When Ender personally encounters the last remaining Bugger, the Hive Queen, he discovers the truth that changes humanity’s perception of them forever, but which occurs too late. Through telepathy, the Hive Queen communicates with him:
“We are like you”; the thought pressed into his mind. “We did not mean to murder, and when we understood, we never came again. We thought we were the only thinking beings in the universe, until we met you, but never did we dream that thought could arise from the lonely animals who cannot dream each other’s dreams. How were we to know? We could live with you in peace. Believe us, believe us, believe us” (352-353).
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 that the Buggers did not know they were committing murder of the humans. In fact, the Hive Queen telepathically communicates to Ender her feelings for what she now realizes her species has done:
“There flashed through his mind a dozen images of human beings killed by Buggers, but with the image came a grief so powerful he could not bear it, and he wept their tears for them” (353).
Ender thus recognizes that the initial attack by the Buggers was unintentional, and yet the war had been incited and the humans had attacked the Buggers incessantly, as Malmgren observes: “Once Ender realizes that the war against the Bugger represents unprovoked species genocide on the part of the humans (“we never came again), he takes responsibility…” (21).
The truth behind the “others'” intentions, and the rationality behind these intentions, is revealed only through Ender’s communication with them. Orson Scott Card ultimately implies that the lack of this communication prevents one side from knowing or understanding the real intentions of the “other” – and instead, those intentions are misinterpreted, fueling misunderstandings on both sides. The words of Mazer Rackham, before the truth was discovered, exemplify the misconceptions humans harbored of the Buggers: “Compassion for human beings is impossible for [the Buggers],” (305). The Hive Queen’s evidently deep and sincere compassion for the human deaths which she communicates to Ender obviously defies this misconception. Additionally, Earth realizes that the Buggers were also anxious about protecting their own race and also experienced pain and suffering – therefore, the humans realized the effect of the xenocide. In this way, Card indicates that in reality, the misconceptions humans harbor of each other are as a result of an inability and unwillingness to communicate and to attempt to understand from their perspective, i.e. extend ToM to them. Ender’s eventual documentation and telling of the Hive Queen’s story releases the truth to humanity, inciting guilt for the genocide of a sentient race, and ultimately ostracizing Ender for “committing xenocide.”
Card ultimately demonstrates that the human race’s perception of the Buggers as the “others” obstructs humans’ capability for theory of mind. The same commonality or empathy in attempting to understand them and their intentions, which would be extended to one of their own, cannot be extended to the “other.” The factors that constitute othering, as demonstrated by Vermeule, create a barrier that blocks this extension: “According to the pragmatists, it is impossible to ground ethics in an absolute respect for common humanity…when one group might simply say, ‘But we do not view our enemies as people.’” (Vermeule, 25). In the same way, the human race did not recognize the Buggers as thinking, feeling beings, or attempt to understand them, until it was too late.