Our own Allison Emm has never read Ender's Game! Her punishment: not much of a punishment, really... she gets to read and blog Ender's Game for us. Join her on her journey, won't you?
When the FIRST chapter of a book is called “Third,” it throws me for a loop. At first, I thought for a good long moment that some heartless fiend had torn out the first and second chapters of this book. I’m not very good at numbers, but eventually I figured it out. “Third” refers to a little boy around whom this story revolves.
Ender is six years old, and the third child born to his family. This is a rarity, as the government has a say in how many children a couple can have. When we first meet him, he is having a monitoring device removed from the back of his neck. Apparently, this device had allowed some government researchers to watch the world from his perspective. They’ve been watching him in order to find out if he has the juice to be some kind of super soldier.
At school, Ender is stuck in a class much too dull for him. He is teased about being a third child, with the majority of the teasing at the hands of a classmate named Stilson. After class, Stilson continues the harassment with a group of bullies. The confrontation ends with Stilson bloody and motionless on the floor. Ender cries to himself at the bus stop, terrified that he will end up like his heartless brother Peter.
I remember when I was six. Sure, I thought I could save the world, but elaborate board games made me cry. Can’t imagine what kind of pressure this kid is under.
The next chapter (thankfully not referred to as “Fourth,” “Second,” or any number for that matter) is where we get to know this Peter character. He’s yucky.
Peter is the oldest—er—“first” child in Ender’s family. I tend to have a soft spot for the older siblings in adventure stories. Katniss Everdeen, Wendy Moira Angela Darling, Meg Murray. It doesn’t take deep psychoanalysis to figure out why these characters will always resonate with me. I’m a protective big sister and I love my siblings dearly, so I relate to strong sibling relationships in stories. This is precisely why I want to punch Peter in the face.
Cerebrally, I know that there are complex, problematic sibling relationships in the world. I’m quite capable of acknowledging how various family dynamics and cultural values can shape the interaction between brothers and sisters, sometimes resulting in distant, turbulent, or abusive situations. I get it. It happens. Emotionally, however, the concept baffles me, particularly in the case of Peter and Ender.
Peter is bitter over the fact that Ender kept the monitor on longer than he did. When Ender comes home, Peter challenges him to a game of “buggers and astronauts,” but it’s clear from the get go that this is no innocent child’s play. Ender is clearly afraid of his older brother, and Peter is not at all concerned with his little brother’s safety. Not only does Peter injure Ender in the game, but he sadistically describes the details of how he could kill Ender by crushing him.
I am that kid that yells at the characters in books, and I gave Peter a piece of my mind.
The most tragic part about this doesn’t seem to be Peter’s violent nature, however. Later that night, when Peter thinks Ender is asleep, he apologizes tearfully. I suppose it would be too easy to consider him a complete psychopath. It’s also more than a little ironic that Peter’s violence evokes a violent response from me. Sheesh.
I’m quite curious to see where this goes, and how much (if any) the sibling relationship plays a part in the larger story. Ender seems to have a much healthier relationship with his sister, Valentine, so that’s a relief.
- Are you a protective older sibling? If so, do you also want to punch Peter in the face, or would a quick smack upside the head suffice?
- Analyze the following quote:
“You’re about as strong as a fart!”