Ranging much of the Indo-European and Proto-Indo-European world of approximately 4,000-25,000 years ago, one senses echoes of an image now almost entirely evaporated into the time before humanity’s earliest memories or histories. Though not at all clear today, with some trepidation and humility, one may venture to describe this widespread image as maternal. Were one to preserve only two works from the era in question, they might be the “Venus” of Willendorf of Paleolithic Europe and the Upanishads of ancient India. Both the Venus and the Upanishads may not only stand as crystallizations of humanity’s deep past, in the form of sculpture and literature, but as indications of the mental landscape common to all human beings.
Thanks to some recommended reading from one of my sisters, I’ve come to read Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game in an entirely different light. In “Creating the Innocent Killer:Ender’s Game, Intention, and Morality,” John Kessel offers a fascinating reading of the moral ambivalence, and even potential immortality, of Card’s novel.
In Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, Kessel sees the construction of an ostensibly “innocent killer” merely; in other words, that Ender, though guilty of tremendous atrocities by the novel’s end, is written off as simply a product of his circumstances and thus justified rather than morally culpable. … After his own damning character analysis of Ender, Kessel concludes, “If I felt that Card’s fiction truly understood this, then I would not have written this essay.” …
That said, and I’m tempted to say that Radford and Kessel may likely agree, I am not yet prepared to toss all copies of Ender’s Game — and Card with them — onto the pyre, cultural or otherwise. Instead, rather than a zero-sum condemnation of Ender’s Game, I believe Radford and Kessel’s critiques offer readers an additional layer to Card’s novel — though not at all necessarily one Card himself may have noticed or even intended.