Graff and one of his subordinates, Major Imbu, have a conversation about Ender’s psychological development. Neither can explain how a picture of Ender’s brother appeared in a video game. Imbu suggests that the game was designed to test the players’ psychological weaknesses—the game has merely picked up on Ender’s biggest fear. Graff wonders if Ender has been reduced to self-hatred because of his acts of violence. He also points out that the picture of Peter in the game is very recent—somebody back on Earth must have gotten a new image of Peter and sent it to the Battle School.
Graff, for once, isn’t in control and doesn’t seem to know what’s going on. Somehow, the virtual reality game that Ender has been playing has accessed new images of Peter—images which couldn’t have come from Battle School itself. It’ll be more than 200 pages before we understand what’s going on here—the Buggers themselves accessed the computer and sent it images of Peter’s face, in hopes of influencing Ender.
Back on Earth, Valentine Wiggin celebrates Ender’s eighth birthday alone. Her family has moved to Greensboro, North Carolina, and has seemingly forgotten all about Ender, even though it’s only been a year and a half since he left. Valentine, however, continues to love Ender more than anyone or anything. She notes that Peter has seemingly become calmer and more mature—but Valentine has also seen evidence that Peter is secretly violent and sociopathic. She even found a live squirrel, trapped and skinned. In school, Peter flatters his teachers, though he secretly despises them.
Valentine and Peter are not just representatives of the two sides of Ender’s personality—they are still major characters, and just as intelligent and skilled as Ender himself. Thus they will have an equally great affect on the plot (and on global politics) as Ender. Peter clearly displays sociopathic or psychopathic tendencies. These are usually exhibited as a lack of empathy and a willingness to manipulate others, but can also mean violence and even sadistic cruelty.
One day, Valentine is walking through the woods near her house when Peter approaches her. Peter makes an interesting point: the world is preparing for war. If the Buggers are defeated, there will be a massive struggle for power in the following years. Russia is led by the aggressive Polemarch, meaning that Russia might be the most dangerous national power. Peter has been monitoring troop movements in Russia, and has concluded that the country is ready for war at any time. Although America is still the world’s dominant superpower, its old political alliances will be meaningless once the Buggers are killed.
It’s intriguing that while Ender is made to focus on the specificities of combat, Peter and Valentine have the luxury of contemplating the “macro” picture of the world—they’re allowed to think about the relationships between the U.S. and Russia. Card’s view of geopolitics is heavily colored by the influence of the Cold War (which was still underway in 1985 when the novel was published). Anti-Russian sentiments are everywhere in Card’s futuristic America, just as they were in the 80s.
Peter proposes to Valentine that they can use their intelligence to influence global politics and keep the world safe. Although they’re only children, they write like adults. Peter reminds Valentine of the people who changed history using only their words: Demosthenes, Pericles, Thomas Paine, Lenin, etc. If he and Valentine could disguise their identities as children by writing anonymously, then they could begin consolidating power.
In what many readers find the most implausible part of Card’s novel, Peter and Valentine team up to control politics on Earth, using only their journalistic abilities. Peter notes that there were plenty of people in history who controlled politics using only their words, and so he and Valentine could do the same. As usual, the Wiggin children are portrayed as super-intelligent and complex, while the majority of adults seem rather simplistic and easily manipulated.
As they walk through the woods, Peter asks Valentine to ask Father to give his children his “citizen’s access,” which will enable Peter and Valentine to write anonymous articles and circulate them around the world via the Internet. As Peter talks to Valentine, his voice becomes gentle and soft. He explains that he has the power to bring peace and security to the world: a Pax Americana, in which free speech and human rights are respected. Although he always bullied Ender, he says he’s also capable of love and affection—and he’ll bring the same love and affection to government. As Valentine listens to Peter, she’s amazed that he’s speaking so sincerely, rather than adopting his usual sarcastic tone. She wonders if Peter is being truthful or not—it’s impossible for her to tell. Valentine reminds Peter of the squirrel he tortured, and as she speaks, Peter begins to weep. Valentine is surprised—she’s never seen her brother show so much weakness. She then realizes what Peter is doing: he’s “saved” his weakness for years, knowing that he’ll need it to be able to manipulate Valentine at the perfect time. Knowing she has no choice, Valentine agrees to help Peter.
Naturally, Valentine objects to Peter’s plans to influence politics—she knows what kind of person Peter is, and senses that he will abuse any power he’s given. And yet Peter reveals a sudden sensitive side to Valentine—he clearly wants to manipulate Valentine, but it seems that he also sincerely loves Ender and is capable of love. The earlier scene in which Peter told Ender he loved him suggests that Peter (on one level) really does want to be a good man. At the same time, however, he’s clearly “saving his weaknesses,” as Valentine suggests—knowing that his sudden burst of sincerity will be too powerful for Valentine to refuse. Thus Peter is not wholly devoid of empathy or love, but he is able to manipulate even his own sincere emotions to serve his more sociopathic nature.
In the coming weeks, Valentine succeeds in convincing Father to give his children internet access. Peter and Valentine begin writing articles and posting them anonymously. They read the writing of famous journalists, and improve their own. After a few months, Peter and Valentine conclude that they’ve developed voices sophisticated enough to keep permanently. Peter instructs Valentine to write only on certain Internet websites, and to use a deliberately inflammatory style. Peter, by contrast, will be more measured and balanced in his tone. Then, Peter and Valentine plan to “debate” one another online. Very slowly, Peter and Valentine notice that their ideas and talking points are trickling into mainstream journalism. Peter names his online persona Locke, while Valentine calls hers Demosthenes.
It takes an improbably short amount of time for Peter and Valentine to perfect their writing voices. Evidently, Peter wants Valentine to be radical and angry-sounding because he wants to bill himself as the “voice of reason,” but the danger of this arrangement is that anger and vitriol are always more entertaining to read. Peter’s mention of Locke suggests the famous English Enlightenment thinker John Locke, while Valentine’s mention of Demosthenes suggests a link with the legendary opponent of Alexander the Great (see Background Info for more about these historical allusions).
Seven months after Peter and Valentine begin writing as Locke and Demosthenes, “Demosthenes” has received an invitation from a major publication to write full-time. Peter instructs Valentine to accept, on the condition that her identity is kept anonymous. With a new writing gig, Valentine begins writing more inflammatory pieces about the menace that the Russians pose to world peace. She calls for all nations to uncover their hidden intelligence, creating a free flow of information. Peter is pleased that Demosthenes is calling for conflict and even war—when the moment is right, he plans to have Demosthenes change his tone and call for compromise.
Valentine is essential a “sleeper agent” for the radical Russia-haters in America. By organizing other xenophobes around her writings, Valentine can gain their loyalty, while also ensuring that the moderates become more politically and rhetorically active. Then, at the right time, Valentine will “betray” her followers by coming out in support of Locke, thereby ensuring Peter’s rise to power with a broad coalition of political support. Even considering the children’s intelligence, however, it seems unlikely that two people could plan ahead to achieve such influence, all while keeping their identities secret.
Valentine notices that her parents have begun reading Demosthenes’ column, and even quote it at diner. Shortly afterwards, “Locke” is asked to write a weekly column for another major news network. Peter plans to write intelligent, measured responses to Demosthenes’ columns, creating an atmosphere of uncertainty in the world of politics.
Peter has the huge of advantage of knowing what Demosthenes is going to write next (since he tells Demosthenes what to say). In this way, he can always adapt his arguments to the new political climate, and stay relevant.
The chapter then cuts back to the Battle School. Ender has been the leading soldier in the battleroom for many months. He’s nine years old, and a toon leader in the Phoenix Army, which is led by Petra Arkanian. He’s respected and admired by nearly everyone in Battle School—but this sometimes frustrates him. While he continues to practice with his old friends, Shen and Alai, he’s noticed that they think of him as a different “kind” of person than they are. He’s a celebrity in Battle School—never just a kid.
Time passes quickly in Card’s novel, especially in the sweeping events he relates regarding Valentine and Peter. Ender is now nine years old, and we see a growing distance between him and his friends. Just as Graff seems to have planned, Ender’s fame and prestige isolates him from his former peers: even if they like or respect him, they never consider him “one of them.”
In his free time, Ender plays the Giant game. He journeys to a strange place called the End of the World. There, he sees a big public square lined with heavy stones. He pulls away one of the stones, and finds himself drowning in water. He also notices a mirror, in which he can see Peter’s face.
Ender seems to have reached a dead-end. He knows that he is talented, but can’t make himself any more of a warrior for fear that he’ll become Peter—the brutal bully who caused Ender so much pain as a child. The psychological manipulations of the Giant game seem far out of the hands of the IF by now, as Ender struggles with some personal demons in virtual reality form.
Back on Earth, more than a year after beginning her career as an incognito journalist, Valentine is walking to school. She notices a group of IF soldiers standing outside the building, and wonders if they’re here to give her news about Ender. Then it occurs to her that they could be coming to arrest her for her writings as Demosthenes. In recent months, she’s become both acclaimed and hated for her radical views on politics.
For Valentine, thoughts of Ender’s potential death are more urgent than the possibility that the IF may be coming to arrest her for her role as Demosthenes. Perhaps this is meant to suggest that Valentine prioritizes Ender above everything else in her life.
Valentine goes to class, where she finds a message telling her to go to the principle’s office immediately. She does so, and finds Colonel Graff waiting for her. Graff reminds Valentine that they met years ago (on the day Graff convinced Ender to leave Earth). Graff greets Valentine, and immediately tells her that Ender is doing fine. This relieves Valentine, because she assumed Graff was there to tell her about her brother. Graff invites Valentine to walk outside and talk.
Graff decided long ago that Valentine’s compassion and mercy disqualified her from Battle School—but he also knows how much of an influence she has over Ender. Because of Graff’s essentially manipulative nature, it seems clear that he is here to use Valentine to influence Ender.
Outside, Graff tells Valentine why he’s here: Ender is doing brilliantly at Battle School, but he’s been slumping lately, and needs something to inspire him. He describes the Giant game that Ender plays, and mentions the images of Peter that Ender repeatedly sees. Valentine points out that Ender and Peter are polar opposites—Peter is a hateful, violent boy, while Ender is peaceful. As Valentine explains herself, she thinks of how she’s allied herself with Peter, the very person she hates. In spite of herself, she begins to cry.
We see here that Valentine isn’t as adept at controlling her emotions as Ender is—she allows her feelings for other people to control her, an admirable quality in a human being, but also the quality that made Graff reject her years ago. Valentine insists that Ender and Peter are different, but at the same time she recognizes that she herself is also becoming more like Peter.
Graff watches Valentine crying, and tries to calm her by agreeing with her: he claims he doesn’t think Ender is like Peter at all. He asks Valentine to help Ender by writing him a letter in which she assures him that he’s a good person. Graff reveals the truth: while Valentine has sent Ender dozens of letters, Ender was never allowed to read them. Graff bids farewell to Valentine, leaving it unclear whether she’ll write the letter or not.
Graff is brutal in his treatment of Ender—he never lets Ender read any of the dozens of letters that Valentine sent him over the years. Despite all this (or perhaps because of it), Valentine agrees to help Graff by sending one more letter. She’s so desperate to talk to her brother that she’s willing to cooperate with people she despises—or else she recognizes that any resistance would be useless.
The narrative cuts back to Ender at Battle School. He receives a letter from Valentine. In the letter, Valentine tells Ender she’s tried to write him hundreds of times before this. She adds that Ender is a good person—unlike “you know who.” She makes an inside joke about paddling a “canoe,” and misspells “psychoanalyze.” Ender considers the letter. Although it’s clearly written by the real Valentine (hence the misspellings and inside jokes), it’s not “real,” since the IF clearly made her write it. Ender feels his body fill with sadness, and he realizes that he has no true control over his own life.
Ender’s mastery of his own emotions is both impressive and heartbreaking to see—he doesn’t give himself the option of feeling a strong sense of love for Valentine, because he knows that he’s being manipulated by Graff. Valentine’s letter actually makes Ender furious—furious that Graff is manipulating his own beloved sister against him. Perhaps this is what Graff wanted—to “show his hand,” but in doing so to make Ender recognize the fact that he cannot avoid manipulation.
Frustrated by Valentine’s letter, Ender goes to play the Giant game. He returns to the End of the World, and sees Peter’s face in the mirror. Then it occurs to him that the IF has forced Valentine to write the letter because they already know about his fear of Peter. Instead of signing off, Ender continues to play the game. He sees a large snake slithering on the ground, and tries to attack it. Then he changes his mind and kisses the snake. The snake transforms into Valentine, and Valentine kisses him on the cheek. Together, they walk toward the mirror, which no longer shows Peter’s face. With a gentle touch, Ender breaks the mirror, revealing a long stairway, through which he’s free to walk. Ender has finally broken through the End of the World.
Ender finally finds a way to defeat the mirror, which represents his “Peter-self.” Instead of fighting his enemies, he shows them love and affection. This reminds us that Ender’s innate sense of violence is disturbingly close to his sense of compassion: Ender is a deadly warrior because he uses empathy to understand his opponents and get inside their heads—then he can destroy them. Ender has defeated his latest challenge, but he does so at a price. By moving past the aggressive, Peter-influenced parts of his personality, he turns himself into a newer, deadlier kind of warrior—a Valentine who is also a snake, as the game symbolically portrays.
Shortly after meeting with Graff, Valentine receives a letter from General Shimon Levy, the Strategos (who is implied to be the leader of America). The letter informs her that her “operation” has been a complete success, and she has been awarded the highest military award granted to civilians. Valentine realizes what she’s done: she’s “sold her brother and been paid for it.” That night, Valentine, as Demosthenes, writes a long critique of the government’s population laws. She concludes with the line, “The most noble title any child can have is Third,” which amuses Peter greatly.
In short passages like this one, we get a sense of the huge amount of censorship and state control in Valentine’s life: she’s given a medal, but isn’t allowed to tell anyone about it (including, it would seem, Peter). Peter still seems to be jealous of Valentine’s love and friendship with Ender, but pretends to be amused instead. Peter continues to hate Ender for being better than him—we can imagine that this is partly why he wants to run the world.