Ender’s Game


Orson Scott Card

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Ender’s Game Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Orson Scott Card's Ender’s Game. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Orson Scott Card

Orson Scott Card was born in Washington, and grew up in various states, including California, Arizona, and Utah. His family was devoutly Mormon, and he studied the Book of Mormon from an early age. As a young man, he worked as a Mormon missionary in Brazil. Afterwards, he studied at Brigham Young University and the University of Utah, where he majored in English. He also spent a year as a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Notre Dame, but dropped out to found a theater company, the Utah Valley Repertory Theater Company. For most of the late 70s and early 80s, Card presided over his theater company while also working at the BYU press. It was during this time that Card published the short story “Ender’s Game,” which he would turn into a novel in 1985. Ender’s Game was a great commercial and critical success, and won Card the coveted Nebula Award, the highest honor for American science fiction writers. The following year, Card published a sequel to Ender’s Game, Speaker for the Dead, which also won the Nebula, making Card one of the few writers to win this award twice. During the 80s and 90s, Card wrote several other successful novels, and in recent years he’s continued to write prolifically. Card has also founded several successful outlets for aspiring writers, including Strong Verse, a website that specializes in submissions from unpublished authors.
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Historical Context of Ender’s Game

Like much of the best science fiction, Ender’s Game doesn’t overtly discuss many historical events and yet reflects the political climate during which it was written. In the imaginary future of the book, there is still an uneasy rivalry between the United States and Russia, the latter of which controls a number of satellite states in Eastern Europe. This reflects Card’s experiences living through the Cold War: the long conflict between the U.S. and Russia, or the Soviet Union, that lasted from the late 1940s to 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed from economic instability. During this time, the U.S. was the world’s dominant superpower, while Russia wielded a huge amount of global power due to its alliance, via the Warsaw Pact of 1955, with Eastern European states like Ukraine and East Germany. Russia and the U.S. cooperated in some matters, but in many other ways they plotted to weaken one another: in particular, both countries financed wars in other countries in an effort to ensure that their rival’s ideology (U.S. democracy, Soviet communism) wouldn’t spread across the world. In Card’s alternate future, the Cold War is still going on, and the U.S. and Russia continue to plot for global control, while an atmosphere of paranoia and fear presides over all things political. Another important allusion to historical events appears in the “Locke and Demosthenes” chapter. Peter Wiggin takes the pseudonym Locke, after John Locke, the English Enlightenment thinker whose two Treatises on Government are considered important influences on the rhetoric and philosophy of the American Revolution of 1776. Locke supported a commonwealth in which a group of landowners band together to decide the affairs of the state, and reserve the right to overthrow leaders who betray the interests of their group. Peter, who aspires to run the world, wants to create a balanced, equitable world government, much like the one Locke proposed. Valentine, for her part, writes under the pseudonym Demosthenes, a clear allusion to the Ancient Greek thinker and writer of the same name. Demosthenes’ rhetoric played a key role in organizing a revolt in Athens against Philip II of Macedon and later his son, Alexander the Great, in the 4th century B.C.E. Demosthenes used arguments of Greek racial superiority to claim that the Athenians should oppose Philip and Alexander at all costs. Though Demosthenes’ rhetoric ultimately failed (Alexander conquered Athens and almost everywhere else in the Mediterranean), Demosthenes remains synonymous with anger, rhetorical skill, and a touch of hate—all qualities that Valentine aspires to recreate in her online persona.

Other Books Related to Ender’s Game

Ender’s Game doesn’t explicitly mention many other books, but it’s still possible to detect the influence of a few important texts. To begin with, Orson Scott Card—an avid reader of science fiction since a young age—is indebted to the cerebral writings of Arthur C. Clarke, often regarded as one of the greatest science fiction writers of all time. Clarke’s books, including 2001: A Space Odyssey, Rendezvous with Rama, and Childhood’s End, are full of thoughtful, highly intelligent characters, and Clarke doesn’t shy away from narrating their thought processes. In much the same way, long stretches of Ender’s Game have no real “action” at all: they simply describe what’s going on in Ender’s brilliant mind. Another important science fiction influence on Card is Joe Haldeman, whose 1977 novel The Forever War—a scathing critique of the war in Vietnam disguised as a sci-fi adventure—won the Nebula shortly before Card. Like Card, Haldeman writes about a war between humans and aliens, in which the humans win—only to realize that the aliens never really wanted to fight in the first place. One final, non-sci-fi influence on Card is the Book of Mormon. Card, a devout Mormon, has noted that the end of Ender’s Game, in which Ender goes off on a long search for a new land where the hive-queen can live safely, was inspired by the “missionary ethic” of Mormonism, according to which young Mormons (including Card himself, in the late 1960s) must develop a relationship with God and righteousness by going off to explore new places and spread Mormonism there.
Key Facts about Ender’s Game
  • Full Title:Ender’s Game
  • Where Written:North Carolina / Utah
  • When Published: January 15, 1985
  • Literary Period:Cold War science fiction
  • Genre: Science Fiction Novel, Military Fiction
  • Setting:Greensboro, North Carolina / the Battle School space station / the planet Eros
  • Climax:Ender defeats the Buggers using the Dr. Device
  • Antagonist:While there are many potential antagonists in the book, including Stilson, Peter Wiggin, Bonzo Madrid, and the Buggers, Card suggests that none of these characters are truly enemies—Ender has the capacity to understand them and sympathize with them.
  • Point of View:Mostly third person and limited to Ender Wiggin’s perspective, with occasional passages and chapters told from the perspectives of Valentine Wiggin and Colonel Graff.

Extra Credit for Ender’s Game

North Carolina for life: Although Orson Scott Card grew up in California, Arizona, and Utah, he’s lived in Greensboro, North Carolina, for most of his adult life. Readers of Ender’s Game will recognize Greensboro as the city where Valentine and Peter Wiggin spend most of their adolescence—in fact, Card mentions Greensboro in many of his other novels, almost always alluding to the city’s natural beauty.

Family ties: Card has made no secret of the fact that he’s a devout Mormon—in fact, he’s a great-great-grandson of Brigham Young, the second president of the Mormon Church and the leader of the Mormons during their famous “long migration” from the eastern United Sates to Utah.