On Ender's Game

Rethinking the Child Hero

By Aaron Johnston

I once heard Orson Scott Card describe Ender Wiggin as “a short Clint Eastwood.” My first reaction was to laugh. Short Clint Eastwood. Ha! In my mind I envisioned Ender hovering in the Battle Room, leveling his gun at Bonzo, one side of Ender’s lip curled up in a sneer, speaking in his slightly falsetato, prepubescent voice, “Go ahead, punk. Make my day.”

The more I thought about this description of Ender, however, the more I realized it was no joke. Card is right. Ender is a short Clint Eastwood. And although Card didn’t specify which version of Clint Eastwood he meant (i.e., Dirty Harry Clint Eastwood or Spaghetti Western Clint Eastwood or bare-knuckle-fighter-with-an-orangutan-on his-hip Clint Eastwood, as in Every Which Way But Loose), it really doesn’t matter. Clint Eastwood plays himself in all his movies anyway. The only differences between Dirty Harry Clint Eastwood and Spaghetti Western Clint Eastwood are concrete and a bigger gun.

But I digress. The point is, Ender Wiggin is a lot like every character Clint Eastwood has ever played, all of whom seem to live by the same code:

1. Talk little.

2. Observe everything.

3. Know your enemy.

4. Win.

Ender would likely revise number three to “Know and love your enemy,” and we would allow him this edit. His compassion is probably the biggest difference between him and the venerable Mr. Eastwood. Allow me to illustrate.

Picture in your mind the poncho-wearing, Spaghetti Western Clint Eastwood, with his itchy trigger finger ready, and his eyes half-closed in that Mexican  …

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