Why is having a third child illegal?

Ender’s Game puts a lot of emphasis on the potential of children. The International Fleet only recruits children for Battle School and Command School, as children are seen has having the greatest potential for wartime success. Despite this demand for skilled children, however, families are only allowed a maximum of two children unless given explicit permission by the government. We can infer that this restriction is likely a means of population control, serving primarily to prevent excess stress on resources. The war has put a lot of pressure on the Earth’s ability to sustain its population, creating a need to prevent unnecessary population growth. Though the Fleet requires children to build its military, the need is for intelligent soldiers specifically. This is why Ender’s parents were allowed a third child—his brother and sister showed promise, and so Ender’s birth was sanctioned in the hopes that he, too, would prove capable. From Demosthenes’s “scathing denunciation” of the population limitation laws, it’s also possible these laws are merely political.

Why is Ender selected for Battle School over his siblings?

All three of the Wiggin children experience close monitoring by the International Fleet due to each child’s proven strategic talents. After the monitoring process, however, only Ender is selected to report to Battle School. The reason for this selection is due to Ender possessing all the strengths of both of his siblings yet none of the weakness. Peter, while exhibiting mighty battle prowess and cunning, is too often blinded by anger and his inability to empathize with his opponents. Valentine, on the other hand, possesses the same strategic ability while suffering from extreme gentleness. Valentine lacks the ability to make the crucial and sometimes cruel decisions necessary to win the war. Whereas Peter can’t empathize with his enemies, Valentine empathizes with hers to a debilitating degree. Ender’s strengths lie in his ability to understand his opponent in a way that gives him the strategic upper hand and his ability to make brutal decisions despite his empathy. 

Why is Battle School and Command School comprised only of children?

As Mazer Rackham explains to Ender at Command School, children are seen as the answer to the war as they possess superior reflexes and pattern-recognition skills. Children have not experienced the reality of war to the extent that adults have, allowing them to face their opponent both fearlessly and with fresh ideas and strategies. Additionally, after their previous war success, the humans began focusing on genetics as a solution to their need for strong commanders. The children that make up the Battle School and Command School have proven themselves to have superior genetics. Due to the time-sensitivity of the war, however, these children do not have time to mature into adulthood, requiring them to lead the war effort while young. 

Why do Mazer and Colonel Graff lie to Ender about the final battle?

Mazer and Colonel Graff’s decision to make Ender believe the final battle is another simulation, and not a real battle on the Formic’s home planet, is made for multiple reasons. First, Ender has been performing flawlessly in all his previous Battle School and Command School battles and simulations. The superiors lie to hopefully ensure Ender’s continued success. Knowing the reality and the actual stakes could cause Ender to perform differently. Further, Mazer and Colonel Graff may be concerned that Ender won’t be able to make the brutal decision to end the Formics once and for all. Ender’s empathy and ability to understand his enemy are so strong he might hesitate. Finally, the two adults lie to Ender in order to protect his mental state leading up to the battle. The guilt of having to destroy a species could, and ultimately does, have a big impact on Ender’s psyche. Delaying the reveal until after the battle is a strategy to maintain Ender’s focus and ease. 

Why does Ender leave the planet?

Ender’s role in the total destruction of the Formic species devastates his emotional state. Ender feels immense guilt about what he’s done and eventually travels with Valentine to a deserted Formic colony to help the human expansion. While on this new planet, Ender learns of an existing and intact Formic queen egg, which is waiting for the perfect conditions to hatch. Ender comes to understand that the Formics had not only been trying to communicate with him, but that they never intended to reengage in war with Earth. Out of guilt for his destruction of an entire species and with the hope to set things right, Ender takes the Formic egg with him to explore space in search of a suitable birthplace for the new queen.