Ender's Game

by: Orson Scott Card

Manipulation

1

I know you, Ender. I’ve been watching the monitor disks for some time. You won’t miss your mother and father, not much, not for long. And they won’t miss you long, either.

As Graff tries to convince Ender to attend Battle School, he uses the awkward relationship between Ender and his parents to make him think his parents don’t care about him. As a “Third,” people consider Ender an embarrassment in society, though he at least seems to experience an affectionate relationship with his mother. In the end, Graff persuades him to attend Battle School by pointing out that Ender and his parents won’t miss each other once he leaves home. This moment represents one of many instances when Graff and other adults use such manipulation tactics to get children to do what they want.

2

Valentine could persuade other people to her point of view—she could convince them that they wanted what she wanted them to want. Peter, on the other hand, could only make them fear what he wanted them to fear.

As Peter begins to convince Valentine to agree with his plan to write as Locke and Demosthenes, Valentine recalls how Peter once pointed out how persuasive each of them could be. While Peter uses force and fear tactics to manipulate others, Valentine uses a sweet and subtle method to get others to believe that what Valentine wants equals what they truly want. These powers of manipulation enable Valentine and Peter to eventually rule the world.

3

Still, thinking back on his life in Battle School, it occurred to him that although he had never sought power, he had always had it. But he decided that it was a power born of excellence, not manipulation. He had no reason to be ashamed of it.

As Ender and Graff travel to the Command School, Ender considers his own power and what Peter would do with such power. He reflects on how his acquisition of power seems different from everyone else’s. Unlike Graff, Peter, or Valentine, Ender didn’t have to manipulate anyone to earn his power and gain respect from others. Rather, he operated as a smart and talented commander and trained his army well. As Ender has been manipulated by others his whole life, he feels proud knowing he never manipulated others to get what he needed or wanted.

4

They both laughed, and Ender had to remind himself that Graff was only acting like a friend, that everything he did was a lie or a cheat calculated to turn Ender into an efficient fighting machine. I’ll become exactly the tool you want me to be, said Ender silently, but at least I won’t be fooled into it. I’ll do it because I choose to, not because you tricked me, you sly bastard.

While sharing some friendly moments with Graff on a trip to Command School, Ender reminds himself that he cannot trust Graff to be his friend. Even though Ender knows that Graff aims to manipulate him, Ender acknowledges that he willingly chooses to become the tool Graff wants. By reminding himself that he is going to Command School of his own volition, Ender feels more empowered than simply letting Graff trick him.

5

“Of course we tricked you into it. That’s the whole point,” said Graff. “It had to be a trick or you couldn’t have done it. It’s the bind we were in. We had to have a commander with so much empathy that he would think like the buggers, understand them and anticipate them. So much compassion that he could win the love of his underlings and work with them like a perfect machine, as perfect as the buggers. But somebody with that much compassion could never be the killer we needed.”

After Ender destroys all the buggers, he cries that the other tricked him into completing the action, that they turned him into a killer. Here, Graff explains why they could not tell Ender the truth about his actions. Although Ender feels upset at being manipulated into doing something he never would have done on his own, he did save the human race and change the world ensuring that other children would not need to grow up as soldiers. Readers might infer from such a truth that manipulating others can be justified, even necessary, in certain circumstances.