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Parallels Between Major Characters of ‘Ender’s Game’ and Freud's Id, Ego, and Superego

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In the work of Sigmund Freud, the pioneer of psychoanalysis, he determined that there are three parts of the human mind, the Id, the Ego, and the Superego. The Id is the most basic primal instincts, the Ego is the grip on reality, and the Superego is the obligation to society. The Ego is often seen as a balance between the two. This theory has had a major impact on the world of psychology and beyond. In the novel ‘Ender’s Game’ by Orson Scott Card, there are many things that are symbolic of the Id, the Ego, and the Superego, particularly between the characters Ender, Peter, and Valentine.

In the beginning of the book, Ender gets his monitor taken off, which eventually culminates into Ender beating up Stilson. When he gets home, he is attacked by Peter. Valentine later intervenes. This event is symbolism of Freud’s psychoanalysis theory. In this case, Peter represents the Id, as he is instigating his basic instinct by attacking Ender. Valentine represents the Superego, the mind of authority, trying to protect Ender. And Ender is the Ego, the balance between the two, as even though he beat up Stilson, he does not want to fight Peter. The symbolism is best described by the following quote: “‘I do mean it’, Peter said. ‘Whatever you think, I mean it. They only authorized you because I was so promising. But I didn’t pan out. You did better. They think you’re better. But I don’t want a better little brother, Ender. I don’t want a Third’. ‘I’ll tell’, Valentine said from the doorway” (Card 12). Peter is establishing his dominance by threatening to kill Ender, which parallels the id characteristic. This causes Valentine to begin to tell their parents, which also fall in line with the Superego characteristic, the one to submit to authority. And the person who sits between the two is Ender, who is more or less a catalyst for Peter and Valentine’s Id and Superego personalities, respectively. There is additional evidence and symbolism in the following quote: “‘Afraid of him. Well, Peter isn’t all bad, you know. He was the best we’d seen in a long time. We asked your parents to choose a daughter next-they would have anyway-hoping that Valentine would be Peter, but milder. She was too mild. And so we requisitioned you’. ‘To be half Peter and half Valentine’” (Card 24). This is a conversation between Colonel Graff and Ender about joining Battle School. Graff explains the process of getting a child with the perfect personality. He mentions Valentine being too mild, which again is compliant with the Superego personality, but the most important evidence is the fact that Ender was planned to have a personality that would meet halfway between Peter and Valentine. This is symbolic of Ender being a balance between the Id and the Superego. Ender does accept the invitation into Battle School, which is when things start to change.

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When Ender enters Battle School, he is immediately isolated from his fellow peers; a social outcast. As he is no longer the subject of contention between Peter and Valentine, he has to defend himself from the hostile classmate Bernard. While he eventually makes a few friends, he is still somewhat alone here. He is, however, a genius tactician at the Battle School sport. He spends a lot of time playing a game where he embarks on an adventure through various lands, with creatures trying to kill him. Ender finds ways to kill said creatures. The Battle School is turning him into the Id personality. While there was always evidence of inner turmoil within Ender from the beginning when he beat up Stilson, it is most apparent here. It comes to a boiling point when he kills a snake in the game and looks at himself in the mirror. The situation is elaborated by the following quote: “He stepped on the head of the snake and crushed it under his foot. It writhed and twisted under him, and in response he twisted and ground it deeper into the stone floor. Finally it was still. Ender picked it up and shook it, until it unwove itself and the pattern in the rug was gone. Then, still dragging the snake behind him, he began to look for a way out. Instead, he found a mirror. And in the mirror he saw a face that he easily recognized. It was Peter, with blood dripping down his chin and a snake’s tail protruding from a corner of his mouth” (Card 117). This computer game, which seems to tap into Ender’s past, showed him that he was no different than Peter. He was getting the instinct to kill, a primal instinct which matches the id personality. The Battle School is certainly changing Ender. They’re changing him into the way they want him to be. They are doing it on purpose, as they see that he is the only one to remove the bugger threat. Even though Ender is changing in Battle School, change is also happening back in the Wiggin household.

Valentine and Peter have grown up since Ender last saw them, and their personalities have grown as well. Peter does very well in school, even though he still holds the mindset of a psychopath. He is definitely more controlled than he was. He and Valentine have a discussion about his ambition to rule the world. They talk about how there will be a war with the Russians. He is concerned about it, but only because his ambitions would be compromised if the war happens. He hasn’t entirely let go of his Id personality, as there is an event mentioned where Peter pins down a squirrel and skins it alive. His primal instincts are still there. Peter is just more reserved about it. Valentine seems to have warmed up to Peter ever since Ender left, as she is willing to help him unite the political community. She herself is starting to show balance between instinct and reason, an ego personality. This phenomenon can be explained by the following: “She couldn’t think of anything so terrible that she didn’t believe Peter might do it. She also knew, though, that Peter was not insane, not in the sense that he wasn’t in control of himself. He was in better control of himself than anyone she knew. Except maybe herself” (Card 125). Valentine is certainly aware that Peter can control his actions to a degree, even if his actions aren’t always ideal. She is starting to see Peter for what he really is, something that their parents cannot see. Her personality is becoming more like the Ego personality, while she still cares for Ender, she is also willing to help Peter. This is expressed even further in the book when Ender briefly returns to Earth, and meets up with Valentine again for the first time in years. Ender needs the motivation to move on to Command School, which Valentine is ordered to give. They can both tell that each other has changed. This is best described by the following quote: “‘Two faces of the same coin. And I am the metal in between’. Even as she said it, she wondered if it was true. She had shared so much with Peter these last few years that even when she thought she despised him, she understood him. While Ender had only been a memory till now” (Card 236). Valentine herself is comparing the three of them to a coin, where Ender and Peter are polar opposites and she is the balance between them. Though she also questions this, as perhaps Ender and Peter are not all that different, and they have definitely changed over the course of four years.

In conclusion, the parallels between three major characters of ‘Ender’s Game’ and Sigmund Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis is evident. The book excellently demonstrates not only how these personalities coexist, but also how the personalities can change. A major ethical question within the book is whether or not what the IF is doing to Ender is morally just. Battle School changed Ender’s personality from Ego to Id quite a bit, but maybe it wouldn’t have changed so much if the IF didn’t interfere with Ender’s communication between his peers. Perhaps the IF only added to the fire, and the inner turmoil within Ender existed since the day he beat up Stilson. Ego is a balance between id and superego, after all. Maybe Battle School just tipped the balance a little bit one way. One thing is for sure, however. It’s that the IF did it for the sake of humanity, they needed Ender’s instincts to get rid of the bugger fleet. All so that they and he could save who they love.

Works Cited

  1. Card, Orson Scott. Ender’s Game. Tom Doherty Associates Book, 1991.

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Parallels Between Major Characters of ‘Ender’s Game’ and Freud’s Id, Ego, and Superego. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 8, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/parallels-between-major-characters-of-enders-game-and-freuds-id-ego-and-superego/
“Parallels Between Major Characters of ‘Ender’s Game’ and Freud’s Id, Ego, and Superego.” Edubirdie, 01 Sept. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/parallels-between-major-characters-of-enders-game-and-freuds-id-ego-and-superego/
Parallels Between Major Characters of ‘Ender’s Game’ and Freud’s Id, Ego, and Superego. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/parallels-between-major-characters-of-enders-game-and-freuds-id-ego-and-superego/> [Accessed 8 Feb. 2023].
Parallels Between Major Characters of ‘Ender’s Game’ and Freud’s Id, Ego, and Superego [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 01 [cited 2023 Feb 8]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/parallels-between-major-characters-of-enders-game-and-freuds-id-ego-and-superego/
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