Ender’s Empathic Abilities
Orson Scott Card’s work of science fiction, Ender’s Game, is the exciting and poignant tale of a genius, Ender Wiggin, whom the Government takes from home at an early age to mold into a military commander. From his turbulent childhood, to his days at the physically and psychologically taxing Battle School, to his conquest of the buggers and ultimate colonization of their world, the most essential and useful aspect of Ender’s prodigious genius is his incredible empathic ability. From the portrayal of his early childhood in the novel’s first chapters, it seems that Ender developed this empathic ability as both a physical and psychological defense against the many truculent characters in his life, such as his enemy in school, Stilson, and his older brother, Peter. The usefulness and necessity of Ender’s empathy manifest themselves again at the battle school, where it helps Ender immeasurably to defeat his enemies, both in and out of the game room. Lastly, towards the novel’s end, Ender’s empathy takes on a much more universal significance when it first allows him to win the war for humanity against the buggers, and then at last is put to a more peaceful use, when Ender becomes a “speaker for the dead”.
From the very beginning of the novel, Ender’s extraordinary empathic abilities are quite conspicuous. The first time the reader encounters Ender, in fact, he is making a very perspicacious observation about the way adults lie to children. A woman in charge of the maintenance of a monitor attached since birth to the back of Ender’s head had told him that it was at last time for the monitor to come off, and that “it won’t hurt a bit.” Ender’s response is a clear reflection of his empathic abilities. He ruminates, “It was a lie, of course, that it wouldn’t hurt a bit. But since adults always said it when it was going to hurt, he could count on that statement as an accurate prediction of the future.
Sometimes lies were more dependable than truth.” Ender, here, has not only essentially read the mind of the monitor lady, but has also demonstrated his personal knowledge of a universal habit of adults’ lying to children about certain things, such as pain. A short while later in the novel, still before he departs for battle school, Ender demonstrates even more dramatically the expediency of his empathic ability. The very day his monitor is removed, Ender is attacked by the leader of a gang in his school, Stilson. Ender manages to kick Stilson so that he falls down, and appears to be unconscious. Ender comes to the resolution that the only way to make sure that he never is picked on again is to scare Stilson and his gang so much that they never dare touch him.
Ender’s words and actions, in the following scene, are all calculated to make his point quite clear,
“So Ender walked to Stilson’s supine body and kicked him again…Then Ender looked at the others coldly. ‘You might having some idea of ganging up on me. You could probably beat me up pretty bad. But just remember what I do to people who try to hurt me. From then on you’d be wondering when I’d get you, and how bad it would be.’ He kicked Stilson in the face.
Blood from his nose spattered the ground nearby. ‘It wouldn’t be this bad,” Ender said. ‘It would be worse’.”
Indeed, Ender’s empathic abilities, in this case, prove themselves quite clearly, by the reaction of the other boys, which is just as Ender intended… “nobody followed him…He could hear the boys behind him saying, “Geez, Look at him, He’s wasted.”
Perhaps even more than at home, Ender’s employs his empathic abilities often and with great success at battle school. By the end of his stay, it has become clear that, of all his extraordinary abilities, his empathy is the most useful and necessary to his survival.
One of the most obvious and significant reflections of Ender’s empathy in battle school comes in his fight with Bonzo in the shower. Bonzo, a Spanish boy of modest ability compared to Ender, had had a vicious .