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Ender's Game

Orson Scott Card

Important Quotations Explained

Chapter 15: Speaker for the Dead

Key Facts

"Human beings are free except when humanity needs them. Maybe humanity needs you. To do something. Maybe humanity needs me—to find out what you're good for. We might both do despicable things, Ender, but if humankind survives, then we were good tools."

Graff is explaining to Ender the philosophy behind everything they are doing. Although Ender does not know it at the time, this is the same reasoning that the adults will use to manipulate the children time and time again. Ender objects to this idea, because he believes that people are more than just tools, but nevertheless it is the pervading ideology of the I.F. throughout the book. This philosophy justifies doing terrible things in the name of humanity, and it also means that individuals will have to make awful sacrifices for their species.

"In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it's impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves."

Ender is telling Valentine why he hates himself. He is able to understand his enemies better than anyone else, but once he understands them he destroys them. With such tremendous empathy, even in coming to understand his worst enemies Ender loves them. This means that when he crushes them he is hurting himself in the process. Ender does not want to have enemies, so that he will not be forced to hurt anybody. He will love even those who seem to be his most bitter enemies when he properly understands them. But in the situations Ender has been in he has no choice other than destroying those enemies. At the end of the book, when Ender comes to truly understand the buggers, he is able to try to help them. He has already done them great harm, but now he can be happy because he has a chance to undo what he did to them.

"So the whole war is because we can't talk to each other."

"If the other fellow can't tell you his story, you can never be sure he isn't trying to kill you."

"What if we just left them alone?"

"Ender, we didn't go to them first, they came to us. If they were going to leave us alone, they could have done it a hundred years ago, before the First Invasion."

"Maybe they didn't know we were intelligent life. Maybe—"

This conversation occurs when Graff tells Ender his theory of why they are at war with the buggers. Graff tells Ender that since the buggers communicate through thought, they probably cannot understand that humans are thinking beings. Ender therefore wants to know why this cannot be remedied. Graff points out that they will never be sure the buggers will leave them alone and that they already attacked once. However, Ender still finds it hard to believe that intelligent life forms could be unwilling to have rational discussion. Ironically, Ender then goes on to destroy the buggers, colonize one of their worlds, find the queen pupa, and talk to it. He is the one who is able to communicate with the buggers, and it is this belief in the value of sentient beings talking through their problems that allows him to do so. Rather than destroying the bugger queen, he listens to what she tells him (through images in his mind) and decides that he can help her. The rest of humanity believes that the buggers are committed to warfare, but Ender will not give up on the notion of talking things over.

"I am not a happy man, Ender. Humanity does not ask us to be happy. It merely asks us to be brilliant on its behalf. Survival first, then happiness as we can manage it."

Mazer Rackham is telling his version of a philosophy similar to Graff's, but the difference is that he allows for the possibility of people playing roles as more than just tools. Rackham believes that people are primarily tools, because survival is foremost, but then afterwards they may be concerned with finding some sort of happiness. Ender was not happy with Graff's philosophy, but Rackham's is one he can live with. People must make sacrifices, that is true, but they also must have a chance to do something for themselves. Ender's Game can be read as Ender's struggle first to do what humanity needs him to do, and then to do what he needs to do in order to be happy, which involves attempting to undo what humanity asked of him.

"Welcome to the human race. Nobody controls his own life, Ender. The best you can do is choose to fill the roles given you by good people, by people who love you."

Valentine explains to Ender her view of human life. She is telling him that he must look past the fact that people have used throughout his life. She says that everyone uses everyone else, and it is not possible to simply follow your own path. However, we can choose to follow a path that someone we love has set out before us. What the ones we love want us to do may be good for us, and it may even be what we want to do. It is human freedom that is at stake, and it cannot be claimed in a vacuum. But it is possible to feel free within a path that is not entirely of one's own making, and that is what Valentine tries to tell Ender. He may not completely agree with her, because Ender wishes to be totally free, but in the end he knows that we all must serve someone. He chooses to serve the buggers because he wants to—the path they set out for him is the one that corresponds with his freedom.

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Ender Vs. Peter Motivation

by ICanReadMusicToo, June 03, 2013

I think the foil of the brothers' motivations can be simplified like this:

Ender is always doing the wrong thing for the right reasons:
Ender always wants to do no harm, but is often forced to harm/destroy by situations beyond his control. He does his best to do things in the most moral way, and for only the most moral purposes, but that's not always as possible as he would like.

Peter does the right thing for the wrong reasons:
Peter simply wants to do whatever is the easiest/most beneficial for himself, and is in... Read more

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Symbolism

by GrammarJunkie18, July 12, 2013

Some theories: Can Peter, Ender, and Valentine represent the id, the ego, and the superego? Seems likely to me. Also, what is the significance of all the names in the novel? Note that Peter, Andrew, and Valentine are saints. What did they do? I guess Valentine is something love-related, and Peter is the bad apostle, right? Also, who were Locke and Demosthenes historically? I know that John Locke was an English philosopher in the 1600s, and Demosthenes was a Greek philosopher, right? And Eros, the name of the planet - what's the significance ... Read more

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29 out of 35 people found this helpful

Teachers

by Cillaejobbigjustnu, October 16, 2013

The teachers doesn't show any compassion to the pupils of the battle school. Althought we (me and my ego's) think that they have more compassion and care alot more of the children than they show through. We think that it is to make strong soldiers and that they don't want them to be weak and want to go home etc.

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