Saturday, June 22, 2013

Memorable Moments: Ender's Game - Terrible Reality

Adam C. Zern reflects on an unforgettable scene from a favorite book, Ender's Game (Spoiler Alert!):

Ender's Game"Books, like films, are usually remembered by one or two scenes that are so powerful, so shocking, or so emotional they cannot be forgotten.  Having read hundreds of books, my memory of many of the details, plot points, or dialogue is extremely limited.  Yet, even with reflections of hundreds of books clattering around in my brain I still remember certain keys scenes from a handful of books which I am unlikely to forget any time soon.  One book and one scene in particular I'll never forget is the incredible revelation at the end of Ender's Game.

Ender' GameEnder, just like the reader, is unaware that all of his time at Command School has been a virtual representation of what is actually occurring in reality.  During an epic, supposedly virtual, battle with the extra-terrestrial Formics, Ender is presented with an impossible situation and takes the most dramatic action he could.  He launches the 'Little Doctor,' an unparalleled weapon of mass destruction, and essentially commits, as far as anyone understood, xenocide—the total annihilation of an entire species.  Ender, still unaware as to what has occurred, turns and sees a bizarre response: 'Men in uniform were hugging each other, laughing, shouting; others were weeping; some knelt or lay prostrate, and Ender knew they were caught up in prayer.'

They believed humanity had been saved, pre-emptively and totally. The moral implications and complications immediately become apparent.  Is Ender a savior or a war criminal?  When the full impact of what was done falls upon Ender, who was always a reluctant soldier and commander, it also falls upon the reader and neither will ever forget that terrible moment.  Colonel Graff, Ender's sometimes mentor and sometimes enemy, exclaims with tears rolling down his cheeks: 'Thank you, thank you, Ender.  Thank God for you, Ender.'

But the reader and Ender isn't sure what to think.  Ender, and possibly the reader as well, feels betrayed, tricked.  But has the ultimate good been done?  If so, then perhaps Ender is to be thanked, as Colonel Graff did.  If not, what should our reaction be?  It's a wonderful moment in a great book which accomplishes exactly what is intended, and it's hard to forget the scene and the questions that come along with it."

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