On Ender's Game

Ender’s Game: A Guide to Life

By Matt Nix

Admit it: you were Ender.

You know what I’m talking about. When you read Ender’s Game for the first time, you didn’t say to yourself: “What an interesting exploration of the interior life of a young warrior-in-training!” You read it the way every true devotee of the novel does—with the secret knowledge that you were reading about yourself.

I read Ender’s Game as a teenager after a close friend handed it to me and demanded that I start it immediately. I devoured it in a single sitting and then re-read it many times. It was a little different each time, but I always had the sense that it wasn’t just a novel: it was a guide to life. No, that’s not specific enough—it was a guide to my life.

As a writer myself, I know this has something to do with the particular literary technique used in the novel. We spend the entire story in Ender’s head. We see the world through his eyes. The lessons he learns are the lessons we learn. But a trick of narrative perspective doesn’t explain everything. Remembrance of Things Past takes place largely in the main character’s head, but I didn’t spend my youth imagining myself eating cookies in early-twentieth-century France. For some reason, I looked at this unhappy six-yearold who saves the world only to live the rest of his life in lonely isolation and said…, “I want some of that.”

I recently turned forty. I have a career and a family. I just read Ender’s Game  …

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