Orson Scott Card & Ender's Game

Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead describe the maturation of a child, from six years old to a powerful and intelligent agent of interplanetary democracy. In Ender's Game, Card illustrates a child named Ender who is raised by the military that unwillingly executes genocide on an entire alien species. In Speaker for the Dead, the sequel, Card continues the theme of leadership as he describes Ender as the assertive, wise, intellectual disciple of peace. Orson Scott Card's Ender is a dynamic character imbued with innocence, who challenges the reader as they struggle to decide whether or not Ender's actions were particularly purposeful or accidental. To fully analyze the structure of this dichotomy, Ender's character must be examined thoroughly. This examination will use the hero monomyth as extrapolated by Leeming (1981). As well, the way in which Card uses science-fiction form must also be examined because it will provide a critical outlook regarding the way in which Ender is oriented. This critical analysis will argue that Ender was portrayed innocently, even though he had committed genocide on the buggers, a sort of innocent genocide.

Narration in Ender's Game

Ender's Game

What provides Ender's innocence is the power of Card's narrator. First, the narrator is omniscient, which gives th reader the voyeurism of total intrusiveness. The reader's position not only an agent of all-knowing capabilities, but is later confronted with the realization that Ender exterminated an entire species, makes it difficult to consider it a ruthless or an innocent attack. In the introduction to Ender's Game, Card explains that "the novel's very clarity may make it more challenging, simply because the story's vision of the world is so relentlessly plain" (Ender's Game, p. xix). Due to the narration's particular clarity, the challenge of coming to terms with an innocent genocide is shocking for the reader and for Ender.

The level of interrogation is rooted in the ideological level throughout the narrative structure and the arrangement of events. Rose (1981) states that "as a genre, then, science fiction operates within the space of a basic contradiction in modern culture" (p. 44) and Rose concludes that these contradictions form the basis of which science-fiction concerns itself with the present reality. Likewise, in his introduction, Card challenges the criticism of a counsellor's stance against Ender's Game, stating that "it was important to her, and to others, to believe that children don't actually think or speak the way the children in Ender's Game think and speak. Yet I knew--I knew--that this was one of the truest things about Ender's Game" (pg. xix). Therefore, the structure of science fiction is ample in its ability to convey current contradictions of science (Parrinder, p. 25) when describing Ender as an example of the heroic monomyth.

Ender's Game follows the age-old tradition of the hero monomyth; through the use of the omniscient narrator, the reader is enveloped in Ender's struggle to realize ascension and redemption.

Firstly, in Ender's Game, Card begins Ender's journey with an unnatural birth (Leeming, 1981), as though Ender was one of the few who was lucky enough to survive governmental regulations upon child-bearing (i.e. the Third). Ender's character, through narrative devices, was constructed to receive as much sympathy as possible. Readers find that Ender, even though he knew he was merely six years old, proceeded to follow against warfare rules, as the narrator comments:

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 (Ender's Game, p. 7).

The narrator already creates a difficult situation for the reader to negotiate between Ender's innocence as a six year old or a child with the mentality of an adult, performing brutish acts onto another individual (Stilson and Bonzo) as a simple defense against "them from taking [Ender] in a pack tomorrow" (Ender's Game, p. 7). The omniscient narrator plots the coming of an innocent hero.

The Relationship between Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead

Secondly, he must pass through several initiations in order to ready himself against the forces of evil (Leeming, 1981). Throughout these initiation processes, the narrative structure attributes a level of innocence and patience in Ender; for example, the narrative sides with Ender, although it is supposed to be omniscient and overall neutral when the narrator states, from the perspective of Ender:

Again a blow to the head. It really hurt. Where was Graff? Then it became clear. Graff had deliberately caused it (Ender's Game, p. 32)

Again, similar to the way Stilson's carcass was discovered by Graff, Ender "had meant to hurt him" (ibid, p. 33). From this particular trial, Graff speaks to the "launchies" in admiration towards Ender's ability to exert force when needed: "I tell you Ender Wiggin is the best in this launch...don't mess with him" (ibid, p. 34). This strategic narrator presents trials which emphasize the sympathy a reader should feel towards Ender. These relentless attempts to construct an isolated character is done through the use of narrative strategy, as if the narrator is in struggle with the overwhelming explanation of the events which unfold once Ender is being engaged violently by others. On the other hand, in Speaker for the Dead, Ender is older, wiser, and is able to formulate his own responses to conflicting arguments against him. His initiations become the difficulties of maintaining a level of understanding with the church that rules Lusitania colony and with Novinha. The church and Novinha's interests are sacred. Ender is the agent of initiation, in which he forces the church to resign its powers against him or else he would take measures that would endanger their continuation as a church. In this sense, Ender's role is heightened significantly being the Speaker. The narrative structure in Speaker for the Dead does not comment heavily on his actions in Ender's Game, but develops Ender's sympathy in a way that is revered throughout the Lusitania colony.

The third stage of the hero monomyth is withdrawal from the community (Leeming, 1981). This separation from reality, the only reality that Ender has ever known, becomes a turning point of complete sympathy for Ender, as he is called upon to save humanity. In hero monomyths, the hero has a choice to leave for the fight against evil and the protection of humanity; however, the narration is constructed in such a way as to enforce the deception of Ender because Ender feels as though he has the final decision, when in fact his decisions were calculated responses. Thus, with a pre-determined response to Ender's decision about going to save the world, Ender did not have much of a choice to proceed with his role as hero. This is of central concern to the hero monomyth because the hero must make the decision to leave their community for a quest to save their community. Ender then leaves everything that was recognizably related to him and he even leaves his name, the method the narrator uses to describe the full isolation from his origins (family) and Earth. The narration is constructed in such a way that Ender realizes his role as commander. The way in which Card constructs the narrative organization is through Ender's first relations with the launchies. The launchies first become an opportunity for Ender to experience community with, but very quickly the notion of community disintegrates and Ender is left as isolated as before. When Ender does develop relations with the launchies, the sense of community merely introduces a new layer of isolation, one that is meant with discontent as his role as a leader. Ender, having experienced the same isolation that he was exerting on Bean, states that:

Ender could see resentment growing in the way the other soldiers shifted their weight and glanced at each other, the way they avoided looking at Bean. Why am I doing this? What does this have to do with being a good commander, making one boy the target of all the others? Just because they did it to me, why should I do it to him? Ender wanted to undo his taunting of the boy, wanted to tell the others that the little one needed their help and friendship more than anyone else (Ender's Game, p. 162-163).

It is clear that his self-awareness is one of the defining aspects that produce and reproduce his isolation, and in this way, he is in constant reflection about his duties as a soldier and now as a commander. These characteristics are the defining aspects that separated Ender from his community on Earth and further separated his interaction with his teammates and soldiers. Throughout the novel then, the narrative structure creates a patterned representation of Ender as an innocent bystander to genocide. These systematic representations in the narrative structure produce and reproduce the concept of innocence. Similarly, in Speaker for the Dead, Ender is once again called to save humanity in a more diplomatic way, however, his separation from society is now a choice. The entire sequel serves to imbue Ender with multiple choices, and one of the choices he makes is to be withdrawn from the community of Trondheim. The narrative structure is still constructed on the basis of innocence because Ender's actions in Ender's Game. His unwillingness to genocide had fractured Ender's identity with guilt, one that inevitably creates an innocent bystander of genocide. The narrator states "they had no idea how deeply the question of Ender's ancient and how he had answered it in a thousand unsatisfactory ways" (Speaker for the Dead, p. 37).

The following stage of the hero monomyth is the trial and quest (Leeming, 1981). In this stage of the hero monomyth cycle develops the necessary skills required to conquer the foe. Ender's trials consist of games on his desk and in the Battleroom. However, the nature of these two trials are different, as one game (The Giant's Drink in his desk) is used to relieve him of his psychological issues (the mirror with Peter), and the other game (the Battleroom and his role as commander) is used to facilitate his leadership qualities. When Ender has become comfortable with his community of Dragons, Graff creates difficulties and adjusts the rules for the games because Ender's team was getting used to the challenges. In a discussion with one of Graff's colleagues, his colleague says to him: "I thought we'd give him two years as commander. We usually give them a battle every two weeks, starting after three months. This is a little extreme" (Ender's Game, p. 172), which emphasizes how badly Graff wants to challenge Ender's role as commander. When Ender resists Graff's challenges, Graff makes the decision to disintegrate the Dargon Army, which is the final stage of his complete seclusion. The narrative structure enforces a level of intimate sympathy for Ender, which are fundamental in establishing his innocent genocide. Similarly, in Speaker for the Dead, Ender's trials concern themselves with psychological issues as well. His major trials are resolved very easily because of his status as a Speaker. However, Ender's trials personally are ridding himself of his guilty conscious. One of his trials is his relationship with Jane. Once he had shut off his jewel and having lost communication with Jane, he feels as though she is only his friend in times of his bitter isolation.

The Differences in the Experiences of Death in both Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead

Ender experiences several deaths (Leeming, 1981) in the games he plays, simulations that absorb his senses. In Ender's Game, Ender's deaths are psychological because of the games he continues to play on his desk. He plays them repeatedly, even though he knows that the games he plays are rigged. His intent is to win those games. The narrative structure consequently imbues Ender's understanding capabilities to a new level, which surpass the creator's understanding of the game; perplexed, Graff states, "What matters is that he won the game that couldn't be won" (Ender's Game, p. 66). Ender's game against the Giant is metaphoric of his struggle in the futuristic society he is in. He knows that the teachers have every single game he plays rigged, whether as a member of Dragon Army or by himself in the virtual games against the Giant. The narrator explains that, in the game against the Giant, Ender undergoes the following deaths:

Sometimes his head was dissolved. Sometimes he caught on fire. Sometimes he fell in and drowned. Sometimes he fell in, turned green, and rotted away. It was always ghastly, and the Giant always laughed (Ender's Game, p. 63)

Even in games, Ender is self-aware of his murderous intentions all the time; he says, "This was supposed to be a game. Not a choice between his own grisly death and an even worse murder. I'm a murderer, even when I play. Peter would be proud of me" (Ender's Game, p. 65). In Speaker for the Dead, Ender's deaths consist themselves revisions of the past, his relationship with his former crew members and how he had come to terms with them. Speaker for the Dead does not consist of very many deaths, partly because of Ender's apotheosis and his journey into transcendence, which he has reached near the end of the book. However, his innocence is constantly put into place, his loneliness and isolation from Ender's Game become distinctive formula for the narrator to utilize in order to position Ender in the position of the Gods.

Following Ender's death in Ender's Game, his eventual path into the descent into the underworld (Leeming, 1981) is accompanied by his obsession to redo and conquer beyond the level of the Giant's drink. His descent is marked by his continuation beyond "The End of the World." Even though Ender knew that he reached the door to the end of the world, he continued anyhow, furthering his descent away from community involvement even more. His immersion in the underworld is so severe that, while reviewing what the end of the world would be like, the narrator states: "as he thought of it, thoguh, he could not imagine 'just living' might actually be. He had never done it in his life. But he wanted to do it anyway" (Ender's Game, p. 74). In Speaker for the Dead, Ender does indeed descend into the underworld. The narrator constructs Ender's youth in relation to Novinha when she was a child. Novinha constantly goes through phases of complete neglect for her children, love for her children, and brutal isolation from the entire Lusitania colony. Like Ender, Novinha's character is perpetuated by guilt. She blames herself for the deaths of Libo and Pipo, which were not in her control. Like Ender, she feels responsible and through her, Ender descends into the underworld. The narrator explains that "[Ender] would go to minister to the girl Novinha, for in her brilliance, her isolation, her pain, her guilt, he saw his own stolen childhood and the seeds of the pain that lived within him still" (Speaker for the Dead, p. 64). The narrative structure that follows through in the Speaker for the Dead is completely omniscient, however positioning Ender in a delicate perspective of innocence, one that acknowledges that his genocide and his unforgivable guiltiness. He is constantly visiting the underworld as a sign of sympathy created by the narrator to justify Ender's unwillingness to genocide.

The following stage of the monomyth is comprised with resurrection and rebirth (Leeming, 1981). His entire role is justified through Mazer Rackham's doctrine that "Humanity does not ask us to be happy. It merely asks us to be brilliant on its behalf. Survival fist, then happiness as we can manage it" (Ender's Game, p. 277) because, when Ender adopts this belief, his role as a leader changes due to his unique ability to control entire squadrons and fleets with particular precision that Mazer Rackham viewed particularly alarming. He is given a new found sense of rebirth once he comes through his illnesses as he is fighting the buggers, unwillingly of course. On the other hand, in Speaker for the Dead, Ender's resurrection and rebirth consists of his relations with Novinha. Through her, he is resurrected and united with Novinha with their intent to save Lusitania by creating a series of rules between the humans and the piggies. Also, he is given rebirth because of his heightened position against the church and how much they relied on him to store their data and colony information. Furthermore, he is resurrected from the underworld with the Speaking. His role is magnified throughout the novel and yet the narrator continues Ender's innocence.

The final stage of the hero monomyth is ascension, apotheosis, and atonement (Leeming, 1981). In Ender's Game, Ender is increased in status for the creation of the buggers in another planet. The Hive Queen moves through Ender's mind in a series of uplifting motivations that make Ender realize that his role as a leader had now changed to a position of assistance. His apology to the Hive Queen becomes the rebirth of their species and the ability to allow them to live one more time, an opportunity for Ender to apologize to the Hive Queen. Portrayed in exactly the same manner as Ender's Game, Ender saves the Lusitania colony form imminent danger, which could have arisen, from the piggies, the Hive Queen, and the humans. Interestingly, the piggies have also come to develop a relationship with Ender, through his role as the true Speaker. The wives respect Ender and his treaties between the wives and the humans become very well coordinated, as they are able to live together without the need for the fence, and Ender finally reaches transcendence once he is able to lay the Hive Queen's egg and restore order to Lusitania.


Through the hero monomyth stages extrapolated by Leeming (1981), Ender's genocide was justified through the instrumental use of narrative construction of creating sympathy. In Ender's Game, Ender is constructed as having undergone loneliness, misery, and bullying; parental authorities and his teachers have equally abandoned him. The narrative structure produces a sense of sympathy for Ender and overshadows the genocide of the buggers, which the reader over-looks as a mistake. Through the use of the hero monomyth, Ender is granted apotheosis from the Hive Queen and is continued in his next adventure in Speaker for the Dead. His role changes from military to a diplomatic perspective, in which he unites the piggies and the buggers, as well as the humans of Lusitania. Ender is then able to reconcile the differences between Novinha and her children, he is able to break down the fence, save Miron from his electrocution, and resurrect the Hive Queen. In Speaker for the Dead, Ender romantically apologizes for his genocide and stands as the defender of Lusitania colony.

comments powered by Disqus