Ender's Game (mild spoilers)

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at Proffitt.com
Mon Mar 17 12:51:09 EST 2003

On Sat, 15 Mar 2003 10:03:16 -0500, Rebecca Ganetzky wrote:

>How do people on the list feel about Orson Scott Card's _Ender Game_? 
>In many ways, I find the book very powerful, and yet I always feel 
>vaguely uncomfortable.  Obviously 1)it's NOT appropriate for small 
>children (and I strongly object to them publishing it YA -- what were 
>they thinking?  6 year olds *kill* people.  And it's described. 
>Graphically in one point.  Small animals get tortured.  Sorry...but, 
>the book is just not appropriate for younger kids.

In terms of this list I'm compiling, I would mark it for older readers (just
as other books are being marked for younger readers).  It is NOT young adult
fiction, but then neither are a lot of things that teens like to read (can
we all say V.C. Andrews?).  I think I was 17 when I read it, just the right

>keep finding things that make me twitch and say 'misogyny,' 
>'anti-semitism.'  I mean, Card makes his one female equal very 
>competent (Petra), but he also says there are very few women being 
>trained, because they've evolved to be bad fighters.  And then again, 
>with Rose the Nose, when the reader is told that all of the Jewish 
>generals always win fights, and we're told that almost everyone in 
>power is Jewish...Am I just overly sensitive?

I think so.  Card is working not from personal bias, but from a range of
studies demonstrating the differences in aggression between the sexes.
Cultural conditioning does not account for all of it, and Card's hypothesis
of evolutionary conditioning is just as likely as anything else.  I don't
think it's misogyny when you're trying to explain a statistical phenomenon;
it's the opposite of declaring that *because* women are less aggressive,
they *can't* be fighters.  I'd beat up the first person who said that to me.
:)  Card elaborates on this in (I think) the third volume of the Homecoming
series, with an episode expressing the idea that civilization exists for
women's benefit, because men left to themselves would be brutes.  My reading
of that left me thinking that *this* was closer to something he actually
believed, but again I suspect that it's a hypothesis he evolved to explain
behavior he observed.

About anti-Semitism, I seem to remember that the comment about Jewish
generals is made not authorially, but by one of the characters.  You simply
can't hold the author responsible for the beliefs of his characters, or no
author would be able to write villains or stupid people.  And Card's remarks
in other forums about Jews identify him as very supportive of the Jewish
people.  There's always the possibility of a particular kind of racism, like
saying all black people have great rhythm, but I'm not inclined to take that
view in this case.

Unfortunately, Card really isn't that great at writing differentiated female
characters.  His heroines are strong, competent, and interesting, but
they're also all variations on maybe three types.  I have wondered sometimes
whether he doesn't realize this on some level, and that's why he doesn't
write more female characters.  I honestly don't care for the women in his
books, except maybe Valentine and Little Peggy/Margaret Larner from _Alvin
Maker_.  The difference is remarkable when you look at _Lovelock, co-written
with Kathryn Kidd, who has wonderful powers of characterization and a keen
eye for female personalities.  The book is not wonderful, but you start to
see how limited Card's range has been with women characters.

Melissa Proffitt

If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning.

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