aware of the absence of gravity, the boy flew across the room, hit a wall the wrong way, and broke his arm. Then, after the boy was taken away, the shuttle docked, and all the boys got out of the shuttle and they then had artificial gravity. Ender and the other boys were given all the information about Battle School and were put into groups. Ender was put into the same group as Bernard and Alai, a friend of Bernard's. During his time in this group he was the best and smartest of all the children in his group. During this time, they also had a game in the battleroom that was a war game involving two teams against each other. They played in null gravity with flash suits that when shot with a gun would freeze up the part of the suit that was hit. All the children also had a desk which had a computer in it. Ender used the computer to play a fantasy game. Through his whole time at Battle School he played that game, he had killed a giant, and gone to a place called the End of the World where he went into a tower of a castle and could never beat that castle. Through many months, Ender made a friend of Alai and almost of Bernard. He was then moved to another group, but he was promoted, thus he was with children that were nearly ten years old while he was only seven. He had a leader of this army named Bonzo. Bonzo did not like Ender, one reason for this was that Ender had practices with Alai and many other children on his off time, which Bonzo did not like. Ender met a girl named Petra who was his only friend in that army; she also helped Ender with his shooting skills in the battleroom game. Ender was later traded to another army where he was put in a toon, or a small group within a group with a leader named Dink. Dink also helped Ender with his skills, but Ender was still in his practice sessions with Alai and some other children. After a while in that group Ender was given an army group. His group had a little boy like him named Bean. He soon turned his untrained group into a group that never lost. After a long time, he was in a battle with twice as many children. He used a tactic to just win by entering the gate, which was the real way to win. After the battle, he went to sleep and after waking up he went to shower, but it was lunchtime so no one was there. During the middle of his shower many boys come in led by his old commander, Bonzo. Ender and Bonzo fought, Bonzo never even hit Ender, but Ender beat Bonzo very much, and after the fight, Bonzo was on the ground bleeding and unconscious. Once again, Ender killed a boy, but he never knew of this. During that whole time at Battle School, he was attacked many times because he was the best. A few days later, Colonel Graff entered his room after Bean had entered. Graff explained to him that he would go to Command School right away. Ender had been at Battle School for four years, two years earlier than all other children. After entering the shuttle with Colonel Graff, they go to Earth, much to Ender's amazement. Ender is on Earth for two months, during that time he rests and meets with his sister Valentine, whom he loves very much.

The climax of Ender's Game starts off with his meeting with Mazer Rackham, the one man who had won battles against the buggers. Mazer has stayed alive by keeping in a sort of hyperspace which only lets a few years go by inside the ship while the Earth ages many years. Ender learns more about the buggers and how they only have drones and a queen like a bee hive. Ender was also told about a new weapon called Dr. Device which would hit a ship then spread apart the atoms, then do the same to something that was close and keep doing so. Ender is put in a room where he will play a new game with ships and he is the commander. After a while, he is introduced to people that he will be playing with. The people are Alai, Petra, Bean, Tom, Shen, Molo and Carn Carby. They were all his friends that he had met at Battle School. They were assigned as toon leaders like in Battle School. During many months these children under the command of Ender fought and won every battle. When Ender woke up one day he was told that the last game, which will be centered on the buggers home planet is ready to go. When he got there, many people were at his room where he commanded everybody. The odds like in his last game at Battle School were totally unfair, but like in Battle School, Ender used the all attack at once in a bullet shaped form. He then deployed the Dr. Device on the bugger's home planet, which caused a chain reaction which destroyed the planet and all the bugger ships around the planet. Everybody started cheering, and Ender was told then that the game was actually real life. He was very distraught because he knew that he had killed many buggers on many planets and had let some humans die at the same time. Ender was so distraught that he slept for almost two days.

The falling actions started with Ender watching what he did, including the killing of Bonzo and Stilson. The second falling action was that Valentine; Ender's sister, was at battle school. Valentine made a proposal to Ender to go to one of the deserted Bugger planets to start a colony, with Ender as mayor. Ender had some doubts such as everyone he knew would be gone, because everything around the ship that he would go in would age fifty years while the people in the ship only aged two years. Although, he was unsure, he went with his sister to the new planet. After many years, when Ender was about 22 years old, he went out with a small boy on the new planet to look for more land. When Ender got out of the helicopter a little while away from the original colony, he saw something that looked like the skeleton of a giant. Then he went farther he saw a cliff and a castle tower, just like in the game at battle school. He figured out then that the buggers read his mind and made this place like that so he would see it He went inside the tower where psychically the dead buggers communicated with him. They said that they were sorry for attacking Earth, and they knew that humans would rebel, but they were sorry. They also said that they had left a cocoon that had a queen bugger in it, and they wanted Ender to find a safe place somewhere to let the cocoon hatch. Ender left with Valentine and the cocoon to start looking for planets to put the egg.

The protagonist has changed greatly over the course of sixteen years. Andrew 'Ender' Wiggin was a small boy when he came to Battle School. He tried very hard, gained confidence and became a great leader and tactician. Ender became much more self reliant in this time at Battle School. In Command School he learned even more, gained more confidence, and became even better at the art of war. When he won the war he was very mad at himself for letting many humans and buggers die. When he went away with his sister he became much more loving and was much happier. He loved his life at that time. Ender changed into a man that was loving and that learned to be more social. The antagonist, the government, changed very little through Ender's life. The antagonist changed very little because it is such a major corporation. They only changed by exterminating the buggers. After the war that was the biggest change, they went from a full on offensive to an end of an intergalactic war, and they were very happy.

The theme of the story can be interpreted many ways, and the author of Ender's Game believes that there is no theme. One theme of this book is that the government can control your whole life without anyone even knowing that they are doing so. This is shown through how the government pushes Ender to go to School. The government then changes the rules just for Ender to make it hard for him. Then when Ender goes to Command School they tell him that the game that he is playing is not real, but at the end of the school he is told that it was a real game. The government then keeps Ender against his will at the Command School. Ender, through all of this starts, to learn this, but only when he is told that Command School was not a game does he really figure out that he does not control his own destiny.

[Copyright © Mark, (8th Grade), 2001. Reprinted with permission.]


The concept of a game is the novel's major theme. All of the other important ideas in the novel are interpreted through the context of the games. Ender wins all of the games, but it is not so clear what that means. He thinks for a large part of the book that the games are no more than they appear, and he does not realize the real meaning of his final game until it is far too late. The difference between what is a game and what is reality becomes less and less clear as the story unfolds. The very first game played in the book is "buggers and astronauts," a game that Peter makes Ender play, and it is a game that all kids play. However, in Ender's case the game is more than it seems, because Peter's hatred for him is real, and he inflicts physical pain upon Ender in the course of the game. This is one game that Ender never wins.

At Battle School, Ender faces two different types of games. On his computer he plays the mind game, a game that even its creators do not properly understand and one that effects Ender's life in direct ways. It is through the mind game that Ender is able to come to terms with the changes that are occurring in his life and it is the images of this game that the buggers use to communicate with Ender at the end of the book. In the battle room Ender plays war games. These games are everything to the kids at the school. Their lives revolve around playing games, and so the meaning of the word itself shifts from a voluntary fun experience to a necessary and crucial aspect of life. These games and their implications cause Bonzo's death and create rancor and jealousy throughout the school.

Finally we come to the greatest games that Ender plays, while he is the commander of the Third Invasion. Playing these games is debilitating to Ender's health. He cannot sleep, he barely eats, and he is forced to be a leader and not a friend to those whom he cares for. Ender destroys the buggers because he wants the games to end, and he is successful, but if he had ever known that it was not a game he never would have participated. In the end it is not very clear how to separate a game from reality, for the playing of a game can have a profound impact on a life, and sometimes the game itself is reality.

The relationship between adults and children

Much of Ender's Game details the lives of children, and at every point they are contrasted with those of the adults around them. Although the adults often manipulate or control the children, this is not always the case. Peter and Valentine, two kids, manage to dominate the worldwide political system through their control of adults. Ender, who does not wish do exert influence over anyone, is brutally manipulated by adults, yet even they are aware of his superior intelligence. Children in this book are smaller than adults in size, but that is about the only difference. Their thoughts are just as real, and their emotions just as valid as their older counterparts. In fact, even the International Fleet commanders who use them are aware of this, because they are willing to place the fate of humanity in Ender's hands. Children must be taken seriously, for they are capable not only of killing, manipulating, and hating—the worst features of adults—but also of creating and helping.


Compassion is the redeeming feature in Ender's Game. Compassion is the theme that runs through Ender's life. It is the defining feature of his existence. The reason that he plays the games so well is his ability to understand the enemy and to inspire loyalty. More than that, it is compassion that saves Ender. If not for his compassion he would have been turned into an automaton; he would have become either a killing machine or a power hungry creature like Peter. Ender's compassion for the buggers makes possible for him to make up for destroying their race by giving them a chance to start anew. Graff's compassion for Ender causes him to seek Valentine's help, and her compassion in part is what saves Ender when he despairs. Even those characters who are not allowed to show their compassion, like Mazer Rackham, later demonstrate that they are capable of it, and it makes them human. Finally, the buggers demonstrate compassion to Ender, and this convinces him that he must make it his mission to see that their queen is found a safe home to start anew. Compassion provides hope for the future.


This is the dangerous theme of the book, the one that, if not overcome by compassion, will lead to the destruction of humanity. Ruthlessness is sometimes necessary, as in Ender's treatment of Stilson, but it is a last resort, something to be avoided at all costs. Colonel Graff, Major Anderson, and Mazer Rackham are forced to be ruthless in their treatment of Ender, but they do so in order to save humanity, and they have compassion for the boy even as they act. Only Peter is purely ruthless, and in him the danger of pure manipulation without conscience comes into full effect. Peter is able to gain what he wants because he does not care about others, and he will stop at nothing. Ruthlessness is the human condition devoid of its humanity, and it is the danger that threatens total destruction.

Friends and Enemies

In Ender's Game it is never entirely clear who is a friend and who is an enemy. Graff, Anderson, and Rackham, who are undoubtedly Ender's friends, appear to him as enemies and are forced to do so. Peter attempts to befriend Valentine merely to get what he wants, but she never forgets that he is not a real friend. Petra Arkanian and Dink Meeker are always Ender's friends, but at times he is uncertain of where they stand. But by far the most striking juxtaposition occurs with the buggers. The only enemy that Ender truly fears, the buggers in the end prove to be friendly. The earth's greatest enemy, the alien race it was at war with, turns out not to have been intentionally hostile. Card constantly proves that friends and enemies are not clear distinctions.


The question of what it means to be human is taken up several times in Ender's Game. In the first place, children are affirmed to be just as real human beings as adults, even as the children are robbed of their youth. It is, after all, a group of children who save the world. But more fundamentally than this, to be human is to have compassion. The ability to feel for others is the mark of humanity. Peter's humanity is questioned, while Ender's is what saves the planet. In the end, the buggers themselves suggest to Ender that if things had gone differently both races could have celebrated the other's humanity. Their compassion for the humans they killed and their sorrow over the war means that they are human, and this is why Ender feels the need to do something to help them and why he so keenly mourns his destruction of their race.


Ender is very much a representative of all that is good. He is filled with sorrow for any destruction he causes and wishes no ill to any other creature. He is good because he is kind, but he is also good because he makes the sacrifices that he has to make. It is good to do what is needed, even if what is needed does not seem right. Ender does not hate Graff or Rackham for what they did to him, because he realizes that they did what had to be done. At the same time, he is crushed by the thought that he wiped out an entire race. He is good because he is forgiving—he understands even those who hate him. Finally, Ender is good because he sees his evils and tries to remedy them. There is no idealized, perfect good in this novel. Ender represents the best that a person can do, given the circumstances of life.


Peter does what he wants. He takes power because he desires it, and other people's thoughts and emotions are only important to him insofar as he can exploit them. It is true that he makes a good ruler because he is not evil incarnate. Evil in this book is acting for the wrong reasons, regardless of the outcome. Although Peter saves lives by coming to power on earth, he is evil because he did so only out of expediency. Good can come out of evil, but that does not make the evil any better. Peter is an awful human being, but it just so happens that he makes a good ruler. What is scary is that an evil person does not care whether their actions are good or bad.