Ender's Game is one of the most well-known science fiction novels of all time and offers a futuristic setting that provides much allegorical content. Orson Scott Card makes a number of allusions throughout the novel, some of which may require explanation. Students should be familiarized with historic events and figures, including the Warsaw Pact, John Locke, Demosthenes, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Julius Caesar. Students can discuss the significance of these allusions as they come up in the reading.

Ender's Game can be analyzed on a number of levels, from family dynamics and peer relations to the ethics of war. The futuristic setting can also be compared to contemporary life. Students can keep character charts in order to keep track of Ender's siblings, peers, and instructors and their relationships to him and each other. Peter and Valentine's activities on the information networks also provide an interesting discussion point on political blogs and how they influence public opinion. After finishing the novel, you can have a class discussion on government and military ethics, especially regarding manipulation and propaganda, Ender's attempt to redeem himself, and how the ending relates to contemporary views toward imperialism.

Summary

Ender Wiggin, a child genius, is recruited by General Graff to join the Battle School and protect the world from insect-like aliens, called buggers. Ender leaves behind his loving sister, Valentine, and sociopathic brother, Peter. Once in Battle School, Ender excels at his training, which causes many of his peers to resent him. When Ender graduates to Command School, he engages in increasingly difficult games against the buggers, only to discover that the buggers and the supposedly simulated battles are not as they seemed.

Content Warning

Ender's Game contains some profanity and violence.

Objectives for Teaching Ender's Game

  • Infer information about characters and events when the information is not explicitly stated.
  • Discuss the significance of historical people and events, such as Demosthenes, John Locke, and the Warsaw Pact.
  • Discuss the isolation of the gifted child as it pertains to Ender and his peers.
  • Explain how Ender redeems himself.
  • Recognize and explain the danger of governmental or military control over Ender's life.
  • Comment on the relationships Ender has with his peers.
  • Discuss the irony in Graff's behavior toward Ender.

Key Elements and Techniques

  • Allusion
  • Foreshadowing
  • Imagery
  • Irony
  • Metaphor
  • Symbol

Themes and Motifs

  • Games — The novel continually uses the metaphor of war being a game, which Ender plays without realizing the consequences.
  • Humanity — Ender's Game looks at the human condition and loss of innocence with growing up as Ender matures and learns how to fight and kill in battle.
  • Friends and Enemies —  In the novel, it is never completely clear which characters are friends and which are enemies.

Related Works

Theme of Games

 

Theme of Humanity

 

Theme of Friends and Enemies

Key Facts

  • Length: 384 pages
  • Lexile Measure: 780
  • Publication Date: 1985
  • Recommended Grade Band: 6 – 8

Awards

  • Nebula Award (1985)
  • Hugo Award (1986)

Movies

Ender's Game was adapted to the screen in 2013, directed by Gavin Hood and starring Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld, Viola Davis, Abigail Breslin, and Ben Kingsley. The film remains fairly true to the original plot, but condenses the timeline and minimizes Valentine and Peter's roles.

Your students will love:

  • The young, relatable protagonist
  • The simple, easy-to-read style of Orson Scott Card

Students may have problems with:

  • The amount of warfare and militaristic language in the story
  • Understanding all the historical allusions

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