Ender’s Game

Ender’s Game Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The chapter begins with a conversation between two unnamed people (for the purposes of this summary, we’ll call them X and Y, and refer to them as “he”). X claims that he’s been watching someone for many years now, and has concluded that this person is “the one.” X had once thought the same thing about this person’s brother—a fact that Y reminds X of. X and Y then plan to surround their subject with enemies, thereby training him to fight “the Buggers”—a much more dangerous enemy.
Card begins most of his chapters the same way—with a conversation between adults discussing the fate of Ender, the young protagonist. At this point, however, this is all entirely mysterious, as the speakers are unnamed not even Ender himself is named specifically. Later we will find out that “X” and “Y” are most likely Colonel Graff and Major Anderson.
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The narrative then cuts to an elementary school. A nurse speaks to a young boy named Ender, calling him Andrew. She explains that Ender is about to have a “monitor,” a small electronic device, removed from his body, and assures him that it won’t hurt at all. Ender privately thinks that the woman is lying—having the monitor removed will hurt a great deal. Ender has had the monitor imbedded in his body for a long time now. He’s always been viewed as different because of the monitor—perhaps now that he’s having it removed, he thinks, he’ll be a normal kid, and will be able to get along with his brother, Peter. But even as Ender thinks about getting along with Peter, he realizes that nothing is going to change. Peter will still hate him—for reasons that aren’t yet clear to us—and will continue to call him a “Third.”
As soon as we are introduced to Ender, Card lets us know that he’s not an ordinary child. He’s only six years old, but he already thinks like an adult. Card has expressed scorn for the way children are usually portrayed in fiction, and we see that he clearly has high opinions of what children’s minds are capable of. The monitor embedded in Ender’s body already gives hints of the futuristic, controlling society in which Ender lives—ever since his birth, someone has been keeping track of him. It’s revealed here that Ender’s given name is “Andrew,” but he always goes by “Ender” for the rest of the book.
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Ender goes into a doctor’s office, where a doctor sits Ender down and prepares to remove the monitor from his head. As the doctor leans in, Ender feels a sudden searing pain in his head, and his entire body tenses up. The doctor screams for a nurse, and the nurse injects Ender with a needle. When Ender wakes up, the doctor is muttering about how “They” put monitors in children for three years. The doctor adds that if the nurse hadn’t given Ender the proper amount of injection, she could have “switched off” Ender’s brain forever.
We get the sense here that Ender isn’t very well taken care of, and that as a “Third” (though it’s not yet clear what this means), he’s something of a second-class citizen. We also recognize that “They” (we don’t know who, but can guess that it has something to do with the two speakers at the beginning of the chapter, and the government of this society) are talented at watching and analyzing people.
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An hour after his operation, Ender returns to his classroom. He can barely stand, and can’t remember where he sat in class. A boy named Stilson smirks and says that Ender is “washed out” now. The teacher, a woman named Miss Pumphrey, proceeds with a lesson on multiplication. Ender barely pays attention—instead he makes drawings on his “desk,” an electronic surface that he’s supposed to use to learn in school. Ender smiles to himself—the lesson is absurdly easy for him, even though he’s only a young child. He has always been a Third, he thinks, although it’s not his fault that he is. The government authorized Ender’s parents to have a third child—a rarity in Ender’s society.
Here we begin to get a sense for who Ender is and what kind of world he lives in. By nature, he’s a gentle, creative child, who is extremely intelligent and thoughtful. But he’s also a “Third”—a third child in a society that prevents people from having more than two children. Because of this, Ender is disliked and bullied by those like Stilson. Perhaps the most important takeaway from this passage is that Ender has been “chosen” before he was even born: the government wants him alive, though we don’t yet know why.
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After school, Ender leaves class and walks to the bus. Stilson yells at Ender, calling him “Third” and “bugger lover.” Ender tries to ignore Stilson, but Stilson pushes Ender to the ground while Stilson’s friends laugh and jeer. Ender thinks calmly, and he decides to fight back. Stilson’s friends hold Ender down, but Ender fakes a laugh, and dares Stilson to fight him on his own. As soon as Stilson is ready to fight Ender, Ender kicks him, hard, in the chest. Ender is a little surprised that he’s hurt Stilson so badly. But he also realizes that if he walks away now, Stilson will be back to fight him again. He walks to where Stilson is lying on the ground, moaning, and kicks him in the crotch.
This section introduces us to the rather brutal world Ender lives in. So far, Ender has been gentle, meek, and a victim, but here we see the dark side of his brilliant mind: when the moment is right, he doesn’t hesitate to act, and to act with violence. Strangely, the same careful, calm thinking that made Ender seem like a sweet child also makes him capable of savage attacks on his peers—when that is what he deems necessary. We will learn much later that Stilson dies from this attack.
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Ender looks at Stilson’s friends, who seem horrified. He yells, “remember what I do to people who try to hurt me.” Then, he kicks Stilson in the nose, and blood spatters everywhere. With this, Ender walks away from the crowd, toward the bus. Although from a distance he seems calm, he cries and thinks to himself that deep down he’s “Just like Peter.”
Even within the first chapter, Ender is already an agent of violence—although a reluctant one. He is still a sensitive child at heart, but apparently lives in a warlike world where he is forced to act almost sociopathically in order to survive. It’s clear that his brother Peter, whom we have yet to meet, embodies this “dark side” of Ender.
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