Ender's Game Summary and Analysis
Two adults discuss Valentine and Peter. The International Fleet has finally tracked them down as the writers behind the personas Demosthenes and Locke. They decide to let the children remain anonymous, since their influence has not reached the level of government, and besides, Demosthenes might have a point about Russia. The adults are not sure why Peter and Valentine seem to have exchanged roles in choosing their characters. Meanwhile, Valentine and Peter are increasing in influence on world politics. Demosthenes is invited to take part in the "President's Council on Education for the Future." They pick up extra information through correspondence with other politically active citizens as well as with an increasing number of military and government contacts around the world. The evidence does seem to show that Russia and the Second Warsaw Pact are planning for a war on Earth. Peter has stopped contributing to Valentine's work, but Valentine has had no problem writing in the perspective of Demosthenes, which she finds a bit disturbing.
One day, Graff is waiting for Valentine after school. He takes her to see Ender at a lake house outside Greensboro, and he promises her that her conversation with her brother will not be recorded, although he will ask her questions about it later. She is skeptical until Graff replies that "at some point there must be trust" and tells her that he knows she is Demosthenes. Ender has been there for two months, and he "doesn't seem interested in going on with his education." She and Ender go out on the lake on a raft that he built himself.
Ender's eyes never leave her face, which consoles her. He says he does not want to talk about Peter, so they talk a little about Battle School. When she asks, "So we're strangers now?" Ender replies with, "Aren't we?" She demurs, but when she tries to tickle him, he grabs her wrist roughly as though she is an attacker before realizing, "you used to tickle me." They swim and sunbathe. Ender kills a wasp as a "preemptive strategy." Valentine also tells Ender about Locke and Demosthenes, and Ender perceives that Peter is planning to take over the world. Valentine now wonders whether she and her brothers are actually all the same.
Ender says that every time he almost escapes from his training, they suck him back in, and Valentine admits that she probably has been called upon to do just that. Ender admits that every time he beats an enemy, he wins because he can understand how they think, a sad condition of sympathy and love just before the kill. With the buggers, however, he is worried because he understands nothing about them or their strengths and weaknesses. Valentine points out that knowing how to get inside someone's head is a trait of the Wiggin children. And while Peter has mellowed into something more of a "builder," Ender and Valentine have become somewhat more like Peter was. Moreover, Valentine knows that Ender has too much ambition to really want to spend the rest of his life in obscure peace. She reminds him of Mazer Rackham's fame. But Ender is content to leave the fame to Peter. At this point Valentine changes the argument: "I'm talking about my life, you self-centered little bastard." And she had helped to save Ender from Peter when she had the chance, suffering Peter's wrath when she thwarted him. Valentine realizes that she has found Ender's "weakest place and stabbed him there ... just like Peter" would have, so she stops.
Ender finally says that his fear is that he "can't beat him," that Ender will not actually be able to save everyone. Valentine declares that if Ender cannot do it, nobody can. "If you try and lose then it isn't your fault. But if you don't try and we lose, then it's all your fault. You killed us all." But Ender still thinks of the buggers as a stand-in for Peter, too big and strong to defeat. When Valentine notes that a victory will also be a victory over Peter, he tells her, "I don't want to beat Peter ... I want him to love me." When they leave the raft, Valentine has persuaded Ender to go back to school.
Graff tells Ender that they isolate their commanders so that they think in certain ways, but the soldiers often forget why Earth is important enough to save. This is why Ender has had three months of landside leave. Graff adds that he will be staying with Ender, and Ender realizes that Graff's sole purpose now is to see Ender through his command. When their ship arrives at the Inter-Planetary Launch, Graff commandeers another ship to take them to Command School on the planet Eros, a previously bugger-inhabited planet that is now a secret base.
During the three-month flight to Eros, Graff and Ender talk about everything from Command School to Earth, to astronomy, physics, and most importantly the buggers, although Graff does not know much about them. They speak mind to mind, instantaneously. This ability taught the humans that it was possible, and they thus built a machine called an ansible which, according to Graff, means that "ships could talk to each other even when they're across the galaxy." Graff tells Ender explicitly that the humans are the Third Invasion, with ships that were sent out as soon as they had a working ansible. En route to attack the buggers' homeworlds, they all will be at their targets within the next five years and within a couple of months of each other. Ender is to be the battle commander who will know "what the hell to do with those ships when they get there." Ender insists that he will not be ready, but Graff tells him to do the best he can to prepare.
On Eros, Ender asks Graff why he thinks that they are fighting the buggers. Graff says that he thinks that since the buggers have no need for language due to their communication style, the humans and the buggers could never understand each other or communicate. Graff adds that no one knows for sure if the buggers might attack again, but if somebody has to be destroyed, they want it to be the buggers, not humankind.
When Ender and Valentine are lying together on the raft, Ender tells Valentine that he did not want to see her because he was afraid that he would still love her. Valentine says that she hoped for it, and Ender replies, "My fear, your wish-both granted." Ender's love for Valentine is the trump card; if there is anything on Earth worth saving, in his mind, it is Valentine. She seems to be the only reason that he decides to continue with his training to become commander, and it was also the major reason for his going to Battle School in the first place. "Earth was ... the voice of one girl, who spoke to him out of his far-off childhood. The same voice that had once protected him from terror. The same voice that he would do anything to keep alive, even return to school, even leave Earth behind again for another four or forty or four thousand years." In Chapter 3, the voices in the conversation at the beginning of the chapter say that they think Valentine is the "weak link," the only person who can ruin their plan for making Ender into the commander that they want. It is ironic, therefore, that Valentine ends up being the only reason that he goes back to his training after every "mental breakdown" when he despairs and hates himself. The only reason that Ender is willing to go through hell to become the commander that the I.F. needs is because he might save Valentine. Even so, on his good days, he does seem to enjoy some aspects of the training.
Ender tells Valentine that he hates himself, and when Valentine says, "No, Ender," he insists that he does. He says that "In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him." According to Ender, it is impossible to truly know and understand somebody, "what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves." But, in the very moment that he loves them, Ender "destroys" them. "I make it impossible for them to ever hurt me again. I grind them and grind them until they don't exist." This statement is tragic. It also makes Valentine become even more fearful of Ender, since his knowledge and love for her would make him especially able to destroy her. She thinks that while Peter has mellowed, Ender has been made into a killer. She is right, but she really has nothing to fear from Ender, because he cannot see her as an enemy, even when she seems to be acting on behalf of the adults he has declared the enemy.
A second aspect of the tragedy is that Ender hates himself in his ability, while so many others respect him. Ender hates himself for the very quality that made the I.F. choose him as the future commander: his need to win thoroughly. Also, while these characteristics have always been a part of Ender, the teachers have been the ones who have hurt Ender's social character. Their refusal to help him in difficult situations, indeed their placing of additional obstacles, nurtures his ruthless side, because they keep putting him in positions where he seems to have no option but to go for the win. It is easy to understand why Ender would want to leave such games behind entirely.
It also is depressing to hear Ender tell Valentine that he does not want to defeat Peter, but he wants Peter to love him. Sadly, so far as Valentine can tell, Peter does not love anybody. But there was a glimmer of hope that only Ender perceived, on the night after the monitor was taken from Ender and before he went to Battle School, when Peter came to him when he thought Ender was sleeping and told him that he loved him. It may have only been the one time, but it was also the most truthful of times, since he thought Ender was sleeping. Ender, in a sense, already has Peter's love, or at least as much love as Peter has to give. They are siblings after all, and they are similar after all. Ender's need for his brother's love also shows how much of a child he still is, despite having become a soldier, commander, and killer.
When Ender and Graff are stuck on a three-month flight to Command School, they seem to become friends or at least good companions. They talk to each other (the captain is too angry to talk with them, since he will be stuck on Eros for good), and they mostly discuss the buggers. (Eros, by the way, is a symbol of love for Earth even while it is the place for learning how to kill the enemy.) Ender wants to talk about the buggers in order to be able to beat them, not out of an urge to understand the exotic. At the same time, he would prefer that the buggers are actually planning to attack the humans again, that they have not decided to leave the humans alone. Ender does not want to kill if he does not have to. Ender tells Graff, "Maybe they gave up and they're planning to leave us alone." But Graff points out that this would be leaving the survival of the human race to a guess, and in this response he draws on Ender's pattern of choosing to win decisively. Even so, Ender's concern that they have no idea if the buggers are still planning to attack continues coming up. When Graff tells him that he thinks the reason for their war is because "If the other fellow can't tell you his story, you can never be sure he isn't trying to kill you," Ender insists that if they just left the buggers alone, they could live in harmony. "Maybe they didn't know we were intelligent life." Ender here seems to be too soft to be an effective commander, and it does not seem enough when Graff replies that since no one knows for sure, they better make sure that it is the buggers, not humankind, that are destroyed. Graff even suggests that the plan is part of the evolutionary survival imperative of the human species--and at least, Ender admits, "I'm in favor of surviving." Ender's intense desire to survive is one of the reasons the I.F. was attracted to him as a commander in the first place. He is willing to do whatever it takes to survive, and along with his survival will come the survival of the human race.
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- Orson Scott Card: Biography
- Ender's Game Summary
- About Ender's Game
- Character List
- Glossary of Terms
- Major Themes
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 1 and 2
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 3 and 4
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 5 and 6
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 7 and 8
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 9 and 10
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 11 and 12
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter 13
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter 14
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter 15
- Ender's Shadow-A Parallel Novel
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- Suggested Essay Questions
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 1
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 2
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 3
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