|RIPPING THE Wrapping
by Jasmine E. M. Smyth
For years gifted children
have been isolated from society
but what does it cost? And who pays?
TWO-YEARS-IN-A-ROW winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards, author of Ender’s Game and at least twenty other novels, playwright, writing teacher, missionary, husband and father of five makes up this month’s author, Orson Scott Card.
This sci-fi novel is like no other with its first appearance over a decade ago and its contents still managing to amaze its teen readers and mortify it’s adult audience. Main character Ender liberates the world from an alien race at just seven years old with his talents. That’s right, you heard it: saving the world. How, you ask? To find out you’ll just have to play the game...
‘Gifted’, ‘special’, ‘unique’, ‘talented’, are words commonly given to children who display a higher level of intelligence than regular children. But more uncommon words, that continue to fit this notion are, ‘isolated’, ‘trapped’, ‘lonely’ and ‘depressed’. This latter description coming from gifted children themselves, believing in the philosophy that, ‘the only way to gain respect is to do so well you can’t be ignored’.
Card explains, “From the very beginning, Ender is singled out from his peers and held as an example to others, by none other than head of the Battle School, Colonel Graff.”
After spending time at Battle School, Ender notices the differences between himself and the other children, becoming aware of his loneliness.
He eventually realises that his intelligence will not allow him to fit in with the crowd or to have friends: “he is smart and respected for it.” A hint of despise being evident in Ender’s dialogue, as it is in the minds of other gifted children in the world today.
Never ending program, ‘The Giant’s Drink’ could sound like a regular children’s video game to most of us as the children in the Battle School are made to believe. But not for Ender, who learns of its secret function: to discover the inner workings of its player.
There are no surprises when it comes to knowing which characters use the program, that’s right, adults; the same generation that finds the book disturbing today. “They underestimate the intelligence of the children, believing that since they’re just children, how would they know?” Card’s views on the abilities of children vary from those of the majority.
“I believe children are incredibly intelligent. Ender’s Game shows how children are real people and that those who are used to thinking of children in the usual way aren’t going to like the book because they simply aren’t willing to think about a future where children are
just as equal as adults.”
Equality between adults and
children is an existing problem today, with many adults seeing children as innocent beings that need all the
protection in the world. “The way we treat and use children, sheltering them or exposing them to danger is important. Our first instinct is to protect them, and yet we still send them off to war.”
So what makes an 18 year old an adult and a 12 year old a child? Ender’s Game criticises or at least questions the way we use children.
Children are very similar to adults, the only difference being that they don’t have the experience that adults have. Orson Scott Card challenges this conception in his novel by giving children a significant role in the control of the human race.
Even still, Ender can be seen as a casualty in the war between adults and children, after he is tricked into playing a game he never wanted to play in the first place.
We are living in a society where children are pushed to conform and where they are susceptible to those who want to exploit their gifts to give justification to their own ends. Children can be influenced by a number of different factors, but mainly ones found close to home. Ender’s brother Peter, a ruthless, heartless, lacking-in-compassion-and-empathetic-qualities, young boy who, for personal gain, uses his gifts to gain control over the earth is a constant fear of Ender’s, who is out to prove that he’s not evil like Peter. Peter and his sister Valentine use their brilliance to manipulate the adults and dominate the political nets, Valentine having the same compassion as Ender but being nowhere near as ruthless as Peter. “Valentine understands Ender, she’s a part of him,” says Card, smiling at the thought, “she protects Ender and in the end saves him. She’s always there when he needs her the most.”
But in the end, children need to come to terms with their gifts and not be defined by them, otherwise they are inclined to feel satisfied with themselves, but still very lonely. Instead of being individuals, free to choose their own path, the children are controlled by something externally: adults.
Children, gifted or not, find it difficult growing up in an ever-changing world. Orson Scott Card has given new meaning to talented to children and shown the world that children can be just as intelligent as adults. Adults have doubted children’s intellect for long enough, Ender’s Game is the first of many books to challenge differences between adults and children and the preconception that adults are somehow better than children. Instead of ripping children’s futures to shreds by controlling them, adults can rewrap a child’s gifts and accept that children are rising up to the standards of adults. Children are gifts, and it won’t be long until we’re all wrapped with joy at the thought of our present being our past and our futures tied down, with freedom. ●