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Before I begin this post, I want to suggest those who have not finished the book hit the back button immediately. This topic will cover several issues that essentially give away the entire story and ending. You have been warned.This topic is in reference to an article written by John Kessel in the International Review of Science Fiction. I noticed this article while reviewing the Wikipedia entry for Ender's Game (which actually plays devil's advocate to Kessel's arguement in many ways). You can read the article online here: Creating the Innocent Killer.After reading Kessel's article, I decided to refrain from a point by point, nearly paragraph by paragraph, dissection of Kessel's arguements and opinions. Most specifically, some interpretation Kessel inadvertently suggests that I believe is completely opposite the point of what Orson Scott Card was going for. Rather, I would like to devote this topic to our own discussion of Kessel's major issue which seems to be the question of the relation of Intention and Morality.Criminal Law requires two aspects of intention for a guilty conviction on most charges: the guilty mind and the guilty act (Mes Rea & Actus Reus). Kessel would have done well in his well research article to include some readings into Criminal Justice Theory. A person on trial must be proven to have both artibutes of the crime in order to be proven guilty for many crimes, including murder in the first degree. Though involuntary manslaughter is avaialble for a charge without a guilty mind. However, the death must be "due to recklessness or criminal negligence" for this charge, neither of which is applicable to Ender, in my opinion, most especially in the genocide case.Kessel could make a point that Ender could have been held responsible for Voluntary Manslaughter in the cases of the two boys he accidentally killed. However, I think the case of self defence is applicable and holds merit. The extra kick to the crotch was the only purely violent intent based on preventing future attacks (this is not a valid defense for self defense as those attacks were no imminent). However, both kids were already apparently dead before the over the top use of violence.The Genocide issue is amazing in that Card skillfully eliminates any possible issue of intent. In a matter of fact, ironically, Ender decides the suicide run will surely end the games and make him a failure. His intent was to purposefully loose a game. In this case, the only people who could be held responsible for genocide are those that watched him do it!Kessel might also have tried researching some psychological experiments about intention and guilt. In many infamous cases utilizing research techniques long since bared from practice, participants experienced severe guilt for taking part in research experiments in which they inadvertently inflicted pain on others because of the situations of the experiment, situations in which they never would have performed such actions of their own accord. So we should look at Ender's Game, in a way, as a cruel experiment and see Ender's actions in that context. If you are told if you push a button, you will win a game, but instead someone dies, are you guilty of murder? Heck no. But the person who told you to push the button sure is.Ender's Game is wonderful in that all these various moral issues are constantly clashing with emotions and duty. Actions produce unintended consequences and in the end, Ender destroys an entire race because he was used as a tool, a weapon, not of is own will nor intention. Even if Ender knew it was real (and there is no evidence to suggest that he would have gone through with war once he graduated), he was brain washed from day one that everything was in defence of Earth.In summary, I completely at odds with Kessel's article and criticism of Card. I wouldn't call Ender a hero but rather a character utilized to bring about interesting moral and social issues and situations. Intent is important when discussing morality. I have a favorite saying that I am VERY fond of:"It is not the what, it's the why." Edited by: Chris OConnor at: 4/10/06 4:55 pm
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Good post, river. It actually makes me want to go back and read the novel and think over some of those points. Let me square away some other books I'm reading at the moment, and I may join into this discussion.
While I like Ender's Game immensely, I'm not really a fan of the sequels. Nor do I care for many of Card's other works, such as the Alvin Maker series, with their strange blend of bastardized history and mormon belief.That said, I think Mr. Kessel misses the mark in his criticism. I especially take issue with his take on the bullying children being portayed as overly- melodramatic. Apparently he has never suffered at the hands of bullies or known anyone that has; or he has a remarkably selective memory.Regards,M. Graham Trouble rather the tiger in his lair than the sage among his books.For to you kingdoms and their armies are things mighty and enduring,but to him they are but toys of the moment,to be overturned with the flick of a finger. -- Gordon R.Dickson
Quote:That said, I think Mr. Kessel misses the mark in his criticism. I especially take issue with his take on the bullying children being portayed as overly- melodramatic.Apparently he has never suffered at the hands of bullies or known anyone that has; or he has a remarkably selective memory.indeed, i thought his descriptions (and more importantly, the reasoning behind the bullying) were spot on. i received a fair amount of harrassment as an elementary and middle schooler. it is definitely fairly accurate.
I always thought of Ender as someone who ultimatly tried to do the right thing. As for his guilt, after reading that article, I now think he was guilty of something, but not as guilty as he felt himself to be.On an odd note, I was just somewhere where young people are trained to kill when they need to. Most of us were 18-20 years old, at 23 I was older than the majority. Most clearly have no idea of the potential ramifications of killing. One of our DIs who had seen combat talked to us about it and I am not going to repeat it here. But I got the impression that alot of the guys would have kicked your ass (or worse) if you weren't wiling to kill. Frankly, I don't like that the chaplains and corpsmen get exempted from having to kill. "...the great events in life come from the books, rather than the people, one comes across." - Robert D. Kaplan, Mediterranean Winter: the Pleasures of History and Landscape in Tunisia, Sicily, Dalmatia, and Greece