Loving Your Enemies in Ender’s Game

Jesus commanded us to love our enemies. How can we love them if we don’t understand them, if we don’t take the time to know them? In the novel Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, Ender Wiggin unintentionally learns the best way to love one’s enemies, and he never forgets it. Though just a child deprived of a family’s love and friendship, Ender does what most adults can never do – he loves those that society tells him he’s supposed to hate.

Ender’s Game takes place in a distant future, when our world had been almost destroyed in two invasions by an alien race called the buggers. In the second invasion, the humans were able to force the buggers to retreat, though at great cost. They’ve had peace for about 70 years now but have been expecting another attack from the buggers. In preparation for this third invasion, the leaders of different countries created the International Fleet – an army that trains children to fight battles in zero gravity on a spaceship. All children on Earth are closely monitored to see if they are eligible for this Battle School. At age six, Ender, the youngest of three young geniuses, is chosen to leave his family and train to save his world, and the book details his life through training to the end of the war.

Ender always looks at life by thinking three steps ahead, even at age six. His brilliance flourishes in the Battle School, and he quickly advances, accomplishing many feats that children twice his age can’t do. This, of course, causes the other children to be jealous and Ender to feel isolated. The adults in command of the school keep Ender busy with training and mock battles, manipulating and controlling his life so that he has no close friends. They don’t want anything to distract him from his training, not even love, because he is their last hope to destroy the buggers. With the fate of the world on his little shoulders, Ender becomes the best commander the adults have ever seen – a quick thinker, a strategist, a hard worker, and, what they wanted most, a killer.

Ender, however, hates himself for this trait. He is terrified of becoming just like his brilliant but cruel older brother, Peter, who tormented him before Ender left for Battle School. He tries to be compassionate, but what he doesn’t realize is that this is exactly what sets him apart from Peter. Ender doesn’t want to hurt people. Several boys bully him at different points in the novel, but because Ender knows how the other boys think and what is motivating them, Ender defeats the bullies, strategically and systematically. Afterwards, though, he always feels guilty. Ender defeats his enemies because otherwise his enemies would have hurt or killed him; but at the moment that Ender defeats them, he loves them. He feels compassion for them. He understands how to love his enemies and doesn’t want to destroy them. He tells his sister, Valentine:

“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” (page 238).

Ender’s greatest quality, the thing that makes him different from all the other children, is not his ability to wipe out his enemy completely but his ability to learn about and understand people, even his enemies. He’s the only one who takes the time to understand them, to know their past and the reasons for their actions. And it’s only when he understands his enemies that he loves them and wants to live at peace. There are two ways to destroy an enemy. One is to defeat through harm. The other way is by turning him into a friend. Ender does not want to destroy his enemies; he would rather befriend them and love them.

Not only does Ender love his human enemies, but he even learns to love the alien enemies, those who almost destroyed his world. Though not instructed to by any adults, Ender spends hours and hours trying to understand the buggers, how they think, why they attacked Earth, and how they live. When he does finally understand them, he doesn’t want to destroy them; he wants to live in peace with them. The adults want him to defeat the buggers and completely wipe them out, but Ender wants to forgive them and be friends. The one person who is able to defeat the buggers is the only human who loves the buggers. I don’t know what the movie version of Ender’s Game teaches, but if there’s one thing you learn from the book, though there is much to learn from it, I hope you learn how to better love those you’re “supposed” to hate.

The Good, the Bad, and Stephenie Meyer

Stephenie Meyer is a thoughtful, careful writer.  The depth and subtlety of her plot is fantastically mirrored in the multi-layered facets of her characters, wherein the complexity of her thought is revealed.  One is simultaneously unable to stop reading and also drawn to careful consideration of such things as community, prejudice, self sacrifice, dualism, the other, and the heartbreaking complexity of love.

But don’t look for any of this in her unfathomably popular Twilight series.  You won’t find it.

Meyers’ most recent novel, The Host, puts to rest any speculations about Twilight’s possible veiled greatness.  Readers may now rest assured, if they had any doubt, that Twilight is no work of genius.  It is, however, the work of, if not a genius, at least a very quick learner.  The Host is the work of a much improved and much matured writer whose clear prose and thoughtful execution reminds one more of Ender than of Edward.  It bears little resemblance to Meyers’ more widely known Twilight saga, whose teenaged audience will neither fathom nor enjoy The Host.

The Host invites readers to inhabit an earth almost completely annexed by a parasitical alien race.  The small silver aliens who attach themselves to the human nervous system subdue the earth with little effort, suppressing each human host’s personality, but not his memories.  The “souls”, as they are called, are gentle, peaceful beings who abhor violence of all kinds and believe the earth has been much improved by their orderly and compassionate presence.  Crime all but disappears, as most hosts cannot even bring themselves to break speed limit laws.  Conflict of any kind is nearly unheard of, even in popular entertainment – a fact, we are reminded often, which makes for very bad television.

Then Wanderer comes.  After living out the lives of species on nine other planets, Wanderer is implanted into a human host, a young woman named Melanie.  As sometimes happens, Melanie’s personality is initially difficult to subdue: Melanie wants to live.

It’s not easy to write from the point of view of two simultaneous main characters, but Meyer does so gracefully.  Her skillful depiction of the complex relationship that develops between the two beings which inhabit Melanie’s body successfully captures the constant tension between the two without exaggerating or overemphasizing it.  The reader comes to sympathize with both characters – indeed, with all the characters in this book, both good and bad.

This is not to say that The Host is perfect.  While many of the players (and there are many of them) are beautifully portrayed, others – especially the male love interests – are disappointingly one-dimensional through most of the book.  Not everyone in a story needs to be interesting, but the love interest whose devotion drives much of the plot certainly should be.  Also, for a race that can’t even bear to see common social awkwardness in its entertainment, the souls are just a little too good at dominating planets.

Then again, science fiction is typically not known and enjoyed for its plausibility.

Orson Scott Card fans will quickly note the Ender’s Game author’s influence on Meyer’s work.  Indeed, The Host may well join the Ender books as a cult classic, cementing Meyer’s status as a great Mormon author long after Edward and Bella are forgotten. ‘