Ender's Game and Heroism

by Saskia Hamilton

Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card

At six years old, child genius Andrew "Ender" Wiggin is recruited by desperate authorities in search of a human paladin to save their species from the Buggers, an alien menace they have waged war with for the past century. Despite being hesitant to leave his family, Ender adapts to Battle School rapidly, unbeknowingly training to obliterate an entire race, yet at the same time, he is forced to "grow up" early on and mature faster than others his age.

Picture Credit, the original 1985 cover when the book was initially published

Heroism Qualities

The Murdering Hero

It is easy to say Ender is a hero to humanity on Earth, as he not only able to annihilate the Buggers, but ensure their defeat by vanquishing their home planet as well. Ender saved the world, and humanity loved and praised him because of this; worshipping his as a hero. They admired him to the point were they were afraid of him, as it was well into account how he single-handedly destroyed an entire alien species.

"Men in uniform were hugging each other, laughing, shouting; others were weeping; some knelt or lay prostrate, and Ender knew they were caught up in prayer." (250)

"Colonel Graff detached himself from the others and came to Ender. Tears streamed down his face but he was smiling. He bent over, reached out his arms, and to Ender's surprise he embraced him and held him tightly, and whispered, "Thank you, thank you Ender. Thank God for you Ender.'" (255)

This is where the idea contradicts itself.

Paradoxically enough, Ender is a Saint and he is Hitler. Humanity itself praises him, whilst purposefully ignoring the brash truth that he has murdered an entire living, thinking, breathing, species. This fact veers Ender more to the antihero category, but he doesn't necessarily fit there either. At the resolution of the book, Ender comes to the horrifying realization what he has actually done, and his victory quickly turns to genuine remorse and grief for the lost species.

The exact definition a hero, word for word, (at least from Google) is

"a person, typically a man, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities."

Murdering an entire species is not honorable. Ignoring the fact that you did it is not honorable, either. Our culture religiously teaches heroism as ideal, that no wrong can be done. Even at a young age, we are surrounded by media, from suspiciously good-looking princes to knights saving the damsel, that ingrains that as the quality of heroism. By definition, Ender is not a hero.

Ender did screw up big time, but once he realized what he had done, he made it his ultimate goal to reimburse the Bugger species after an emotional consultation with the queen. He backpedaled the journey he he had spent most of his life on, the mission he had been born to do, even putting the need of his loved ones aside. He could have just as easily walked away from the predicament and joined the mainstream of ignorant humans. But instead, he accepts that a) he did an unforgivably bad thing, and b) being his fault that millions are dead because of him, it was his responsibility to solve the problems he had caused, to reimburse the numbers of a species thought to be lost. And he eventually does just that, (okay, sorry, I did partially spoil the next book, The Speaker of The Dead) after more endless trial and error.

We need to broaden our definition of a hero. Perhaps a hero is not always a honorable figure. Nor do they have to be a courageous, perfect, likable, person.

Sometimes, being a hero doesn't mean you can save everyone.


How Ender is A Hero; Summary

In Orson Scott Card's universally-acclaimed novel, Ender's Game, the protagonist, Ender Wiggin is the prime example of a hero. His quality of heroism is highlighted by the relationship he has with his brother, Peter. It is contrasted how Ender seems to do all of the wrong things for the right reasons, whilst Peter does all of the right things for the wrong reasons. When he is prepositioned by authoroties to defeat the buggers, or the alien menace humanity has feuded with, Ender instead comes to comprehend the Bugger’s actions, and eventually build a mutual understanding with them, concluding in the end, humanity has been the antagonist all along. He sees that the Buggers did not truly wish to fight the humans and is sorrow for all that has happened, and in the end, he saves humanity from war and makes it his mission to find the Buggers a new home.


Link to summary and bibliography used for this website.