Ender's Game | Study Guide

Orson Scott Card

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Ender's Game | Chapter 1 : Third | Summary

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In 1991 Card added an introduction to the novel, though he gives the reader permission to skip it. He recounts how he developed the ideas for the book and defends his unusual portrayal of children, saying he "never felt that [his] emotions ... were somehow less real than adult emotions and desires." Card says people interpret his work in their own ways and he accepts it, calling the true story "the one ... audience members create in their minds, guided and shaped by my text."

Summary

Two unnamed people are talking about a child who could be "the one" to save the world from "buggers." This child is Andrew "Ender" Wiggin. Card introduces Ender as he is having a monitor device removed from his body. Ender is cynical about adults; when someone tells him removing the monitor won't hurt, he knows it's a lie, "But since adults always said it when it was going to hurt," he uses the lie "as an accurate prediction." He's right.

With the monitor gone, Ender feels no one will help him deal with his threatening older brother, Peter, or the class bully, Stilson. Both harass him for being a "Third." In this society parents need government permission to have three children, and Ender is his family's third child.

Ender is highly intelligent and ostracized by his classmates. After school Stilson and his friends confront Ender. Stilson grabs him and Ender kicks Stilson in the chest, knocking him down. Although he knows he shouldn't hit someone who's on the ground, Ender decides to do it anyway so the group will leave him alone in the future. He beats Stilson repeatedly, then walks away and begins to cry, thinking, "I am just like Peter."

Analysis

Although much of the book tells the story through Ender's eyes, Card starts each chapter with a discussion between adults. This allows him to share information Ender would not know and give the reader a broader sense of this world. It also sets a businesslike, almost harsh tone. The two voices are discussing a child they may treat horribly because they need him to save the world. This world is unfamiliar, but Card offers a few important clues in this chapter: Technology is highly advanced, population is strictly controlled, and the world is under threat from the "buggers"—a slang term referring to an enemy group. Human beings commonly use insulting or even racist terms to describe the opposing side in battle, but at this point it is unclear who the enemy truly is. Peter's reference to playing "buggers and astronauts" suggests the buggers are aliens.

The advanced technology is evidently not new, as the characters are not impressed by it. Some type of "monitor" can be attached to a child to allow a viewer to observe through the child's own senses, and desktop "screens" allow for three-dimensional presentations of information. Also, families are forbidden to have more than two children without government permission, which suggests a strictly controlled society.

In the midst of this unfamiliar world Ender starts out as a relatable little kid—someone the reader has seen before: the smart boy bullied by classmates. Ender's ruthless strategizing makes him unique. When he hits Stilson almost by accident and knocks him down, he is any other frightened small boy. Once he considers the ramifications of his behavior and deliberately beats Stilson into unconsciousness, he crosses into uncharted territory. Card asks the reader to sympathize with Ender. He didn't want to be violent. This will prove to be a constant dilemma for Ender—his talent for battle paired with his abhorrence of hurting others. After the fight Ender fears he is no different than his big brother Peter.

Peter looms large in Ender's life. Some of Peter's actions—making Ender play games he doesn't like—seem like typical brotherly behavior. However, the unidentified voices say both Ender's brother and sister "tested out impossible" for reasons other than their abilities. Card uses words like dangerous and mad to describe Peter's behavior, and when Ender has beaten Stilson in a dramatically violent manner, he associates such behavior with Peter. The reader may wonder what happened in this family to produce two violent children.

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