Ender’s Game and the Hitler Comparison
A long time ago I read an essay which argues that Ender’s Game parallels Hitler’s life story with such detail that the man who read it could not fail to be a nazi. This put me off reading it for a long time. I recently found a copy for 50p and decided for that price I would chance what could be nazi propaganda. I mean, everyone else loved it, right?
They were right to love it; it’s a great novel. But yes, it is a bit morally ambiguous. While it doesn’t explicitly say that Ender’s act of xenocide was wrong, it also doesn’t say it wasn’t right. That’s the beauty of fiction, I suppose. The reader can make their own mind up. I am quite firmly not a nazi, and all I can say is that I feel sorry for the kid. I think Radford’s essay is a bit simplistic in its conclusions (well, she does say she’s not a critic), but I can see where she was coming from. Ambiguity, you see.
While the novel as a whole might be taken as a discussion of ends and means, I ended up reading it almost as a revenge fantasy. I know nothing about Card’s upbringing, but I can bet you he was the weird kid in his class. The kid nobody else quite understood or knew how to take. The kid who got a bit more shit than anyone else for one facile (childish) reason or another. The kid who developed a bit faster and ended up alienated from his peers because of it. The first half of Ender’s Game reads like what that weird kid wishes reality was like (I was that weird kid, so I know); a reality in which he is recognised and valued for what he is good at; a reality in which he is powerful enough and free enough to make sure his tormentors don’t torment him again; a reality in which he is challenged to grow.
And most of all, it provides a *reason* as to why Ender ends up tormented and isolated. All the weird kid knows is that he feels different to everyone else, and that everyone else seems to hate him for no good reason. Ender’s Game provides a (good or bad, take your pick) reason for all Ender’s torment and pain. It serves a purpose. It wasn’t just meanness, hate, and spite on the part of all his peers.
But then again, it is all with the explicit aim of moulding him into a hyper-capable mass murderer. It is not always a good thing to get what you want. Revenge fantasies tend to stay fantasies for a reason, but they can make good fiction.
Is that me reading too much of myself in to it? Possibly. I’d love to see a Freudian reading of this novel. The copy I got must have been a special scholastic edition, because it even had a list of study questions in the back. I can certainly see using this novel as a teaching aid.
I haven’t read any of the other Ender novels yet, so I can’t comment on the arc as a whole, but there’s certainly a lot to chew on in this novel; it courts such a variety of issues that it makes a lot of other SF novels feel one dimensional. When people talk about SF reflecting the time and society it was written in, and having an ability to comment on society in a way that realistic fiction can’t really do, they may as well be talking about this book.
As an endnote, see this excellent XKCD comic about the subplot. If you’re reading this website, you know SF writers don’t always get everything right.