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Author Topic: Ender's Game and the essay "Creating the Innocent Killer"
Omega M.
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I just came across the essay "Creating the Innocent Killer: Ender's Game, Intention, and Morality". I've only skimmed it for now, but I'm not sure I agree with it that we're supposed to think of Ender as a pure innocent.

For instance, the essay talks about how when Ender kills Bonzo (though we don't know that until much later), we're supposed to think Ender is acting "entirely rationally" because he's trying only to keep Bonzo from attacking him ever again. How can we not in some ways be horrified at the way Ender seems to kill people (Bonzo, Stilson) without intending to? When I read the Bonzo fight scene, I wasn't thinking about whether Ender was right or wrong; I was just thinking, "Oh, my! Did Ender really have to go that far to stop Bonzo? But it worked, and I really don't know how far Bonzo would have gone ... [and so on back and forth]" I'm still not sure who's in the right (if anyone is) in a lot of parts of Ender's Game, which I gather from other comments of OSC is how the story should be if it's working.

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Silver3
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I don't agree with the essay. There are some valid points, but he seems to spend his time beating us over the head that Ender is portrayed as innocent (given that he levels the same accusation of non-subtlety at Card, this made me laugh).

Morality does not come so easy in Ender's Game. I think that in the end, we are meant to wonder whether Ender was right. Who was right, in fact. Did the survival of the human race justify a xenocide? (a point developed again in Speaker for the Dead).

Furthermore, if the guy can't see that there is a difference between a pathological serial killer like Peter and someone, like Ender, who actually feels remorse for his actions, he's really got a morality problem. Heck, even justice recognizes there's intent and deed.

The fact that Ender feels remorse does not make him innocent. That makes him human.

EDIT: I finished the essay. The guy definitely does not believe in moral intent versus deed. His points about genocide are laughable. He actually accuses the Commanders of the Fleet of not guessing the buggers had a hive mind and that the death of the queen would kill them...Sure, it's a natural step of logic, every commander of the Fleet would have known that.

Furthermore, he tries to argue that in the end, Ender and Graff should have been tried for genocide. After thirty years of war against inhuman aliens, I think the most believable reaction to their slaughter would be joy. We are NOT, I repeat NOT, dealing with the wholesale slaughter of a human race. This is not Nuremberg. We are dealing with the deaths of aliens who have always been enemies, who have no reason to be humanized.

Never mind. Even reading that essay makes me itch all over. So much concentrated bad faith.

Aliette

[ January 26, 2006, 12:54 PM: Message edited by: Silver3 ]

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Omega M.
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There's also that one point where Graff admits to Ender that they're really fighting this war because they can't communicate with the buggers. (He says something like "If the other guy can't tell you his story, you have to assume the worst about him.") I think I did catch myself wondering a few times whether humanity was really important enough to take the war to the aliens, and I didn't feel I was reading against the grain of the story at those points.

The essay also says, regarding Ender's unknowing destruction of the buggers' planet, "But whether or not Enderís battle simulations were practice or real, the ultimate purpose of any practice was to enact such destruction in reality. Ender and his commanders were aiming for this battle and they all knew it." I seem to recall Ender destroying the buggers' planet more to spite his teachers than to practice for the real thing; Graff told Ender just before that "the buggers have never deliberately attacked a civilian population," which to me implies that Graff was trying to get Ender to think of something more clever than destroying the planet. Of course, Graff could have been being difficult precisely to goad Ender into destroying the planet.

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CRash
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This thread has some comments on Kessel's essay by OSC and others, if anyone wants to check it out.
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Orson Scott Card
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Ender himself certainly doesn't think he's innocent.

Lots of terrible things happen in wars; and in self-defense. When NO choice you make is right, but you make the choice that leads to your own survival, we don't really consider you innocent, we consider you justified. Those are very different moral categories.

Ender was only innocent in the sense of "naive." He lacked sufficient information to make truly informed decisions.

But do remember that the doctrine for police forces in most places in America is that you don't have to wait until the other guy shoots you to use lethal force. It's a terrible thing to have not just the right but the responsibility to make life and decisions based on split second PREDICTIONS of another person's behavior - but lethal force (i.e., a gun) is justified if the person being apprehended or approached seems likely to assault an officer. Even if the person is unarmed, if the officer lets him come close with violent intent, he risks having his weapon taken away from him. So the weapon is to be used to protect the officer's possession of his weapon, lest the weapon be taken and used (lethally) against him.

In other words, you don't have to fight "fair." That's a rule in movies, not in the real world.

In the two personal fights he fought, Ender had no weapon, AND he had the assurance that next time he would fight, not an individual, but a group; and next time he would have no chance to surprise the enemy with the ferocity of his fighting. So he used OVERWHELMING force in order to eliminate all will to attack in the future. He did not know - had no WAY to know through experience - that the level of force he used was potentially lethal. But he DID anticipate that it would have brutal effect on the enemy's body. Fight-finishing, will-breaking force. The trouble is, it takes more subtlety than most people have to find that point, short of inflicting death.

So ... justified, but not innocent. And in Ender's own mind, not even justified. He did not INTEND to kill; had he known that killing would happen, he probably would not have had the heart to win ANY of his real-world "victories." Only in his naivete was he capable of doing it.

Historical examples: Israel. Ulysses S Grant's proclivity toward insistence on unconditional surrender. The rule of war that allows the killing of surrendering enemy soldiers when you are not in a position to deal with prisoners AND you must maintain absolute secrecy about your movements. Etc. etc. through many, many examples through history. I kept Ender well within the moral dilemmas that real soldiers face in the real world. The only "shocking" thing is that he's so young. And, tragically, as we have seen in West Africa and Burma, the youth of the soldiers in EG is not really shocking anymore - too many real world examples of that, too.

The real problem with essays like the one you cited is that the critic is so naive or wilfully ignorant that he assumes that depiction of an action is its advocacy. All it is is a depiction of real-world moral dilemmas, no-win situations in which people must nevertheless make choices and then live with the consequences. Does anyone seriously submit that I let Ender off lightly? That his life is not deformed by these choices and experiences? Is there anybody who can read Ender's Game and honestly say that I was writing some kind of gung-ho kill-em-all book?

Of course, it is also good to keep in mind that the writer of this particular essay is on record as hating my writing with the exception of only two stories; I have one letter from him, and dozens of reports from individuals, depicting a shocking degree of personal rancor. It is not reasonable to suppose that he is capable of giving any work of mine a fair reading and rational analysis.

Once it was fashionable in some sci-fi-writer circles to be excited about my work; now it is fashionable in much the same circles to despise it. These fashions come and go.

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TomDavidson
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quote:

So ... justified, but not innocent. And in Ender's own mind, not even justified. He did not INTEND to kill; had he known that killing would happen, he probably would not have had the heart to win ANY of his real-world "victories." Only in his naivete was he capable of doing it.

OSC, I think Kessel's point is that this very argument is exactly what makes Ender innocent in the eyes of the reader. Because even though we can see in Ender's mind how logical it is that he respond with overwhelming force, we ALSO see that he doesn't really mean any ill will and never intends to kill.

This absolves him, in the reader's mind, of "real" moral culpability, so that the trials that come at the end of the book appear like the lumbering, mindless revenges of a blind bureaucracy rather than the logical response of a horrified and informed citizenry.

That's not to say that I agree with Kessel's conclusion, and certainly don't agree that you let Ender off lightly; I see most of the following books as something like his attempt to appease his own guilt. But I would agree with Kessel that it would be very difficult for a reader to finish your novel -- without first approaching it full of their own biases -- under the impression that Ender was in fact fully to blame for genocide and murder.

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tms
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It was always the complex child characters that drew me back to Ender and his world. Youth, at times, can have very little innocence about it. Whether manipulated and therfore betrayed by adults like the Hitler Youth movement, or even if left unchecked, I am now thinking of Gitta Sereny's ace book on children who kill, the name of which is not available to me, children seem quite capable of producing 'shocking' behaviour, even if it is only to surviive. The particular 'tragedy of growing up' as JM Barrie called it, is that children can be as cruel, impulsive and brilliant as adults and vce versa.

Ender always struck me as the very emodiment of original sin, for want of a more secular phrase, and the myriad questions attached.

Childhood, as opposed to infancy, is a recently new invention, as is adlosecence, perhaps they will bleed into new categories just as quickly.

I still feel some of Ender's guilt whenever I reflect on the stars, and I never pushed a damn button.

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Penta
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OSC:

My own curiosity bubbles up here. When I read the end of EG, I first thought the allusion was to Col. Paul Tibbet and the crew of the Enola Gay; Recalling that EG was published originally during the 40th anniversary year of Hiroshima probably helped that.

The allusion isn't accurate, we know now, as Tibbet has said repeatedly he has no regrets.

But was that the intention of the time?

Was the MD Device supposed to be the analogy to the Atomic Bomb, and the Bugger Homeworld an analogy to Hiroshima?

On that note: tms, I always thought of Lord of the Flies when thinking of EG.

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Subhuman
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That author is really simple minded. Card never stated that Ender was not a killer. As anyone can see by reading the Speaker books. Besides if anyone was guilty it was the teachers who knew what was going on and Bean. They thought they were playing a game... But besides the point if it looks like your about to be killed and there is no way to communicate the natural choice is to kill the potential killer, and if it wasn't the natural choice humans wouldn't be alive today. And it isn't just you that needs to survive its the human race. That author is distorting what Card wrote by quoting parts from the book to make the readers believe what he was saying... If you were to unknowling kick a mirror when you were walking that moved it so that it would reflect the sunlight in a way to start a fire that would then kill 100 people I wouldn't say you should be punished for it. Intent is a big factor for fairness. Punishments are meant to teach people to not try (when you attempt something there is intent) unlawful things and if you get punished for something that you didn't do on purpose, it would not be right. Sure there would be deaths, and everyone loves to find a scapegoat for them but... Yeah its hard to live with, but in all fairness someone who clearly did not know that he killed somebody should not be punished. Its just people love to have scapegoats so much they write essays about how much they need one.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
Intent is a big factor for fairness
That's actually Kessel's point, as I understand it.
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cheiros do ender
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Certainly the main characters point of view has never, in any story I've read, been more important than Ender's in Enders Game.
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Subhuman
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Well if he was purposely trying to be naive or whatever he certainly got attention with this essay. In general negative essays about books get more attention.

He made it seem like Ender was getting revenge on bullies. Which was not so.

As for it being that guys point. I don't know I read like half of it. But I am guessing with out reading it they he changed the intentions of the characters to agree with his essay. So if that is his point then I wouldn't completely dissagree with him.

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