Imagine a world in which your childhood was stripped away from you. One that forced you into slavery, the military, or even marital trades. In the novel Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, this is exactly the kind of world the main characters are living in. Ender was taken to become a member of the military at a very young age, and forced to fight the so-called “invaders” of our planet. Children in our world face very similar fates today. Child labor is a massive issue in today's society and in Ender's Game because children are often coerced into doing things no child should do, and children are forced into servitude or slavery. Ender’s Game points out the severity of this issue by showing how the children being forced to fight are feeling. This essay will point out the similarities between present child labor issues and the issues depicted in Card’s novel.
Firstly, one of the important topics that Card’s novel Ender’s Game touches on, is child enslavement. This issue is obviously immoral, and is against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which proclaims that “no one shall be held in slavery or servitude” in Article 4. It also states that “slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.” In Ender’s Game, the children are taken from their families and put into Battle School, where they are then forced to train to kill aliens. This is similar to how children are often forced into trades such as human trafficking, where women and girls are kidnapped and sold to people all over the world. Except in the book, the children are traded between fleets and groups in which they are going to fight. According to the International Center for Research on Women, one third of girls are married before the age of eighteen. This means that underage children are put into arranged marriages, or sold to a foreign husband, or even kidnapped and sold to a man or group of men.
Yet another main subject of Card’s novel is the issue of child warfare. Child warfare is the use of children as “weapons” during wars, hence the name. The main character, Ender, is a prime example of one of these children. Ender was brought to Battle School when he was about ten years old, and trained to be one of the top soldiers in the fight against the “Buggers,” which were what the aliens supposedly invading Earth were called. Another character named Dink explained to Ender that “[the teachers] get [them] to fight each other, to hate each other” (Card 108), which was a breakthrough in the story because it revealed to Ender that they were just being used by the adults. This is similar to how armed forces take advantage of children in the real world. According to childrenandarmedconflict.un.org, “There are many ways for children to become associated with armed forces and groups. Some children are abducted and beaten into submission, others join military groups to escape poverty, to defend their communities, out of a feeling of revenge or for other reasons.” This quote is speaking about how easy it is for adults to manipulate children into doing their “dirty work” and using them to fight in war.
Lastly, Ender’s Game draws attention to child labour in general. For hundreds of years, we have coerced children into working the jobs no adult wants to do, often in places with poor conditions. Almost every country has had issues with child labour, and children are forced into working for little pay. Geir Moulson wrote in an article about “an exuberant group of children rescued from mines, sweatshops and servitude descended on Geneva… and inspired calls for the International Labor Organization to restrict child labor worldwide.” His writing tells about a large population of children that had been found working potentially dangerous jobs, that were recently rescued from their entrapment. In the novel, the book is centered around the idea the the adults are using all of these brilliant young minds to do their bidding. Adults have been using children for purposes like this for centuries, despite the many laws against it.
In conclusion, the novel Ender’s Game points out the problems we have in our society, especially when it comes to child enslavement and child warfare. Across the globe, innocent young minds are forced into things like Ender in Card’s novel, taken at a young age and told that they must follow orders or else they will be beaten or killed. Children are not only taken as soldiers, but also enslaved to work in abhorrent conditions, as well as forced into being sold as wives or mistresses. By bringing attention to the mistreatment of children, Card paved the way for readers to take a stand themselves, and defend the less fortunate. Maybe you should join them.
- Card, O. S. (1985). Ender’s Game. Tor Books.
- Geir Moulson. (2019, June 10). Activists call for tighter control of child labor worldwide. The Independent. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/activists-call-tighter-control-child-labour-worldwide-a8952871.html
- International Center for Research on Women. (n.d.). Child Marriage. https://www.icrw.org/what-we-do/child-marriage/
- United Nations. (1948). Universal Declaration of Human Rights. https://www.un.org/en/about-us/universal-declaration-of-human-rights
- United Nations Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict. (n.d.). Child Recruitment and Use. https://childrenandarmedconflict.un.org/what-we-do/child-recruitment-and-use/