Ender's Game

Ender's Game Summary and Analysis of Chapters 3 and 4

Chapter 3

Again, we hear the two anonymous voices. They are discussing what Valentine's effect will be on Ender. One speculates that she "can undo it all, from the start. He won't want to leave her." The same voice says that in order to get Ender to join them, he will lie to him, and if that will not work, he will fall back to "tell the truth."

The Wiggin parents and Peter are eating breakfast together. Ender does not feel like eating, and Valentine has not come down yet. They banter normally until a man from the I.F., the "International Fleet," rings the bell. Mr. Wiggin goes to find out what the man wants, and then he comes back to take his wife to see him. Valentine and Ender have arrived, and when Valentine is told that her parents are talking to a man from the I.F., she instinctively looks at Ender, which hurts Peter's feelings.

Mr. Wiggin brings Ender from the breakfast room to talk with the I.F. man, who questions him about his attack on Stilson. When pressed to answer why he continued kicking Ender, Ender replies that he "wanted to win all the next [fights], too. So they'd leave [him] alone," and he once again cries. The officer introduces himself as Colonel Graff, the director of primary training at Battle School, and he invites Ender to attend the school. He points out that the Wiggin parents have no choice (this was part of the deal when he was conceived), but Ender still has a choice.

Colonel Graff speaks with Ender alone, explaining that the first time Ender will get a chance to leave Battle School will be six years later, at age twelve, and everyone, including Valentine, will be different. He says, "I'm not pretending it's easy." Graff also mentions that Ender will not miss his parents for very long, and they will likewise stop missing him. Graff notes the background of Ender's parents. Both were very religious (Mr. Wiggin is Catholic; his wife, Mormon). While they are still feel their religions' call for a large family, they are ashamed of their non-compliant family. It will be easier without Ender around.

They also discuss Battle School. The studies are hard and based heavily on mathematics and computers, military history, strategy, and tactics. In the Battle Room, the children are organized into teams or "armies" and have mock battles in zero gravity. Graff answers Ender's question about whether any girls are there by saying that there are few girls, because "too many centuries of evolution are working against them"--for one thing, they tend to be too caring to pass the tests to get in. Nevertheless, since Peter was the best they had seen in a long time, they asked the Wiggin parents to "choose a daughter next," hoping that she would be like Peter but less ruthless. Since she was too mild, they requisitioned Ender to be "half Peter and half Valentine."

Finally, Graff notes that more is at stake than Ender's happiness; he is needed to defeat the buggers, who "damn near wiped us out last time." Mazer Rackham is again mentioned, and Graff calls him "the most brilliant military commander we ever found." After considering everything, Ender says, "I'm afraid. But I'll go with you." He says goodbye to his parents and Valentine--even Peter, who shakes his hand and says, "You lucky little pinheaded fart-eater." Valentine's last, anguished words are, "Come back to me! I love you forever!"

Chapter 4

This chapter again begins with the two anonymous voices. This time, they are discussing their strategy of keeping Ender isolated while teaching him both to lead and to work well with his subordinates. One of the voices tells about his plan to "have him completely separated from the rest of the boys by the time we get to the School."

The rest of Chapter 4 tells of Ender's flight to Battle School. Right from the beginning, Ender feels isolated from the 19 other boys in his launch. They are joking around and getting to know each other, but Ender does not see the humor and cannot think of any jokes himself. Instead, Ender contents himself by imagining a televised interview in which he is the spokesperson for all of the boys. Ender considers running up to one of the cameras to ask if he may tell Valentine goodbye (but this would be censored anyway, since boys going to Battle School are supposed to be stoic and brave, not missing the people left behind).

Ender orients himself to the null gravity with a game, imagining that he is climbing down a wall and that the ship is hanging onto the bottom of the planet. Ender sees Graff, who turns out to be the principal of the school. Ender is glad to see Graff manipulating his sense of gravity, but when he smiles, Graff shouts at him to explain himself. Ender's good answer leads Graff to reply that Ender is the only boy on the launch with any brains, and this statement makes the other boys look stupid, so they naturally begin to hate him.

One boy directly behind Ender hits him repeatedly on the head after taking off his seat belt. Ender accepts the beating for several minutes until he figures out how to time the hits. Ender grabs the boy's arm and pulls, sending him flying into a bulkhead and breaking his arm.

Graff again isolates Ender by reinforcing his statement that Ender is the best of the launch and that the others should not mess with him. But Ender hates himself for hurting the boy and declares that he is just like Peter. Soon, though, Ender tells himself over and over again, "I am not a killer. I am not Peter. No matter what Graff says, I'm not."

Ender sees that Graff is not going to be his friend, despite his hopes, based on the idea that Graff does not lie to him. Graff says that his job is to create a Napoleon, an Alexander, a Caesar, or a mixture of the three, plus all the subordinates he needs to save the world--but "nowhere in that does it say that I need to make friends with children." Graff adds that Ender is needed by humankind to save them; "Human beings are free except when humanity needs them." The only way for Ender to get the other boys to stop hating him is to be so good at what he does that they cannot ignore him.

Soon after, Graff meets Anderson and says, "The kid's wrong. I am his friend." He regrets that he will screw up the boy, who is good "right to the heart."


In the initial conversation of Chapter 3, one of the anonymous voices says that he will tell Ender the truth, if necessary. At this point we still do not know "the truth," having just a vague that Ender must save the world, probably from the buggers, and that he will need to be ruthless like he was with Stilson. Again, the conversation shows the manipulation that the adults are willing to use on Ender in order to produce the results they desire.

When deciding whether or not to go to Battle School, Ender thinks about the fact that he does not actually like fighting, either Peter's kind, "the strong against the weak," or his own, "the smart against the stupid." It is interesting, therefore, that he decides to go to Battle School anyway. His reasoning is that the world needs him. He agrees with the argument, as he remembers the videos of the First and Second Invasions of the buggers, that his personal happiness is not comparable to the wellbeing of the world. Yet, he also considers Mazer Rackham, who became famous for winning in the past invasion. Ender seems to want, at this moment, that sort of recognition. In this way, Ender is a new Achilles, who must choose between the life of a warrior-commander that leads to fame, on the one hand, and on the other hand the everyday family life at home that might lead only to obscure personal happiness.

It is interesting that in the future that Orson Scott Card envisions, children are much more mature than they used to be, but no amount of social engineering has been able to do away with the basic evolutionary differences between males and females. Battle School is almost completely made up of boys, since evolution has made most girls unfit for the school. While some girls make it into Battle School, "none of them will be like Valentine." No girls in Battle School are sweet and mild; they need a certain ruthlessness that the boys also have, and this characteristic is more rare among the girls. It is important to note, however, that once in Battle School, boys and girls are treated equally and seem to have the same ability--and later, one of the most important and able characters, Petra, is a girl. She will be the one who is willing to take Ender under her wing when no one else will have him, and she will teach him much of what makes him good in battle.

The goodbyes in Ender's family as he leaves tell a lot about each character. The most obvious reflections are of Valentine and Peter. Peter tells him, "Kill some buggers for me!" which demonstrates not only his vicious nature, but also some of his brotherly affection toward Ender, which is not often portrayed: he has faith in his brother to do good for the world. Valentine tells Ender that she will love him forever, and she asks him to come back to her. This sisterly love is really the only thing that might have kept Ender from going to Battle School. If she had invoked her love so explicitly a little earlier, Ender might just have stayed; she is the one person he truly loves. The feeling is clearly mutual, and the strain on their intense bond is the saddest part of Ender's departure from Earth. It is also extremely significant that Valentine's voice is the last voice Ender hears before he leaves home to go to Battle School, because hers is the voice that will keep him going whenever he feels like giving up.

In Chapter 4, the two anonymous voices plan to isolate Ender, because they think it will make him a good, creative leader. Moreover, he cannot be too nice or else the buggers would "have us all," but he will need to be able to work well with his subordinates. Ender is only six years old, but they will completely isolate him from the other boys in terms of friendly social contact, which means essentially that the adults will make all the other children hate him. This plan will develop Ender's character in the ways they want, but it may hurt him in terms of the usual gentlemanly social virtues. The adults acknowledge that they are going to break Ender down completely, in order to force him to put himself back together. He thus will be better than if they, less intelligent than he, had tried to do it themselves. Thus, they realize that they are trying to make someone who is better than they are themselves.

The author plays with the idea of human manipulation throughout the novel: when the ends involve saving the human race, are there any means that are off limits? In this case, Ender at least is intelligent enough to understand that he is being manipulated and can choose whether or not to keep participating in his own breaking down and building up. Therefore, while we might feel horrible for Ender in some ways, we can accept Ender's wise acquiescence in choosing to be unhappy for the sake of a greater good. In general, this is the problem that a good leader has; a truly good leader would rather be enjoying his own life, but he sacrifices his individual pleasure for the sake of the community.

Indeed, Ender is essentially separating himself from the others by means of his own character. He can be manipulated by the adults because he is the kind of person who already is so much like the one they want. Ender does not laugh at the other boys' jokes, nor does he come up with his own to share. He seems to consider himself superior to them, as it seems that he always has done. When he considers his imaginary television interview, he thinks, "They think I'm smiling at their joke, but I'm smiling at something much funnier."

On the shuttle, Ender refers to the Earth as "this planet." Already it seems less special to him. This switch of Ender's point of view happens before the launch has even left Earth. Ender is extremely adept at reorienting himself whenever he needs to do so, and his ability to orient himself regardless of gravity reflects his surpassing adaptability.

Graff's colleague Anderson will become important later. When Graff tells him that Ender is Graff's friend after all, he expresses regret for screwing up a boy who is good "right to the heart." Here we see a new level of sympathy on Graff's part. Also, we now can guess that one of the anonymous voices has been that of Colonel Graff. The conversation between Graff and Anderson closely relates to many of the conversations of the anonymous characters, and later in the book, the beginning passages will name Graff as one of the voices (although it is possible that multiple others are involved, it is probably the same two or three people throughout). In any case, Ender has perceived Graff as a friend because, he says, Graff has not lied to him. It is interesting that Ender seems to think that someone who is truthful must be his friend, so perhaps Ender is lying too--we know that he sees lies as sometimes more dependable, and Graff seems to be one of those who is willing to lie to Ender to achieve the result he wants.

Ender remains unsure about his true personality, as he will throughout the novel. He still has parts of both Peter and Valentine in him, and they are constantly competing for control.