Ender’s Game

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Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Tor edition of Ender’s Game published in 2008.
Chapter 1 Quotes

“So what do we do? Surround him with enemies all the time?”
“If we have to.”
“I thought you said you liked this kid.”
“If the Buggers get him, they’ll make me look like his favorite uncle.”
“All right. We’re saving the world, after all. Take him.”

Related Characters: Colonel Hyrum Graff (speaker), Major Anderson (speaker), Andrew “Ender” Wiggin
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:

In this early quotation, two high-ranking officials in the "International Fleet" (IF) discuss the education they're planning for Ender Wiggin. Ender is a phenomenally brilliant young boy--his intelligence and leadership potential could make him the greatest military commander the world has ever seen. Graff and Anderson's strategy for Ender's education could be summed up as "survival of the fittest." In order to ensure that Ender becomes a first-rate commander (and defeats the biggest threat to humanity, the aliens known as Buggers), they'll bombard him with hostile opponents: rival students, bullies, aggressive teachers, etc. With these teaching methods, they hope to toughen up their prized pupil.

One of the key questions of Card's novel is how people rationalize cruelty and evil to themselves. In the case of Graff and Anderson, the answer is simple: the ends justify the means. Treating a small boy so cruelly might seem harsh, but—in the officials' view—the cruelty is outweighed by the threat of the Buggers invading once again.


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Chapter 2 Quotes

Dad pointed out that the war wouldn’t go away just because you hid Bugger masks and wouldn’t let your kids play with make-believe laser guns. Better to play the war games, and have a better chance of surviving when the Buggers came again.

Related Characters: Andrew “Ender” Wiggin , Peter Wiggin , Mr. Wiggin / Father
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quotation, Card explains why games have become so important to the world in his vision of the future. For centuries, people have learned about fighting, war, and strategy by playing games—chess, for example, has trained generals for thousands of years. In the future, Card explains, games continue to train people to fight from an early age. Parents encourage their children to play games in which they fight "Buggers," the alien race that is (supposedly) the archenemy of humanity. By playing games of this kind, children like Ender inadvertently train themselves for a lifetime of war with the Buggers.

One of the reasons that games are so important for the generals and warriors of the future is that they're not real. As the quotation suggests, the death and destruction is "make believe." (The real violence comes later.) By playing games that use fake violence, children gradually become desensitized to the idea of violence itself, so that when it's time for them to fight a real Bugger, they won't feel pangs of guilt or hesitation about killing it. At the end of the novel, it'll become clear how games have taught Ender to suppress his natural feelings of sympathy and compassion.

But he did not reach for a pillow to smother Ender. He did not have a weapon.

He whispered, “Ender, I’m sorry, I know how it feels. I’m sorry, I’m your brother. I love you.”

Related Characters: Peter Wiggin (speaker), Andrew “Ender” Wiggin
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

In one of the most poignant passages in the novel, Ender's brutal older brother, Peter Wiggin, offers Ender a surprising apology. Peter has spent the entire day tormenting Ender—criticizing him for being a "Third," and even threatening to kill him—and yet here, late at night, Peter doesn't try to hurt Ender. On the contrary, he apologizes and insists that he loves Ender.

It's crucial to recognize that Peter and Ender are speaking alone. In public, or even when he's with Valentine Wiggin (the middle child), Peter has a chip on his shoulder about being inferior to Ender. In a society where the government has to grant special permission for third children to be born, Ender is living proof that Peter isn't good enough to fight the Buggers in Battle School. Although Peter doesn't like appearing weak or second-rate around other people, he's more likely to let his guard down when he's alone.

Alternatively, this sene might just be Peter manipulating Ender, similar to the way he usually does—but this time by acting unpredictably and making Ender think that he's truly compassionate, in order to make Ender let his guard down. We are never given an inside look at Peter's consciousness, and he remains an intriguing and frightening character throughout the book.

Chapter 3 Quotes

“Tell me why you kept kicking him. You had already won.”
“Knocking him down won the first fight. I wanted to win all the next ones, too, right then, so they’d leave me alone.”

Related Characters: Andrew “Ender” Wiggin (speaker), Colonel Hyrum Graff (speaker), Stilson
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Colonel Graff, a powerful military commander, asks Ender why he brutally kicked a bully, Stilson. Stilson was teasing Ender, and Ender responds by knocking Stilson to the floor. But instead of walking away, Ender decided to kick Stilson while he was down, brutally injuring his opponent (and, we later learn, killing him). As we learn here, Ender chose to hurt Stilson because he recognized that it was the right strategy: Ender didn't just want to avoid Stilson for a couple of days; he wanted Stilson, and all the other bullies, to leave him alone forever.

Ender's explanation for his behavior is cool, calm, and chilling—he's motivated by logic, not passion. As Graff acknowledges, Ender's eerie calmness makes him a great general: where other human beings would naturally refrain from hitting an injured opponent, Ender ignores his own sense of compassion in order to win the war, not just the battle. The paradox is that Ender's brutality is a form of compassion: in order to make the decision to hit Stilson, Ender has to be perceptive and understanding enough to know what kind of person Stilson is (i.e., to know that Stilson will never leave him alone). Ender's personality is a mixture of coldness and empathy that's far more dangerous than coldness could ever be by itself.

“They look at you and see you as a badge of pride, because they were able to circumvent the law and have a Third. But you’re also a badge of cowardice, because they dare not go further and practice the noncompliance they still feel is right.”

Related Characters: Colonel Hyrum Graff (speaker), Andrew “Ender” Wiggin , Mr. Wiggin / Father , Mrs. Wiggin / Mother
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Colonel Graff walks a fine line between honesty and manipulation. Graff explains to Ender that his parents—religious people forced to live in a secular society—took a great risk when they had Ender. In Ender's society, it's illegal to have more than two children. The government gave Ender's parents permission to have another baby, because their genetic "stock" was considered to be good for producing future generals. Graff claims that Ender is a badge of pride for his parents—by definition he's a very special child—but adds that he's also a source of shame for them.

Graff's logic is a little confused: he claims that by having "only" one extra child beyond the legal limit, Ender's parents are bringing themselves shame, since they secretly believe that people should have the right to have as many children as they can (particular because of their religion). It doesn't really follow that Ender should make his parents ashamed, simply because they haven't gone far enough in rebelling against a controlling government. Graff appears to be manipulating Ender in order to make Ender more likely to agree to leave his family behind and go to Battle School. Ender, for all his intelligence and leadership abilities, can't quite see through Graff's distortions of the truth.

Chapter 4 Quotes

“I won’t lie now,” said Graff. “My job isn’t to be friends. My job is to produce the best soldiers in the world. In the whole history of the world. We need a Napoleon. An Alexander.”

Related Characters: Colonel Hyrum Graff (speaker), Andrew “Ender” Wiggin
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, Graff, the commander of Battle School, explains the scope of his assignment to Ender. Graff has been tasked with using his education program to produce the best military commander possible—a commander so brilliant that he'll be able to defeat the alien Buggers. Graff even admits that he lied and manipulated Ender before so that Ender would be more likely to attend Battle School. The fact that Graff is now being (mostly) honest with Ender signals that he has complete authority over Ender—he doesn't need to lie anymore.

On the surface, it's almost amusing that a grown man is waxing poetic about Napoleon and Alexander to a 6-year-old boy. Graff's quote presupposes a faith in "the system"—he's confident that his educational program can, in fact, produce great generals, and (just as importantly) predict which students have the greatest potential. Graff claims that he's finally being honest with Ender, but—as Card will quickly make clear—this simply isn't true. Even if Graff will tell Ender the truth at certain times, he'll still manipulate his young pupil in increasingly devious and elaborate ways.

Chapter 5 Quotes

He could not cry. There was no chance that he would be treated with compassion. Dap was not Mother. Any sign of weakness would tell the Stilsons and the Peters that this boy could be broken.

Related Characters: Andrew “Ender” Wiggin (speaker), Peter Wiggin , Stilson , Dap
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

In the course of Ender's time in Battle School, he trains himself to control his emotions. In this quotation, for instance, he forces himself not to cry late at night, even though Dap—the caretaker and self-described "mom" of the new recruits—is offering his support. Although Ender is lonely and misses his family, he also believes that he'll be ridiculed for his weaknesses.

By this point in the novel, Ender has learned not to trust authority of any kind. Even though Dap seems to be a kind, sympathetic man, Ender doesn't trust him. He knows that Dap and Graff are associates; in other words, if Ender exposes any weakness to Dap, Graff will use it against him. Ender's self-control is incredible, but also tragic—this is essentially a six-year-old boy learning how to dehumanize himself in order to survive.

Chapter 6 Quotes

He hadn’t meant to kill the Giant. This was supposed to be a game. Not a choice between his own grisly death and an even worse murder. I’m a murderer, even when I play. Peter would be proud of me.

Related Characters: Andrew “Ender” Wiggin (speaker), Peter Wiggin
Related Symbols: The Giant
Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Ender plays a game called the Giant's Drink. In the game, Ender faces off against a computer-generated giant who forces him to choose between two drinks, one of which is poisoned. Ender finally wins the game by simply attacking the giant, killing him brutally. Ender feels a sudden rush of guilt after murdering the giant. He doesn't want to believe that he's a violent, brutal person—he's always tried to distance himself from Peter, his older brother (a cruel bully, as we've already seen).

The scene also provides some important foreshadowing for the climactic events of the novel. Ender finds the confidence and creativity to fight the giant so brutally because he thinks that this is just a game—the artificiality of the Giant's Drink allows him to be crueler and more destructive than he would be in the real world. It's also crucial to notice that Ender, in spite of his compassion and guilt, doesn't feel guilty for his actions until after he's finished. This is what makes Ender such a great soldier: he's smart and empathetic enough to understand his opponents, but he can also suppress his sense of compassion until after his opponents are dead.

Chapter 7 Quotes

“Listen, Wiggin, I don’t want you, I’m trying to get rid of you, but don’t give me any problems, or I’ll paste you to the wall.”
A good commander, thought Ender, doesn’t have to make stupid threats.

Related Characters: Bonzo Madrid (speaker), Andrew “Ender” Wiggin
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:

During his early days in Battle School, Ender is forced to serve under a older boy, Bonzo Madrid, in the Salamander Army. Bonzo is bigger and stronger than Ender, but—as the quotation makes very clear—he's an incompetent leader. Bonzo threatens to hurt Ender unless Ender obeys him without question. Although Ender acts like a good soldier—he usually obeys Bonzo's orders, even when they're foolish—he privately recognizes that Bonzo is incompetent.

The passage is also important because it shows that Ender is slowly teaching himself the art of leadership. Whether he serves with great commanders or bad ones, Ender always learns something. Either he learns what to do in a battle, or he learns what not to do. Ender's style of leadership, we can already sense, would be calm, controlled, and rational—he wouldn't threaten or hurt his soldiers unless it was what needed to be done.

“You disobeyed me,” Bonzo said. Loudly, for all to hear. “No good soldier ever disobeys.”
Even as he cried from the pain, Ender could not help but take vengeful pleasure in the murmurs he heard rising through the barracks. You fool, Bonzo. You aren’t enforcing discipline, you’re destroying it. They know I turned defeat into a draw. And now they see how you repay me. You made yourself look stupid in front of everybody.

Related Characters: Bonzo Madrid (speaker), Andrew “Ender” Wiggin
Page Number: 95
Explanation and Analysis:

Ender disobeys Bonzo's orders in a mock-battle at Battle School: Bonzo orders him not to draw his weapon, but Ender fires his weapon, turning a defeat into a draw for the Salamander Army. Here, Bonzo abuses Ender in front of his fellow soldiers. Ender notes that Bonzo is undermining his own power among the Salamanders: by proving that he punishes good soldiers, Bonzo is chipping away at his own troops' respect for him.

The passage is an excellent example of how Ender instinctively thinks in strategic terms—the long-term, really—at all times. Even when Bonzo slaps him in the face, Ender thinks ahead. His thought process also signals that he's putting together a model of good leadership. As far as Ender is concerned, a good leader rewards talent and initiative, while always remaining aware of how his troops view him.

Chapter 8 Quotes

“Ender Wiggin is ten times smarter and stronger than I am. What I’m doing to him will bring out his genius. If I had to go through it myself, it would crush me.”

Related Characters: Colonel Hyrum Graff (speaker), Andrew “Ender” Wiggin
Page Number: 99
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Colonel Graff tries to justify his behavior to his colleagues at the Battle School. Graff has been manipulating Ender to put him in harm's way: first turning his fellow recruits against him, then sending him to serve with Bonzo. Although Graff's actions have raised some eyebrows, Graff's justification is always the same: Ender's treatment is necessary, because it's the only way to create a first-rate general. Here, Grant offers a further elaboration: Ender will be able to withstand anything that comes in his way.

Graff's pronouncement is a clever rhetorical maneuver. By emphasizing his own weakness and foolishness, Graff creates the impression that he's a modest, cautious man while also suggesting that Ender is more than capable of surviving Bonzo's hostility. In short, Graff undercuts his own achievements and authority in order to justify his actions.

“There is no war, and they’re just screwing around with us.”
“But why?”
“Because as long as people are afraid of the Buggers, the IF can stay in power.”

Related Characters: Andrew “Ender” Wiggin (speaker), Dink Meeker (speaker)
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:

One of Ender's superiors in his new army, Dink Meeker, tells Ender his theory. Dink believes that the International Fleet, or IF, is manufacturing rumors of a Bugger invasion in order to maintain power. The IF has a virtual monopoly on the world's greatest military leaders: it runs tests around the world to harvest the best minds and train them for years in a secure location (Battle School). The IF can always justify the tremendous power it exerts over the world by saying that Battle School is necessary for defeating the Buggers. In short, it's in the IF's interest to manufacture a story about an impending Bugger invasion.

Although Ender dismisses Dink's theories for a number of reasons, Dink's ideas are relevant because they reinforce the notion that the IF will use deception and manipulation to get its way. As we've already seen, the IF will lie to children in order to get them to come to Battle School—it doesn't seem to be assuming too much to say that it would also lie to the people of the Earth.

Chapter 9 Quotes

“When the Bugger wars are over, all that power will vanish, because it’s all built on fear of the Buggers. And suddenly we’ll look around and discover that all the old alliances are gone, dead and gone, except one, the Warsaw Pact. And it’ll be the dollar against five million lasers.”

Related Characters: Peter Wiggin (speaker)
Page Number: 126
Explanation and Analysis:

Peter, still a teenager, tries to convince Valentine that the Earth is facing an impending crisis. If the Buggers are defeated in battle, the nations of the Earth will begin a scramble for power. The world's great powers have only united together temporarily out of fear that they'll be wiped out by Bugger warriors. If there are no more Buggers, there's no more unity—war is inevitable.

Peter's speech—which he uses as justification for his own plan to become the leader of the world—is interesting because it sheds light on Peter's own definition of leadership. Ender, a soldier and a general, thinks of a leader as a calm, collected figure who comes up with the best strategies. Peter, on the other hand, thinks of a leader as a political figure, someone whose principle job is to maintain a delicate balance of power between many rivals. Peter's speech also presupposes that human beings are basically selfish entities—they'll do whatever it takes to gain as much power for themselves as possible. We can guess that Peter sees himself in exactly the same terms—he's a power-hungry young man.

That’s how they think of me, too. Teacher. Legendary soldier. Not one of them. Not someone that you embrace and whisper Salaam in his ear. That only lasted while Ender seemed a victim. Still seemed vulnerable. Now he was the master soldier, and he was completely, utterly alone.

Related Characters: Andrew “Ender” Wiggin (speaker)
Page Number: 140
Explanation and Analysis:

As Ender becomes more successful at Battle School, he gets a reputation for being a "legend." Although there are some advantages to being seen as a legend—fewer people bully him, even if more people hate him in secret—Ender finds his new life lonely and isolating. Even the people who respect him deeply can't see him as a peer or friend: they think of him as an abstract role model, someone to be emulated and respected but not befriended. Ender's transition from frightened young student to intimidating general is especially poignant because he remembers a time when he had friends in Battle School, such as Alai (the student who whispered "Salaam" in his ear).

Ender's sadness in this quotation proves that Graff has been successful: Graff's goal, after all, was to alienate Ender from his fellow troops in order to make him focus solely on strategy. As Ender becomes more successful in school, the tortures and challenges Graff puts in his way have to become more elaborate: at this point in the novel, Ender's "challenge" involves facing this deep, existential sadness.

Chapter 10 Quotes

Ender wanted to undo his taunting of the boy, wanted to tell the others that the little one needed their help and friendship more than anyone else. But of course Ender couldn’t do that. Not on the first day. On the first day even his mistakes had to look like part of a brilliant plan.

Related Characters: Andrew “Ender” Wiggin , Bean
Page Number: 161-162
Explanation and Analysis:

Ender is given control of an army at Battle School. On his first day commanding the army, he verbally abuses a young soldier named Bean, making fun of him for his size. Ender immediately regrets his actions and wishes he could take back what he said. But Ender also knows that his priority is developing his authority over his new group of soldiers. For this reason, he doesn't apologize to Bean, but instead moves on with his speech.

Ender's behavior in the scene illustrates the contrast between his cold, calculating manner and his secret compassionate side. Ender was a sweet child, but Graff and his other teachers at Battle School have trained him to be harsh, intimidating, and impressive. Yet in spite of the training he's received, Ender continues to feel the same sense of compassion he always did: Graff hasn't stamped it out of him yet.

In the second half of the novel, Card poses a question: which part of Ender's personality is stronger, his brutality or his compassion? Based on the quote, it would seem that Ender's brutality is stronger: he yells first, then feels sorry later. At the same time, though, Ender had to learn brutality from Graff—his compassion is innate. The fact that Graff has yet to get rid Ender's sense of compassion suggests that it, not Ender's brutality, is the stronger force.

I made sure they all noticed you today. They’ll be watching every move you make. All you have to do to earn their respect now is be perfect.

Related Characters: Andrew “Ender” Wiggin (speaker), Bean
Page Number: 166
Explanation and Analysis:

Ender tries to justify his behavior to Bean, the soldier he verbally abused in front of his new group of soldiers. The justification Ender gives Bean is uncannily similar to the explanation Graff offered Ender at the beginning of the novel: like Graff, Ender is manipulating Bean's peers against him in the hopes that Bean will rise to the challenge and become a stronger, better soldier.

Ender's behavior toward Bean proves that Graff's training is working. Even though Ender hates Graff for hurting him and turning him against his friends, Ender emulates Graff's behavior reflexively—it's a classic example of "mimetic behavior" (copying someone else). Ender's actions also suggest that his definition of good leadership is changing somewhat. While he continues to aspire to kindness and compassion, he recognizes that there are times when he needs to be cruel and even abusive to his own troops, in order to build their loyalty. Ender has become the thing he hates most: a cruel, calculating commander.

Chapter 11 Quotes

“They need us, that’s why.” Bean sat down on the floor and stared at Ender’s feet. “Because they need somebody to beat the Buggers. That’s the only thing they care about.”
“It’s important that you know that, Bean. Because most boys in this school think the game is important for itself—but it isn’t. It’s only important because it helps them find kids who might grow up to be real commanders, in the real war. But as for the game, screw that.”

Related Characters: Andrew “Ender” Wiggin (speaker), Bean (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Battleroom
Page Number: 196-197
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quotation, Ender confides in his friend Bean—a young, ambitious soldier in the Dragon Army, whom Ender had initially mocked for his size. Ender tells Bean what he's learned about Battle School so far: the game, he believes, is fake, while war is real. Ender claims that most students in school are so competitive that they never fully grasp that the game is "just a game"—there are always students like Bonzo who are so competitive that they're willing to kill an opponent because of a win or loss in the Battle Room.

Ender's speech is ironic, as we'll soon find out, since in the end, there is no difference between the game and the war with the Buggers. Ender's mistake—his tragic flaw, you could say—is that he thinks he can preserve some of his humanity and compassion during Battle School; i.e., he can be a brutal commander during a game, and a normal human being for the rest of the day. Graff, knowing full-well that Ender thinks the Battle Room is just a game, will manipulate Ender into heartlessly annihilating the Buggers by lying to him about what is and isn't real.

Chapter 12 Quotes

Only then did it occur to William Bee that not only had Dragon Army ended the game, it was possible that, under the rules, they had won it. After all, no matter what happened, you were not certified as the winner unless you had enough unfrozen soldiers to touch the corners of the gate and pass someone through into the enemy’s corridor.

Related Characters: Andrew “Ender” Wiggin , William Bee
Related Symbols: The Battleroom
Page Number: 218
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene—one of the few moments from the novel in which the perspective shifts away from Ender Wiggin—Card describes one of Ender's most ingenious victories in the Battle Room. A technicality states that an army can only win by launching five soldiers through the opponent team's side. Usually, armies interpret this rule to mean that after the battle, five soldiers must cross to the other side. Ender, knowing he's badly outnumbered and has no chance of winning, simply launches his soldiers before the game has begun.

The shift in perspective that takes place during this scene helps convey the ingenuity of Ender's plan. For once, we're not privy to Ender's decision-making process, and so Ender's final decision becomes all the more unexpected and dazzling. The scene is also a good example of how Ender "cuts the Gordian knot" (a legendary knot that was impossible to untie, but which Alexander the Great supposedly cut open with his sword)—i.e., rethinks the rules of the game in a creative way—when he's under pressure. Arguably his greatest talent as a leader is that he can twist the rules bit by bit. Graff knows about Ender's talent, and uses it to trick him into killing the Buggers.

Chapter 13 Quotes

He caught her wrist in his hand. His grip was very strong, even though his hands were smaller than hers and his own arms were slender and tight. For a moment he looked dangerous; then he relaxed. “Oh, yes,” he said. “You used to tickle me.”

Related Characters: Andrew “Ender” Wiggin (speaker), Valentine Wiggin
Page Number: 235
Explanation and Analysis:

Ender reunites with his sister, Valentine, back on Earth. One afternoon, they go out to a boat, and Valentine tries to tickle Ender, prompting Ender—like the good soldier he is—to adopt a defensive stance. Ender has been so well trained as a soldier that he naturally treats everyone as a threat, even his own sister. It's only a second later that Ender remembers that Valentine is his beloved big sister, the person he loves most in the world.

Ender's behavior is robotic in this scene, and the robot comparison is pretty accurate. Over the years, Graff and the other teachers at Battle School have reshaped Ender into a lethal weapon who can be manipulated and controlled whenever the need arises. Graff tries to suppress Ender's strongest quality, his compassion. Here, it's clear that Graff has failed to do so: Ender still loves his sister. But Graff has also made Ender a dangerous warrior—someone whom Valentine doesn't really know at all.

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.

Related Characters: Andrew “Ender” Wiggin (speaker), Valentine Wiggin
Page Number: 238
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quotation, Ender Wiggin tells Valentine what he's learned about the role of compassion and empathy in fighting. Ender has always been a particularly compassionate person, as well as a particularly brutal one. For the most part, Ender and the people who know him have thought of these two sides of Ender as strictly separate, even opposite. Ender, however, argues that the greatest brutality is only possible with compassion. Unlike a mediocre bully like Stilson or Bonzo, Ender is smart and empathetic enough to understand his opponents deeply. It's his sense of understanding that allows Ender to defeat his opponents with such ease: because he knows and loves them, he knows how to destroy them.

Ender's speech partly explains why his time in Battle School is so agonizing. Over the course of his years away from Earth, he's instructed to compete for success, hurting anyone who gets in his way. Ender tries to build friendship and collaboration between his peers, but at every turn, Graff and the other teachers turn him against his friends. Yet the passage also hints at a path to redemption for Ender. Ender is taught to hate the Buggers, but he's also capable of boundless love for them. In the end, Ender's capacity for love leads him to protect and nurture the Buggers, atoning for his genocidal crime.

Chapter 14 Quotes

“I surprised you once, Ender Wiggin, Why didn’t you destroy me immediately afterward? Just because I looked peaceful? You turned your back on me. Stupid. You have learned nothing. You have never had a teacher.”

Related Characters: Mazer Rakham (speaker), Andrew “Ender” Wiggin
Page Number: 262
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Ender meets his new mentor, Mazer Rackham, the legendary pilot who defeated a Bugger invasion years before. Mazer poses as a demented, harmless old man. He lashes out at Ender once, but before Ender can retaliate, he assumes a harmless position on the floor. Ender is too sympathetic to attack Mazer while he's sitting on the floor—his natural compassion takes over. But when Ender isn't paying attention, Mazer attacks him again—much harder—and then chastises him for being foolish enough not to hit Mazer when he had the chance.

Mazer's actions are intended as a metaphor for the Bugger invasion: the Bugger attacked humanity once, but didn't succeed in destroying it altogether. While some people doubt that it's worthwhile to attack the Buggers when they're not an immediate threat to Earth, Mazer insists otherwise: humans must exterminate the Buggers, just as Ender should have attacked Mazer when he was on the floor.

In a broader sense, Mazer's lesson for Ender signals that Ender is about to have his last drops of compassion and sympathy beaten out of him. In the past, Ender has attacked opponents when they're already hurt. But even Ender refuses to hurt a weak-looking old man—he's not a monster. Mazer will push Ender to be brutal at all costs, for the sake of humanity. Mazer's lesson also reminds Ender of what he's known all along: his teachers are his enemies, hurting him and reshaping him into a monster so that he can win their war for them.

Forget it, Mazer. I don’t care if I pass your test, I don’t care if I follow your rules, if you can cheat, so can I. I won’t let you beat me unfairly—I’ll beat you unfairly first.
In that final battle in Battle School, he had won by ignoring the enemy, ignoring his own losses; he had moved against the enemy’s gate.
And the enemy’s gate was down.

Related Characters: Andrew “Ender” Wiggin (speaker), Mazer Rakham
Related Symbols: The Battleroom
Page Number: 293
Explanation and Analysis:

In the novel's climactic scene, Ender faces an opponent (which he believes to be a computer simulation) more dangerous than any he's ever seen. Badly outnumbered, Ender isn't sure how to react. After a moment's thought, he decides to "cut the Gordian knot" once again. Ender decides to "win" the game by breaking the rules; sacrificing huge chunks of his own army in order to exterminate the Buggers at their source. Ender has the creativity to break the rules because he remembers the un-winnable battles he won in the Battle Room by breaking similar sets of rules.

The tragedy of Ender's decision is that he's willing to exterminate his opponents because he's convinced it's "just a game." In reality, though, the game is real. Thanks to Graffs' deceptions, Ender has been commanding real troops against a real enemy, and by winning the battle, he's won the Bugger War forever.

Ender's "victory" in this scene proves how well his education at Battle School has taught him to think of violence as a mere simulation. Although he's a uniquely compassionate, loving boy, he never has any qualms about sending troops to their deaths or murdering millions of Bugger opponents—but this is only possible because he's convinced that the game and the real world are separate, and that he's participating in the former.

In a broader sense, though, Ender's defeat of the Buggers illustrates how completely the IF commanders control him. After decades of running tests on their prized pupil, Graff and his colleagues know exactly how Ender's mind works. They know when he'll keep pushing, and when he'll crack under pressure. Ironically, "cracking under pressure" is exactly what Graff wants Ender to do in this scene:  Ender inadvertently exterminates the Buggers because he's sick of battle simulations, and wants a break.

Graff lies to Ender about the reality of the game for two reasons, one kind, one selfish. Graff wants to protect Ender from the guilt of consciously choosing to murder the Buggers—a decision that no single human being could possibly make. At the same time, Graff lies to Ender because he wants to make sure that Ender completes his assignment instead of compassionately refusing to commit mass murder. It's cowardly of Graff to place the burden of genocide on Ender's shoulders, and—as we'll soon see—the fact that Ender didn't know the game was real doesn't make him feel any less responsible.

Chapter 15 Quotes

“We got the judges to agree that the prosecution had to prove beyond doubt that Ender would have won the war without the training we gave him. After then it was simple. The exigencies of war.”
“Anyway, Graff, it was a great relief to us. I know we quarreled, and I know the prosecution used tapes of our conversation against you. But by then I knew that you were right, and I offered to testify for you.”

Related Characters: Colonel Hyrum Graff (speaker), Major Anderson (speaker)
Page Number: 306
Explanation and Analysis:

In the aftermath of the Bugger War, Graff is prosecuted for criminal behavior. He's accused of turning Ender Wiggin into a monster: encouraging him to hurt other children and ultimately murder an entire race of creatures. As Graff explains here, he was able to get acquitted very simply: he just argued that Ender's brutal training was necessary for winning the war against the Buggers—in other words, to be against Graff is to be against humanity.

Graff's legal victory reminds us that Ender was only ever a pawn for the IF, and remains a pawn even after the Bugger Wars. As Graff makes very clear, Ender's only purpose was to defeat the Buggers: Graff cynically crammed him with lessons in violence and brutality, never caring about (or choosing to ignore) the fact that Ender might be permanently warped by this "education." And even now, after the Bugger Wars, Graff's judges are forced to admit that the ends justify the means: Ender's prolonged torture at Battle School (he's forced to murder children, for example) is less important than humanity's victory against the Buggers. 

“Val,” he said, “I just want one thing clear. I’m not going for you. I’m not going in order to be governor, or because I’m bored here. I’m going because I know the Buggers better than any other living soul, and maybe if I go there I can understand them better. I stole their future from them; I can only begin to repay by seeing what I can learn from their past.”

Related Characters: Andrew “Ender” Wiggin (speaker), Valentine Wiggin
Page Number: 314
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Ender spells out the path he must take to atone for his war crimes. Ender has exterminated the Buggers altogether: as far as he can tell, an entire alien race has been wiped out. He feels incredibly guilty for his act of murder, and wants to do something to make up for his own actions. Ender doesn't think he can bring the Buggers back from the dead, but instead, he tries to use his intelligence and knowledge of the Buggers to respect their culture and history.

Ender's actions remind us of his greatest asset as a commander and as a human being: his military prowess and his compassion are one and the same. As Ender reminds us, he's the world's greatest living authority on the Buggers: if he wasn't, he wouldn't have been able to defeat them in battle. Because Ender understands his enemies, he knows exactly what to do to defeat them.

In the past, Ender's compassion has always been subservient to his talents as a commander: i.e., his compassion has enhanced his commanding, not the other way around. But in the final chapters of the novel, the tides turn. Ender hopes to use his compassion for good, learning about the Buggers and balancing out his past crimes.

And always Ender carried with him a dry white cocoon, looking for a world where the hive-queen could awaken and thrive in peace. He looked a long time.

Related Characters: Andrew “Ender” Wiggin
Related Symbols: The Hive-Queen Pupa
Page Number: 324
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of the novel, Ender makes a surprising discovery: a single Bugger cocoon, containing a new Queen fertile enough to repopulate the entire Bugger race. Ender learns that the Buggers have chosen him to repopulate their species—although he defeated them in battle, they've also sensed his love, compassion, and understanding. Ender goes out into outer space, looking for a place where the Buggers can live in peace.

Card doesn't describe (until later novels in the series) exactly how Ender goes about finding a new home for the Buggers. But the key sentence in the passage is, "He looked a long time." The past-tense might suggest that Ender's quest to repopulate the Bugger species eventually came to an end. But more importantly, Card makes it clear that it takes Ender a "long time" to find a home for the Buggers. Ender is atoning for his sins: punishing himself by working hard to help the Buggers. There's a kind of spiritual justice in the fact that Ender spends years carrying the cocoon: he's trying to balance out the years during which he was trained to kill the Buggers. In the end, however, Ender's good deeds (seemingly) outweigh his past sins.

Card's optimistic (and, it's sometimes suggested, highly religious) ending proves that Ender is a good man, not a monster. He has the potential to do evil—as all human beings do—but because he's also been blessed with the ability to love and work hard, he can overcome any evil he's done in the past.

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