Themes in Ender's Game: Quotes From the Novel Explained

Themes in Ender's Game: Quotes From the Novel Explained
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The Dangers of Big Government

An argument can be made supporting the need for the IF in Ender’s Game. After all, Buggers did try to wipe out the entire planet. As with real modern governments, unfortunately, the leaders in Ender’s Game do not let the crisis go to waste and ultimately overstep their bounds. Let’s compare the world of Big Government in Ender’s Game with the basic tenets of freedom presented in the Declaration of Independence.

  1. The Right to Life: In Ender’s society, the government limits the number of children a family can have. Parents must gain permission to have more than two.
  2. The Right to Liberty: In Ender’s society nobody is truly free. Conversations are taped. Gifted individuals are tagged for military use. There is no true freedom.
  3. The Right to Pursue Happiness: Ender is manipulated by military officials, not fully knowing what he is doing or why he is doing it.

One must understand that the society in which Card lives is not under alien attack. Perhaps he’s writing Ender’s Game for his own time. Card brings up several qualities of big government that are detrimental to individual liberties.

  1. The justification that “it’s for your own good.” The government knows better than you do what’s best for you.
  2. The idea that society’s needs are more important than individual needs. Big government believes that all benefit when society benefits. Supporters of smaller government believe society benefits when individual rights are protected.
  3. The elimination of religion and the establishment of government as the solution to all problems. Religion is made illegal in Ender’s game, eliminating one institution that may be considered more important than government.
  4. The deterioration of family loyalty. Once again, Ender’s government attempts to eliminate familial bonds for the “greater good.”
  5. Turning one group in society against another.
  6. Using the education system to promote government agendas.

Ender’s Game Quotes

  1. “Human beings are free except when humanity needs them. Maybe humanity needs you.” (26).
  2. “I am not a happy man, Ender. Humanity does not ask us to be happy. It merely asks us to be brilliant on its behalf. Survival first, then happiness as we can manage it.” (194).
  3. “Welcome to the human race. Nobody controls his own life, Ender. The best you can do is choose to fill the roles given you by good people, by people who love you.” (219).
  4. “It was not his fault he was a Third. It was the government’s idea, they were the ones who authorized it - how else could a Third like Ender have got into school?” (4).
  5. “the adults are the enemies, not the other armies. They do not tell us the truth.”
  6. “It’s the teachers, they’re the enemy. They get us to fight each other, to hate each other.” (77).

The Fine Line between Good and Evil

Orson Scott Card blurs the line between good and evil in Ender’s Game. Let’s take a look at the novel’s protagonist and antagonist, the former being “the good guy,” and the latter being “the bad guy.”

Ender does the following:

  1. He kills Stilson after Stilson bullies him.
  2. He breaks Bernard’s arm on the space shuttle going to military training school.
  3. He kills Bonzo Madrid during a fight at military school.
  4. He kills billions of Buggers.

Peter does the following:

  1. He terrorizes Ender and Valentine.
  2. He tortures small woodland creatures.
  3. He lies a lot.
  4. He establishes a fake identity on the nets, takes over the world, and averts WWIII.

A quick look at their resumes would indicate Ender’s crimes are worse than Peter’s, but any intelligent, rational human being would consider Ender good and Peter evil.

Quotes that Demonstrate the Blurred Line between Good and Evil


  1. “Sometimes lies are more dependable than the truth.” (2).
  2. “Ender leaned his head against the wall of the corridor and cried until the bus came. I am just like Peter. Take my monitor away, and I am just like Peter.” (8).
  3. “But this isn’t how it feels to be a bugger, thought Ender. They don’t ware this face like a mask, it is their face. On their home worlds, do the buggers put on human masks, and play?” (8).
  4. “I’m doing it again, thought Ender. I’m hurting people again, just to save myself. Why don’t they leave me alone, so I don’t have to hurt them?” (115).
  5. “Perhaps it’s impossible to wear an identity without becoming what you pretend to be.” (231).
  6. “Human beings didn’t evolve brains in order to lie around on lakes. Killing’s the first thing we learned. And a good thing we did, or we’d be dead, and the tigers would own the earth.” (241).
  7. “This was supposed to be a game. Not a choice between his own grisly death and an even worse murder. I’m a murderer, even when I play. Peter would be proud of me.” (65).
  8. “‘I know what you’re thinking, you bastard, you’re thinking that I’m wrong, that Ender’s like Peter. Well maybe I’m like Peter, but Ender isn’t, he isn’t at all, I used to tell him that when he cried, I told him that lots of times, you’re not like Peter, you never like to hurt people, you’re kind and good and not like Peter at all!’” (148).
  9. “But I’ll be watching you, more compassionately than you know, and when the time is right you’ll find that I’m your friend, and you are the soldier you want to be.” (168).
  10. “‘In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves. And then, in that very moment when I love them-….. I destroy them. I make it impossible for them to ever hurt me again. I grind them and grind them until they don’t exist.’” (238).

This post is part of the series: Ender’s Game Study Guide

Don’t get killed by that Bugger of a quiz, blast it with this Ender’s Game study guide.

  1. Ender’s Game Study Guide: Quotes and Themes