Published in 1985, Ender’s Game takes place in a future Earth, which has survived two encounters with an alien species they call the “Buggers.” In order to prepare for a third invasion, the government recruits exceptional children to train as future commanders. Despite their law of limiting two children per family, third children are allowed to be conceived only as a government experimentation of breeding a child genius whose characteristics would fulfill the requirements necessary for Battle School. Ender Wiggin is one of these “thirds.” Because of his status as a third, the first stage of Ender’s othering is his very existence, which excludes him from his general peers and siblings. Ender is constantly bullied at school by his peers for being the exception, which further alienates and “others” him.
The second stage in which he endures othering is when he is finally chosen for the military at six years old after the government’s constant monitoring of him since his birth – literally seeing through his eyes and his perspective. Whereas his older brother was considered to have been born “too cruel” and his older sister “too soft,” Ender’s exception as the combination of both his brother and sister, and thus to be chosen as the sibling to be in the military, makes him excluded by both his brother and his peers.
The third stage of Ender’s othering is at Battle School. From the beginning, the Colonel and other administration of the school intentionally manipulate his new peers so that he is yet again isolated. In Battle School, the children train by playing simulated games. When Ender proves to be the most exceptionally brilliant student in Battle School, he gradually rises to become the youngest commander in the history of the military, and is pressured to an extent that no other student ever was. All this excludes him from everyone else: “There were many who hated him. Hated him for being young, for being excellent, for having made their victories look paltry and weak” (205).
The Destruction of the Buggers
This “hatred” others him from everyone else – it is this very experience of being othered throughout his life that he is capable of utilizing theory of mind to the beings that everyone else considers the “others” as well, the Buggers. It was a manipulation by the military in order to train him to be able to see from the Buggers’ perspective, as Colonel Graff tells him: “We had to have a commander with so much empathy that he would think like the buggers, understand them and anticipate them…win the love of his underlings and work with them like a perfect machine, as perfect as the buggers” (353). Ultimately, Ender is raised to become the highest commander, and is given what he is told is a “final test” – a series of games in which he battles what he thinks are computer simulations of the alien Buggers. After he destroys the whole planet of the Buggers in a swift move, he is told the truth: it was not at all a game, but he has actually destroyed a whole sentient species. He is heralded as a hero on Earth.
Ender, however, is devastated and traumatized. The only remaining Bugger, the Hive Queen, seeks him out through what he later realizes is telepathy. She telepathically communicates the truth to him: Since the Buggers could not communicate with the humans through their minds, they assumed that humans were unable to communicate and thus not sentient beings. Additionally, she shows Ender through his mind that because the process of Bugger reproduction requires the males to die, male deaths are incorporated naturally into their reproduction systems, and thus they do not consider these deaths to be murder. It is by this reasoning that the Buggers did not know they were committing murder of the humans. They, too were trying to save their own race, and they too experienced pain and suffering.
When Ender compiles the Hive Queen’s truth into a book which comes to be heralded by the whole Earth, Ender now becomes despised and blamed as committing xenocide of a sentient race.
With the upcoming Ender’s Game film adaptation set to release in fall 2013, Orson Scott Card recently proclaimed that:
“Ender’s Game is an ‘unfilmable’ book, not because it’s too much violence but because everything takes place in Ender’s head. The biggest problem is that if you don’t know what’s going on inside Ender’s head, then it’s just the story of an incredibly violent, little kid. Why would you like him? Why would you care? Only when you know what he’s thinking does it become a story that matters.”
The “Universe” of Ender’s Game – The Government: