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In Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, one of the characters in the story is killed in a physical confrontation with another one of the characters. It's not clear to me what actually caused the character to die.

Ender ends up killing Bonzo on accident

What is the cause of death? In particular,

Can a kick to the groin kill someone?

Or was the cause another incident in the fight?

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  • It has been a long time since I read that book. Was that in space or on earth?
    – Xantec
    Jun 27, 2011 at 15:54
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    In the Battle School. Jun 27, 2011 at 15:55
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    A more generalized answer, which can be applied to any given character who he kills: largely unknowingly, not without remorse, and (above all) brutally.
    – Jeff
    Jun 27, 2011 at 16:29

3 Answers 3

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This summary is taken from the site SparkNotes

Ender asks Bonzo not to hurt him in order to provoke an attack, and Bonzo jumps at him. Ender avoids the attack and hits Bonzo in the face with the top of his head. He has injured Bonzo and knows he might be able to walk away, but he does not want to have to fight the battle again. Ender realizes he must make Bonzo fear him enough never to fight him again. He knocks Bonzo to the ground and kicks him in the crotch, but Bonzo is motionless, and does not even respond. Dink takes Ender away, and Ender knows that no adult will ever help him. Ender feels terrible about how he hurt Bonzo, and begins to cry.

The killing blow was actually the one that occurred in the second sentence above.

In the book itself, when the killer is thinking about the fight, it says (page 212 of the paperback):

All [he] could see, though, was the way [the other character] looked as [he] kicked upward into his groin. The empty, dead look in his eyes. He was already finished then. Already unconscious. His eyes were open, but he wasn't thinking or moving anymore, just that dead, stupid look on his face, that terrible look, the way [another character he killed] looked when I finished with him.

In addition, when he's later talking about the fight, he says

I think I must have pushed his nose back into his brain. The blood was coming out of his eyes. I think he was dead right then.

This is as much information as is provided in the book. Although the character doesn't know that his opponent died, his opinion would be that it was the hit prior to the groin kick that was fatal. However, general opinion (at least as found by Google) is that killing someone by pushing their nose into their brain is a myth. A severe blow to the head can kill, but so can a kick to the groin. The book never explicitly says which blow caused the fatality.

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    Oghma - uh... that point is the whole foundation of the Enders Game book. Jun 27, 2011 at 19:27
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    @Oghma the point is that the killer is completely ruthless when that is what is required (but only then). He can see what must be done, and will do it. This is particularly seen in the death before this one, in this one, and in the one towards the end of the book.
    – Tony Meyer
    Jun 28, 2011 at 0:23
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    @Oghma Remember also that he didn't know that he had killed him (until the trial much later), just that he was defeated significantly enough that he wouldn't be a problem any more. He was also guided into this situation, so that he would learn that he had to find a solution on his own always, never with help from a teacher.
    – Tony Meyer
    Jun 28, 2011 at 5:42
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    Plus, there's the matter of Card exploiting the common misconception that you can kill someone with a single upwards strike to the nose. The reality of that situation is that it takes at least one strike to break the nose and then the attacker would have to land several more strikes to drive the bone fragments back and upward. Truth be told, the defender would probably be killed by the head trauma of the repeated strikes (and their face turned into a bloody pulp) before the bones were actually able to pierce the brain and inflict lethal injury. Jun 28, 2011 at 15:16
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    Additionally, it is possible to kill someone with a kick to the groin, under the right circumstances. A sufficiently strong kick can rupture nearby organs or cause the... receiver?... to go into shock. If the individual is of particularly weak constitution (or a number of other conditions hold), this may cause death. Jun 29, 2011 at 1:10
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A kick to the crotch has the potential of landing on the femoral arteries, of crushing the testes, and of cracking the pelvis. Any of these has potential to, i the right circumstances, result in internal bleeding; a broken pelvis also has significant potential to result in both internal bleeding and fecal contamination... itself a major threat.

A strike to the testicles often results in immediate debility, in addition to the potentially life threatening bleed-out from the rupture, and the high likelyhood of pelvic fracture. Given the ages, the testes should have descended, and the kick would be painful to the point of inducing shock at a minimum.

The strike to the nose, while not inherently lethal most of the time, can, in rare cases, produce sufficient trauma to result in bleeding out quickly. Further, such a strike will often cause a rather immediate whiplash, and possibly a severe, even fatal, acceleration trauma to the brain.

The deceleration trauma when the head hits is another source for concussion and brain injury resulting in death. It's not uncommon for a strike-overbalance fall to result in hyperflexation of the neck on impact... damaging or severing the spinal cord and/or the brain stem.

In short, Card makes certain Ender has multiple plausible, if unlikely, potentially lethal blows, and in combination, they are plenty sufficient for a fatality.

My own read of it is that Bonzo was knocked out by the initial blow, due to a combination of frontal-lobe trauma as the forehead was accelerated into it, pain from the shattered nose, rapid blood loss from the adrenally increased blood pressure, suffered deceleration trauma on head impact, quite possibly to the brainstem, and more attendant shock, and the kick was sufficient to trigger a fatal shock state, especially as no aid was rendered on scene. As he bleeds out internally and through his nose, he's at least mercifully unconscious from the initial head-trauma shock.

I'll also note that the initial head hit is a quite unlikely level of force for an 8 to 9 year old to generate. Still, it's not impossible, just improbable, and ender was actually rather fit by that point.

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According to an expert (Bean, in "Ender's Shadow"), it was the nose being pushed into the brain when Ender head-soccered his face:

The teachers ordered him out of the way, out of the corridor. But Bean saw enough. Bonzo lying on the floor, medical staff doing CPR. Bean knew that you don't do that to somebody whose heart is beating. And from the inattentive way the others were standing around, Bean knew it was only a formality. Nobody expected Bonzo's heart to start again. No surprise. His nose had been jammed up inside his head. His face was a mass of blood. Which explained the bloody back of Ender's head.

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