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Author Topic: Ender. Peter. Villains.
scifibum
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Robert Espy made a surprising assertion in another thread:

quote:
Originally posted by Robert Espy:
I dread the production. It will be like Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers; a decent action film [not] but totally lacking in anything resembling the genius of the book upon which it is based.

As an example: Who here thought that Ender was the 'bad guy' and that Peter was actually, really in-truely, the good guy?

I did, but only on the second reading. Whom did Peter kill? Some animals in the forest? We only have E's word for that.

Had Ender been chosen for world leader, how many would have died simply for crossing him?

cperry disagreed. Clark elaborated:

quote:
Originally posted by Clark:
Robert: Looks like you need a third reading.

We're going on Valentine's word, not Ender's, and her statement that the photographic dirt she had on Peter was good enough to get him to concede to some of her various demands.

As for the potential deaths caused by Ender as world leader (contrasted with the deaths that Peter played a part in) "Ender in Exile" provides an interesting look at Ender's feelings on the matter which I don't want to spoil for anyone who might read the book.

The discussion continued:

quote:
Originally posted by Robert Espy:
Okay, Clark. I'll stand corrected. Just give me the page number in Ender's Game.

"Ender in Exile" is one I certainly missed. Nevertheless, were I not to read subsequent books, I'd be forced to conclude that Ender was the villain, Peter the savior.

In THAT book, it was clear beyond reason that Ender was the bad guy. E's (V's) description of him was nothing more than a political ploy.

p.s. How many kids did you kill in kindergarten?

quote:
Originally posted by Psudo:
Neither Ender nor Peter constitute savior nor villain. The writing is not so cliche and pigeon-holed.

And then cperry suggested a new thread. Here we are.

The child Ender is a frightening force. Once he decides to fight you, he does not pull his punches. This makes him valuable in a total war scenario, and a truly awful citizen otherwise.

Of course, I'm mixing up some concepts there. Adults (in Ender's Game) aren't afraid of Ender, because he is not a schemer and is too small, and too easily manipulated, to be a threat. And he's not old enough to be a "citizen" in the full sense. But to his peers, and in his communities, he does things that can't be tolerated in ordinary society: he escalates fights needlessly and kills his enemies.

Robert Espy is not the first to see Ender as a villain. There's a rather putrid essay that was published around 20 years ago that accuses Card of writing Ender's game as an apologia for Hitler. However, without giving any credence to that ridiculous extreme, there are probably others who recoil in horror from a character who would kill two children in a space of a few years (and perhaps feel similarly about the adults who shield him from the typical consequences of such acts). Yet Card clearly writes Ender as a hero. He's loved by most of the characters in the story.

In real life, I don't think we would be likely to view any child with two homicides on record as anything but a monster. However, the term "villain" seems difficult to apply to a child, even a killer child. I would be likely to assume such a kid was terribly abused and manipulated into a creature very much unlike a normal child.

Card walks a middle way in writing his child characters. On the one hand, we see that they are manipulated. Ender is a tool, designed and exploited ruthlessly. The children do not know what adults are thinking or doing, and cannot view their own actions in the proper context. Ender wasn't even aware of his first homicide, and who knows how that would have altered his future behavior? Ordinarily that kind of manipulation would excuse the children from their worst actions. On the other hand, Ender and many of the other children are keenly intelligent, and therefore accountable.

I can not see Ender as a villain. I do, however, see him as something of a monster. He's got a capacity for violence that is simply frightening.

The genius of the story is Ender's other gift: his empathy. He will love you even as he destroys you. The strength of his emotional entwinement with his enemies is what finally breaks him. As we find out later, Ender has more than a metaphorical connection with the Formics, enabling him to understand them well enough to defeat them. But this same connection communicates the terror and despair that the Formics experience, and their obliteration quite literally destroys a part of Ender. It's this loss - crystallized and deepened with his discovery of the Hive Queen - which gives Ender the strength to rein in his violence.

Peter is less dualistic, but not one dimensional. I agree he is not a villain. In fact I think Ender's game is free of villains.

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NSCutler
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I think you nailed it, scifi. There are no villains in the book, with the possible exception of Bonzo Madrid who is more a tragic victim of his own pride than anything. Every other character is driven by motivations that they themselves consider either noble or necessary for the greater good. Even the Hive Queen, from her perspective.

I adore OSC's writing, but one criticism I have is that the man really does not craft true villains well. He just doesn't seem to get into their heads and understand them nearly as well as he does his flawed heroes. With Achilles in the Bean books it, I kept trying to figure out where the character was coming from until I finally realized that Card didn't know either, just some vague idea about him being insane. When Card's heroes have sanity problems, they're palpable with texture. Achilles is cardboard cut out crazy.

Card is also not terribly subtle in his villains. I remember he got upset on Hatrack when someone was assuming that Torrent was the villain in Empire after reading the first few chapters he published on-line. Come on, I thought. First, he's a Professor in the humanities at an elite university, which every one knows Card considers to be the worst people on earth, and second, he named the man Torrent!

OK, I take it back. Card CAN write an evil character well. He does it in some of his short stories. Freeway Games leaps to mind. He just doesn't seem to be able to sustain them for the length of an entire novel. But with his best work, he doesn't really need to, since every character is a flawed hero.

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scifibum
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quote:
First, he's a Professor in the humanities at an elite university, which every one knows Card considers to be the worst people on earth, and second, he named the man Torrent!
Heh. I still haven't picked up Empire, but I think you have a rather solid point there.

Now if he'd named him Ben!

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kenmeer livermaile
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I find villains interesting and believable to the extent they are not portrayed as 'evil' but as either extreme zealots goner too far down the slope where ends justify means or extremely twisted persons capable of severe cruelty because they suffer deeply inside themselves.

Amoral villains, Jeffrey Dahmers, essentially conscienceless persons, are interesting only insomuch as they are portrayed as what they are" different, and not some manifestation of "EVIL".

Hannibal Lecter comes to mind. He was... different, capable of enormous barbarity, but he was just... different.

It's easier to make a flawed hero than it is to make a perfect villain. Meanwhile, a flawed villain is a villain with redeeming qualities.

The villain in my novel is both"extremely twisted and capable of severe cruelty because he suffers deeply inside himself" and a bit of a congenital amoralist who realizes that amorality is dead end in humanland.

In short, he is potentially redeemable. Potentially redeemable villains can be even better than flawed heroes. Magneto is a classic example.

Another fascinating villain is Alex(?) from A Clockwork Orange. Originally, BTW, Byrgess intended to redeem him in the final chapter, and does, but the USA publication wanted a bleaker publication because it perceived the market for that being better.

When Kubrick learned of that original ending, he agreed with the bleak ending.

I say BOLLOCKS! to auteur bastards too chicken**** to make a really happy ending. Even Lolita ends on a bright happy hopeful and aesthetically ecstatic note.

Chicken**** ****ers.

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cperry
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I always read Ender as a victim of his circumstances. He knew what he was doing was reprehensible, he regretted it with deep pain, but he would not martyr himself to prevent death because he recognized that somehow, and ultimately, he'd been manipulated.

I don't have my copy of the book around, and it's been years since I've read it, so my memory may be clouded by my desire for Ender to be a hero, but I just never thought of him as a monster. Maybe I saw the culture as the monster and Ender as a victim.

PS - Thanks, Scifi.

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KnightEnder
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Self-defense does not a monster make. And he was born and bred for just the attributes he displays and utilizes in defending himself, oh, and saving humanity. Villain? Hell no. There is no such thing as a fair fight and Ender never sought confrontation. He acted out of fear and self preservation.

Even if Ender had been an adult he wouldn't have been found guilty because both cases were self-defense and manipulated to put him in a position where he had to defend himself. BUT he wasn't an adult and I don't think even we the US, not even Texas would convict a child of murder when he was defending himself and did not intentionally use deadly force.

And the fact that he felt remorse for every death he was manipulated into causing shows that he was not evil, not a murder, but a little boy trying to survive with more pressure on him that most adults could handle. And facing adversaries that were both stronger and older than he was, and who attacked him.

I agree with CP; Ender is a victim of his circumstances and a hero. A hero manipulated into defending himself by the adults so as to bring out the killer ability in him. Y'all seem to forget that that device he wore in school marked him as different and better than the other kids making him a target from an age where it is insane to call him a murder when he was defending himself and didn't mean to kill the little bastard that was ****ing with him. You people are reading way too much into this.

If there are villains it is the adults and they know what they are doing to Ender, forcing Ender to become a killer was wrong, but necessary for the survival of the human race. The ends justify the means in the opinion of the adults that were manipulating every aspect of Ender's life. But none of it was of Enders choosing.

And we see his true nature once he is out from under Graff, Mazer, and the other adults authority and able to make decisions for himself becoming the savior of the Formics and The Speaker for the Dead.

It is ridiculous to view him as a villain.

I guess Bean was a villain for urging the little kids to kill Achilles when they had him down and it was obvious to the genetic genius Bean that he would one day kill Poke and anybody that had seen him humiliated. So I guess y'all consider a three year old starving kid a villain. When good guys, heroes kill evil bastards like Achilles it doesn't make them villains.

All it takes for evil to triumph is for good guys to do nothing. Bean and Ender both acted as best they could in the situations they were thrust into through no fault of their own.

(Not that I've given this much thought.) [Smile]

KE

[ February 13, 2009, 10:30 PM: Message edited by: KnightEnder ]

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Colin JM0397
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In hindsight Ender mourns the bees, but only after better understanding them. He was a very competent commander, not a villan at all, IMO. A villan would relish wiping out their enemy, Ender mourns his actions and only felt necessary to wipe them out with the info he had to go on at that time - that the bees would wipe out humanity if given the chance. Even the hive queen admits as much. His actions at the time were based on a rational, well-thought out analysis of what was necessary.

What made Ender such a good commander and decision maker was he would not allow a set boundry as to what was possible, yet still managed to run that fine line between doing what was right for his kind vs. going too far.

Most people will allow their culture, mores, etc to get in the way of clarity of thought... Of course, one man's Hitler is another man's savior... Could have another spin off thread here and interesting discussions.

[ February 13, 2009, 10:56 PM: Message edited by: Colin JM0397 ]

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scifibum
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KE, nobody in this thread said Ender (let alone Bean) was a villain. Are you talking to Robert? [Smile]

I agree that Ender's actions are certainly mitigated by circumstances. But it's not at all normal to kill another kid in a fight. As to whether he intentionally used deadly force...I think it's an interesting question. He seemed to use the most force he could, without much regard to whether it would be deadly. Think of how much a six year old would have to kick another six year old for it to be fatal. It's a lot.

But I can understand interpreting Ender's actions as self defense and as essentially justified under the circumstances. What I think is monstrous about Ender is that he can be so violent. Normal kids can't. That he was bred, manipulated, and neglected into that behavior makes it not his *fault*, but doesn't make it normal.

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KnightEnder
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In the words of the immortal Arthur Fonzirelli; "Exactamundo!"
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JoshuaD
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quote:
Originally posted by NSCutler:

OK, I take it back. Card CAN write an evil character well. He does it in some of his short stories. Freeway Games leaps to mind. He just doesn't seem to be able to sustain them for the length of an entire novel. But with his best work, he doesn't really need to, since every character is a flawed hero.

He writes about a really sad and pervasive villain in Lost Boys. One of his best lesser works, IMO.
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Psudo
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I second JoshuaD's comments about Lost Boys.

The Christian Fundamentalist kid and his father from A War of Gifts were pretty good Card villains, as was the Jewish feminist in Enchantment (another under appreciated Card novel). The villainous Beauty in Hart's Hope was, I thought, a really horribly cliche villain.

Generally speaking, though, Card doesn't write pure evil. He writes really, really screwed up.

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Psudo
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Also, capacity is not evil. Actions can be evil, but capacity alone cannot.
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RickyB
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"he escalates fights needlessly"

Needlessly?

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Pete at Home
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What "cliche" did Beauty fit? I sure never ran into that one before.
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cperry
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I agree, Psudo - Card does wounded evil well; I don't think he does pure evil. Can't think of anything.
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wogtheowl
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I think it is the fight within. All of us have to struggle against ourselves in this journey we call life. It's Ender struggling to survive. It's Frodo trying to carry the ring and not let it destroy him. Those stories I resonate well with all seem to have this theme running through them. I am able to see myself in the story. I feel Ender's pain. His loneliness. That is what makes his story so powerful.
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scifibum
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quote:
Originally posted by RickyB:
"he escalates fights needlessly"

Needlessly?

Perhaps not from his subjective point of view, but yeah.
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vulture
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quote:
Originally posted by cperry:
I agree, Psudo - Card does wounded evil well; I don't think he does pure evil. Can't think of anything.

Baba Yaga? (Enchantment)
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cperry
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Well, technically, he didn't invent her.
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munga
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The reason Card doesn't write evil well, is because he underestimates the average, everyday pure evil that is really greed and zero-sum narcissism ("I win, you lose: which is how the world is best-run") such as the banker who seizes your life because you signed the papers and he can do it, nevermind that the public has bailed out your principal payments, the interest is there and he can do it. It's just the way life should be. And he does it to not one, ten, hundred, but many hundred thousand, without remorse.

Card doesn't write the evil that thinks that you don't deserve to live because you live to enrich me, which evil will consent to your death as a simple matter of disposal.

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KnightEnder
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"Lost Boys" had me sobbing at 3 in the morning (at the end). I agree it is one of his best works, though not as well known and different than the majority of his work.

KE

[ February 14, 2009, 06:20 PM: Message edited by: KnightEnder ]

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KnightEnder
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Kid,

Kids kill each other all the time all over the world on accident during fights. It happened twice when I was a kid. Probably I know about it because my dad was a police officer in that city and he told me about them. One the kid kicked another kid that was down in the temple and killed him the other a kid broke another kids nose and the kid hit his head when he fell and died. I've knocked many kids out using a choke hold and if I'd held on a little too long they could have easily died. Fortunately I was taught how and when to let go, nobody taught Ender that.

And that was just in my city, so I have to believe in a world of six billion people it happens more often than you seem to think.

Plus, you ignore my point that Ender was made a target by the adults around him forcing him to defend himself in ways that he never would have had to without their manipulation. That was the case in both instances when Ender inadvertently killed other children.

And I don't know what you mean "nobody said Ender was a villain". I'm pretty sure that is just what was suggested above by Robert as quoted from the thread that gave rise to this one?

KE

[ February 14, 2009, 06:50 PM: Message edited by: KnightEnder ]

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rightleft22
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It’s been a while since I read the book and what struck me the most after finishing it was recognizing the truth in the manipulation of children. Society had a need and it did what it needed to do including sacrificing its children for what it deemed the greater good – A take on the Jacob sacrificing Isaac? We all sacrifice our children to something we just don’t usually know what that something is. Today it seems to be to ‘image’.

Ender the child killed a child, horrible. We want the nice story, Ender completes his task, saves the world, and without harming any of his own. He does not kill the boy who wants to kill him but talks him down and turns him into a friend. But that usually happens only in the movies. The world is not nice.

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cperry
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quote:
Originally posted by KnightEnder:
Plus, you ignore my point that Ender was made a target by the adults around him forcing him to defend himself in ways that he never would have had to without their manipulation. That was the case in both instances when Ender inadvertently killed other children.

Well, IIRC, Ender makes the concious choice to kill rather than maim them -- or at least one -- because he knows if he lets the kid live, the problems will continue.

[ February 14, 2009, 08:47 PM: Message edited by: cperry ]

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KnightEnder
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Bonzo?
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threads
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Ender didn't want to kill Bonzo. From the book

quote:
Ender knew that at this moment he might be able to walk out of the room and end the battle... But the battle would only be fought again. Again and again until the will to fight was finished. The only way to end things completely was to hurt Bonzo enough that his fear was stronger than his hate.
However I wouldn't call Bonzo's death completely accidental. It would be hard to believe that Ender didn't know the potential consequences of headbutting Bonzo in the face and then jumping full force on his chest.
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cperry
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Thanks for the quote. It's been years since I read it.
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scifibum
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quote:
And I don't know what you mean "nobody said Ender was a villain". I'm pretty sure that is just what was suggested above by Robert as quoted from the thread that gave rise to this one?
You seemed to be responding to everyone, not just Robert. [Smile] I just wanted to clarify that most of us, including me, don't think Ender was a villain, or even a bad kid. I guess "monster" might sound pretty harsh, but I mean he's maladapted to civilized life, not that he's evil. (I'm in complete agreement that the adults are to blame for the way he developed and making him feel like he has to make himself safe instead of seeking help.)
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KnightEnder
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Um, CP, where's my apology? [Smile]

No, just Robert. Stop being so sensitive.<read that as if I said it with a lisp. Which I can't do in real life> [Smile]

KE

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cperry
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No apology. [Big Grin]

Threads also wrote:

quote:
I wouldn't call Bonzo's death completely accidental. It would be hard to believe that Ender didn't know the potential consequences of headbutting Bonzo in the face and then jumping full force on his chest.
Ender was brilliant. He was hurting Bonzo enough such that
quote:
his fear was stronger than his hate.
Since Bonzo might find ways to overcome his fear, death was the only solution.

IMHO [Wink]

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cperry
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Let me also add that I'd have to reread the book and pertinent sections to make my firm decision and support it with a better argument. But the book is at work. Probably checked out by a kid.
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rightleft22
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“Ender knew that at this moment he might be able to walk out of the room and end the battle... But the battle would only be fought again. Again and again until the will to fight was finished. The only way to end things completely was to hurt Bonzo enough that his fear was stronger than his hate.”

That’s what I liked about the character, Ender knew, he trusted in what he knew and he acted. It was a strategic decision, not moral. It’s the kind of decision that characterizes Ender the commander. (type of commander OSC likes?) Ender the commander does not prolong conflict he ends them. I wonder if that was the reason why Ender must be banished in the end as it seems to me at least that the purpose behind many conflicts is not to end them but in the conflict itself.

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cperry
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quote:
Originally posted by rightleft22:
It’s the kind of decision that characterizes Ender the commander. (type of commander OSC likes?)

ooh, good insight, RL22
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Mormegil
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Ender didn't mean to kill Stilson, didn't know that he had. However if he was so smart at six he should have realized that was forseeable. After all kicking him while down was the important thing to scare the other kids. Kicking him the head wasn't necessary.

Ender didn't mean to kill Bonzo, and in fact that was *completely* self-defense. It was a fight to the death, and he headbutted Bonzo to get out of a hold. Bonzo died right then. At the point of this quote:

“Ender knew that at this moment he might be able to walk out of the room and end the battle... But the battle would only be fought again. Again and again until the will to fight was finished. The only way to end things completely was to hurt Bonzo enough that his fear was stronger than his hate.”

Bonzo was *already dead*.

By the way, Ender in Exile has retconned Ender's Game so that Ender was wearing Steel-Toed Boots, provided by the IF, and didn't know they were steel-toed. Thus excusing him.

Personally I think that's incredibly lame, as clearly Card had no inkling of this when writing the original story.

I don't blame Ender for Bonzo's death, but I do blame him for Stilson's. Stilson was a bully and a jerk but he was six and responding to a six-year-old bully with deadly force is way, way out of line, and kicking a downed child in the head and face is deadly force whether he dies or not. And in this case he did.

That was monstrous, but then again Ender's monstrous parents and the IF shaped him into that.

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Robert Espy
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I'm more than a little surprised that so many are disagreeing with me.

To pull an obvious ad populum, those disagreeing are also disagreeing with, at the very least, the sum total of the Earth's population -- at the time. This isn't my opinion, this is the narrated position.

Perhaps their reasons were ever-so-slightly different, but they amount to -- conclude to -- the same position: Ender was the bad guy. Hell, even he though so.

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TommySama
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Ender maybe is a monster in the sense that he has monstrous instincts. Even animals in the wild don't fight to the death. However he, as we see in the books, is much more complicated than that. But when it gets right down to it, he has a terrifying potential for destruction. The kid is basically a juggernaut.

When he kills the Formics he doesn't actually know he is fighting them. When he kills Bonzo he doesn't realize when Bonzo is already dead. When he kills Stilson he was terrified, probably full of adrenaline, and didn't know what he was doing, smart as he was. We as readers all know what he is thinking, and it isn't until years later (in the book) that we hear Ender's reflections that he thinks he killed those other boys. Ender is thorough, but when these things happen, he doesn't realize what he is doing. When he is in these zero sum battles he gets this win at any cost attitude.

In fact, the book even makes a point of this. The reason they don't tell him he is really fighting the Formics is because if he knew, loving them as he did, he may not have been able to do what he needed to.

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scifibum
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It's interesting to note that Ender wasn't sure he wouldn't have killed the Formics if he had known it wasn't a game, and that's partly why he feels such a burden of guilt.

Robert, note that humanity only demonized Ender after much time had passed and with a significant amount of distortion. He wasn't perceived as a manipulated, externally driven child fighting against a terrifyingly alien enemy that had shown only hostility. They learned to think of him as someone who hated and deliberately destroyed the sympathetic characters of The Hive Queen.

(It's actually one of the aspects of the story I find most difficult to believe - that in the age of information processing, a society could so thoroughly rewrite history.)

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KnightEnder
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"Win at any cost..."

What other way is there to fight?

KE

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Robert Espy
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quote:
Originally posted by KnightEnder:
"Win at any cost..."

What other way is there to fight?

KE

Toward the best profit.

For whom, is the question.

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kenmeer livermaile
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In that case, R. Espy (great name, BTW), one is not fighting but striving. One is then a Jedi, as best displayed by Obi Wan and his teacher.
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