Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.


Ender is very much a representative of all that is good. He is filled with sorrow for any destruction he causes and wishes no ill to any other creature. He is good because he is kind, but he is also good because he makes the sacrifices that he has to make. It is good to do what is needed, even if what is needed does not seem right. Ender does not hate Graff or Rackham for what they did to him, because he realizes that they did what had to be done. At the same time, he is crushed by the thought that he wiped out an entire race. He is good because he is forgiving—he understands even those who hate him. Finally, Ender is good because he sees his evils and tries to remedy them. There is no idealized, perfect good in this novel. Ender represents the best that a person can do, given the circumstances of life.


Peter does what he wants. He takes power because he desires it, and other people's thoughts and emotions are only important to him insofar as he can exploit them. It is true that he makes a good ruler because he is not evil incarnate. Evil in this book is acting for the wrong reasons, regardless of the outcome. Although Peter saves lives by coming to power on earth, he is evil because he did so only out of expediency. Good can come out of evil, but that does not make the evil any better. Peter is an awful human being, but it just so happens that he makes a good ruler. What is scary is that an evil person does not care whether their actions are good or bad.

The Giant’s Drink

The Giant’s Drink symbolizes the unwinnable nature of Ender’s journey—that is, the only way to succeed is at the expense of another. Every time Ender reaches the Giant, he guesses wrong by drinking the incorrect drink, and he loses. Obsessed with finding a way around an obstacle designed to be insurmountable, Ender ultimately wins by knocking over the drinks and attacking the Giant. In short, he wins by breaking the rules, by subverting the expectations of the game’s creators, thus illustrating his creativity and ability to think outside the box. Instead of being happy, however, he despairs, feeling as though he behaved as his ruthless brother would: “Peter would be proud." His success and subsequent feelings of disgust at what it took to win serve as a parallel to the destruction of the buggers.