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Enders shadow, by Orson Scott Card, is a science fiction novel, set in the year 2170. The novel is written from the point of view of Bean, a small yet extremely intelligent child. Orson Scott Card uses a writing style he calls "the American Plain style," in which he attempts to remain as invisible as possible. This technique enables the reader to walk a mile in the characters shoes. The Earth has already suffered an attack from an intelligent extraterrestrial species, known as buggers. In preparation for a second attack the International Fleet is recruiting children and training them to be future commanders. The story is a narration of Bean's experiences in the International Fleet.
Ender's Shadow narrates nearly all the same events as Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game. In his Foreword he tells the reader that this book is not a sequel, because it begins and ends at about the same places as Ender's Game. In fact, he calls it "another telling of the same tale." The two books contain many of the same characters and settings; the only difference being that they are from two different perspectives. Writing this story was a challenge for the author. He found that telling the same story twice, but differently, was harder than it first seemed.
Bean, the main character, is a homeless child living in the hellish streets of Rotterdam in roughly 2170 after escaping as an infant from an illegal genetic engineering laboratory. Being hyper-intelligent and extremely young, Bean's experiences revolve primarily around his need for food. He joins a huge gang of children led by a girl named Poke and sets up a system in which they can all receive nourishment at a local soup kitchen. The draw-back on this is their increasing dependence on the bully Achilles, who is ruthless, mad, and methodical. Luckily for Bean, his incredible mind, creativity, and determination bring him to the attention of Sister Carlotta, a nun who is recruiting children to fight a war against the Buggers. At the training facility, Battle School, Bean's true genius becomes apparent. Not only is he smarter than average, he is smarter than any other child at Battle School, including Ender Wiggin. Despite Bean's intelligence, it is Ender who has been chosen to save humanity from the Buggers. Bean, being an extraordinary genius, begins to uncover secrets and truths about the school. Bean struggles to understand what quality Ender has that he does not, until he is assigned to draw up a "hypothetical" roster for Ender's army, and adds himself to the list. At first, Ender does not appear to recognize Bean's brilliance, but time shows that he was grooming Bean as his tactical support, putting him at the head of an unorthodox platoon challenged to outthink the teachers who designed the game, and defeat their attempts to tip the balance of advantages towards Ender's rivals.
Throughout the book, the main theme rests on Bean's personal struggle against the IF administration, which seems bent on breaking Ender, even if it means murder. Throughout all of this, Bean has to contend with the reappearance of Achilles and his own struggle to understand what makes Ender human.
He also makes friends with an older boy named Nikolai Delphiki who is drawn to Bean because of their similar looks. It is soon discovered, through Sister Carlotta's research, that the two boys are actually genetic twins, except for Bean's genetic enhancements. Back in the lab, the scientist Volescu had turned Anton's Key, which meant that Bean's body would never stop growing - including his brain - until a premature death between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five. Sister Carlotta manages to ensure that Bean will get to live with Nikolai and his parents after the war.
This story takes the reader through Bean's experiences in Battle School and shows how he, a secondary character in Ender's Game, is much more important to the fate of Earth than it originally seemed. In addition, the book depicts the first of Bean's encounters with Achilles. At the very end of the story, Ender leaves on a colonization ship and never returns to Earth as part of a treaty so no countries or groups on Earth can use him.
The Victim Hero
Orson Scott Card is applauded, time and again, for writing "moral fiction," and invariably Ender's Shadow is cited as a primary example of Card's inquisitive and analytical examination of moral issues. He has said that Ender's Game is about "a child, our ultimate icon of vulnerability, put under almost impossible stress. It was when he decided to give up the enterprise that he won the ultimate victory; and then he became an almost tragic figure when it became clear that his victory made him obsolete, while his childhood training had left him unfit for any other kind of life."3 Despite his moral preoccupations, in this summary of his novel Card seems less interested in interrogating Ender's morality than in evoking sympathy for him.
The most obvious way Card produces sympathy for Ender is by subjecting him to relentless, undeserved torment. On the very first page of the novel an adult lies to Ender about something that is going to hurt him: the doctor removing the surgically implanted monitor that Ender has worn while being evaluated by the IE training agency swears that the removal "won't hurt a bit."4 But in the event it is excruciating.
When Ender is not being lied to by authorities, he is being bullied. The source of most of the hatred directed toward Ender is that he is superior to virtually everyone in the book-superior in intelligence, creativity, sensitivity, logic, psychological understanding of others, morality, and, when it comes down to it and despite a lack of training and physical stature, hand-to-hand combat. In that first chapter, the same day the monitor is removed, Stilson, a playground bully, attacks Ender. At the age of six, in the first of several physical battles Ender wins, he completely incapacitates Stilson.
The family offers no haven from assault. Ender's older brother Peter torments Ender all out of proportion to any rational motivation, and his abuse goes completely unnoticed and unchecked by their parents. Peter repeatedly threatens to kill Ender. He seems almost the textbook definition of a psychopath-their sister Valentine tells how he tortures squirrels, staking them out on the ground and skinning them alive in order to watch them die5(p. 160). He is prevented from killing Ender and Valentine only by the threat of being found out.
Yet, for reasons that are never made clear, Ender never tells his parents; he learns early to hide his fear and hurt. "It was the lying face he presented to Mother and Father, when Peter had been cruel to him and he dared not let it show"(p. 47).
In the real world, the motivation for such secrecy, when it is not fear of retaliation by the abuser, is often shame-the child fears that he or she is somehow responsible for, even deserving of the abuse. It is interesting that the one time that Ender's father confronts him and asks why Ender did not ask a grown-up for help when he was being bullied, they are interrupted before Ender can answer. The question is never answered. (p. 19).
One might ask where Ender's parents or teachers are when Ender is physically assaulted. This question reveals a second mechanism Card uses to generate sympathy: in Ender's Game, adults or authority are never there to protect.
In the case of Ender's persecution by Peter, we may decide that their parents are simply purblind (The possibility that the parents know but approve or don't care is not considered.). In the case of commanders Graff and Anderson at the battle school, we see authorities deliberately suppress their urge to help Ender because they need to train him to face any challenge on his own. "He can have friends," says Graff at one point early in Ender's training "It's parents he can't have"(p. 40). In this context a "parent" is any adult in authority who has power to protect the child. Most of the time, rather than helping Ender, adults deliberately increase his torment. As Graff says, "Ender Wiggin must believe that no matter what happens, no adult will ever, ever step in to help him in any way" (p. 220).
The extreme situation Card has constructed to isolate and abuse Ender guarantees our sympathy. After Ender is manipulated into entering Battle School, (he's brought there by lies severing him from Valentine, his only protector) his abuse continues, deliberately fostered by Graff. On the shuttle up to the orbiting school Graff singles Ender out for praise for the sole purpose that the other recruits will resent him. Before they even reach the school, Ender is forced to break the arm of Bernard, one of his tormenters. At every turn Ender faces hostility, scorn, and even physical assault. The result is an escalating series of challenges and violent responses by Ender. These sequences invariably follow the following pattern:
Ender is resented by others for his skills, honesty, intellect, superiority-in fact, for simply being who he is
The others abuse Ender. They threaten his life.
Ender does not or cannot ask for intervention by authority figures.
Even when authority figures know about this abuse, they do not intervene. In most cases they are manipulating the situation in order to foster the abuse of Ender
Ender avoids confrontation for some time through cleverness and psychological cunning, but eventually he is forced, against his will, to face an enemy determined to destroy him.
Because he has no alternative, Ender responds with intense violence, dispatching his tormenter quickly and usually fatally. Ender engages in this violence impersonally, coolly, dispassionately, often as much for the benefit of others (who do not realize or admit that Ender kills on their behalf) as for himself. Onlookers are awed by his prowess and seeming ruthlessness.
Ender does not know that he has killed his adversary.
Ender feels great remorse for his violence. After each incident, he questions his own motives and nature.
In the end we are reassured that Ender is good.
As a mechanism for producing sympathy, this scenario is brutally effective. All this is illustrated in the climactic fight that ensues just before Ender's graduation from Battle School, when opposing cadet commander Bonzo6 Madrid and a gang of his supporters trap Ender in the showers. As an object lesson in how Card manages the reader's sympathies, this sequence is exemplary, and I would like to analyze it, and the effects of each element of the scene, in detail.
Graff and the battle school's officers have known for some time that Bonzo intends to kill Ender; they allow Bonzo's attack to happen, they even want it to happen. They capture it all on video, from several angles. They could prevent it, but they won't. The effect of this is of course to increase our sympathy for Ender, yet we are also supposed to sympathize with the officers. They don't do this because they want Ender to be hurt, they don't enjoy the prospect of anyone being hurt, but they do it because they must do it to train Ender so he can save the human race.
To this Card adds one circumstance after another to cause us to side with Ender: Ender's enemies surprise him when he is at his most vulnerable, naked and alone in the showers. Ender is smaller and younger than his opponent, and Dink, the one boy there who is on Ender's side, can't intervene. Ender doesn't want to fight, but does because he has no alternative other than to let himself be killed. And he's not fighting for himself alone-the fate of the earth, we are told, depends on his survival. If Ender dies, the last hope of the human race dies with him, thus making his self-defense an ultimately self-less act.
Bonzo and the other boys represent all the abuse Ender has suffered up until then in the novel. Bonzo's gang includes Ender's earlier enemy Bernard, and mentally, Ender includes his earlier tormenters when he thinks, "All it would take for the picture to be complete was for Stilson and Peter to be there, too"(p. 227). These enemies are cruel and, unlike Ender, enjoy the prospect of maiming or killing, even if they have an unfair advantage. The terms in which the boys are presented rival those of the melodramatic villains in a silent movie: "Many were smiling, the condescending leer of the hunter for his cornered victim"(p. 227). Bonzo enjoys the prospect of killing Ender:
"Dink cried, 'Don't hurt him!'
"Why not?" asked Bonzo, and for the first time he smiled.
Ah, thought Ender, he loves to have someone recognize that he is the one in control, that he has power. (p. 230)
Bonzo is immune to reason. When Dink points out that their real enemy is the buggers, and that killing Ender may doom the human race, instead of having second thoughts Bonzo is simply more enraged. Ender thinks: "You've killed me with those words, Dink. Bonzo doesn't want to hear that I might save the world" (p. 230). Ender's enemies don't care about the human race, all they want is their own revenge.
Bonzo is also immune to pleas for mercy. When Ender begs Bonzo not to hurt him, Bonzo is only more determined. "For other boys it might have been enough that Ender had submitted; for Bonzo, it was only a sign that his victory was sure"(p. 229).
Despite his desperate circumstances, Ender coolly reads Bonzo's character and manipulates him into fighting one-on-one. Once the fight begins, Ender easily beats Bonzo to a pulp, without himself even getting scratched: when it comes to the test, Bonzo the formidable adversary is stupid and incompetent, or his rage makes him stupid and incompetent. Up until now Ender has shown himself to be vastly superior to Bonzo in mental combat; now he shows himself to be equally superior in physical combat. Yet even when it is clear that Ender has already won the fight, Ender persists in maiming Bonzo in order to insure there are no future attacks.
Like many scenes of personal violence in this and other Card works, this fight is painfully intense, ending with Ender kicking Bonzo in the crotch, "hard and sure"(p. 231). Though he does not know it at the time, Ender has killed Bonzo. But lest the reader be repulsed by Ender's pursuing the fight until Bonzo is dead (which an observer might see as vengeful, unwarranted, or vicious), the narrative insists that it is done for entirely rational reasons, not out of a personal desire to lash out. "The only way to end things completelyâ€¦" Ender thinks, "was to hurt Bonzo enough that his fear was stronger than his hate"(p. 231).
Ender generalizes from this situation that the only rational policy to insure safety in the world is to be ready always to cause excessive pain. No authority, law, ally, or social structure may be depended upon. "The power to cause pain is the only power that matters, the power to kill and destroy, because if you can't kill then you are always subject to those who can, and nothing and no one will ever save you"(p. 232).
Despite his settling on this martial philosophy, after it is all over we are assured again that Ender is at heart a pacifist. When Dink justifies Ender's beating up Bonzo (Bonzo meant to kill Ender, Bonzo was a troublemaker, he had superior strength and size), Ender breaks down and cries.7 "I didn't want to hurt him!" he insists. "Why didn't he just leave me alone!"(p. 233)
It is not until pages later that we learn Bonzo isn't just hurt, he's dead. Also, it is only at this point (240 pages after the event) that we learn Ender killed Stilson in the analogous fight that occurred when Ender was six years old. The officers have kept the facts of these deaths from Ender. But the effect is to keep these killings from the reader as well, divorcing the consequences of Ender's violence from the acts, and thereby reducing the likelihood that the reader might judge Ender at the moment they occurred. And as if to additionally insulate Ender from our judgment, a few lines after we learn that Bonzo and Stilson are dead we are assured by Graff that, "Ender Wiggin isn't a killer. He just wins-thoroughly" (p. 247).
Graff's judgment on the deaths of Bonzo and Stilson clarifies Card's definition of a killer. Presumably, someone can kill hundreds, thousands, even billions (Ender eventually "kills" an entire race) and not be a killer. A killer is motivated by rage or by selfish motives. To be a killer you must intend to kill someone. And even if you do intend to kill, you are still innocent if you do it for a larger reason, "selflessly," without personal motives. And if you feel bad about being forced into doing it.
Kate Bonin, in her article "Gay Sex and Death in the Science Fiction of Orson Scott Card"8 points out how the killing of Bonzo prefigures Ender's eventual destruction of the buggers. The history of the war against the buggers follows the pattern of the fight against Bonzo; in fact, just before the final battle in which Ender exterminates the buggers, he explicitly compares his confrontation with them to the unfair fight in the shower (p. 322). The number of times this scenario of unjustified attack and savage retaliation is repeated, not just in Ender's Game but in other of Card's stories and novels, suggests that it falls close to the heart of his vision of moral action in the world.
Personal Evaluation -What are your attitudes toward the work? How did the work affect you? Did the author satisfy you? If so, how? This is not just "I didn't like the ending", though these comments do have their place.