Anderson and Graff discuss how to teach Ender. For some time now, Ender has been optimistic and happy, spurred on by his letter from Valentine. Graff now plots how to challenge Ender in new ways. Anderson objects that it’s barbaric to heal a small child of his psychological issues, only to bombard him with new ones. Graff doesn’t disagree, but suggests that Anderson is just as eager as he is to see how Ender weathers his new challenges. Graff concludes, “I hope you had a nice, nice time being happy, Ender. It might be the last time in your life.”
Anderson expresses his hesitation about pushing Ender to his breaking point, but Graff seems to have no reservations about doing precisely this. He’s the ultimate “ends justify the means” thinker, and yet there also seems to be a strong sadistic streak in Graff’s plots—a streak that goes far beyond his cold logic. The way he teases Ender for his happiness suggests cruelty for its own sake, not for any greater good.
Ender has been on top of the standings for the last three years, and he’s been promoted to command an army—even though he’s only nine years old. Ender is assigned to Dragon Army, an army whose name was previously discontinued because of rumors that Dragon never won more than a third of its games. Graff informs Ender that his soldiers consist entirely of younger soldiers who’ve been promoted to army earlier than usual. Ender is forbidden from trading any of them.
Ender is given an army—moreover, he’s forced to make do with this army, rather than trading its members to other teams (just as he was traded). This poses a challenge to Ender’s leadership abilities—if he doesn’t get along with a soldier, he’s still forced to continue working with that soldier. Clearly Graff and the superiors consider Ender as separate from other students, as they give him separate rules and challenges.
Ender arrives in his barracks, and surveys his new army. Most of the soldiers are tiny—as tiny as Ender was when he arrived at Battle School. Some of the older soldiers have been in many armies, and while most of them respect Ender deeply, many of them also resent him for his success. Ender immediately takes charge by shouting that new soldiers will bunk in the front of the barracks. This is the opposite of the norm for an army. Ender then orders his soldiers to suit up and run to the battleroom. When some of them don’t dress fast enough, he orders them to run through the halls naked, humiliating them.
Ender’s strategy on his first day with his troops is to humiliate them—just as Ender himself was humiliated and singled out, again and again, when he started out at Battle School. As much as Ender despised Graff and others for treating him this way, he seems to acknowledge its effectiveness, as he immediately imitates Graff’s style of leadership. Thus even Card seems to suggest that humiliation and suffering are important aspects of military training. It is worth noting that Ender’s Game is suggested reading in many military organizations to this day.
Ender and his soldiers arrive in the battleroom, some of them still frantically pulling on their jumpsuits. Ender orders his troops to assemble facing the enemy’s side of the room. The troops do so, facing the enemy side head on. Ender criticizes his troops for standing the same way they stood in the halls of Battle School—directions make no difference in zero gravity. He also berates his new soldiers for being sloppy and dressing too slowly. As a test, he orders them to launch themselves toward the “ceiling,” the direction that would be North to someone coming from the halls. Ender notices that one particularly small soldier immediately launches in the right direction, while most of the soldiers instinctively go the wrong way.
Ender reiterates one of the first lessons he taught himself about fighting: forget old orientations. His arguments about zero gravity’s lack of an “up and down” are intuitive, but still difficult to grasp right away—as evidenced by the troops’ inability to move to the ceiling right away. This kind of spatial thinking is easier for certain types of intellect, of which Ender is a star example. Ender now tests his own soldiers, just as calmly and calculatingly as Graff tested him for years before.
When everyone is assembled near the ceiling, Ender calls out the small soldier who was first to launch in the right direction. The soldier says his name is Bean, and Ender responds by teasing him about his name. He then proceeds with his first lesson: move fast when coming from the hall, so as to avoid blocking one’s fellow troops. He quizzes Bean about the subtleties of this point, and Bean answers his questions without hesitation. Ender praises Bean excessively, and notices the other soldiers beginning to resent Bean. Mentally, Ender hates himself for making a soldier into a target for no particular reason.
Ender singles out Bean and both bullies and praises him, just as Graff did when Ender first arrived at the Battle School. Even if Ender seems to be confident in his abuses of Bean, we know from Card’s narration that Ender hates himself for these kinds of actions—he doesn’t want to be a bully, even as he acts the part. This is Ender’s first real taste of authority, and it’s clearly tempting to be corrupted by newly-conferred power (as Bonzo has shown).
Ender continues with his lesson. He demonstrates to his troops that it’s much harder to be hit when one rotates ninety degrees, feet facing the enemy. He gives a new attack position: legs doubled in front, firing forward. He also teaches his soldiers how to push off walls with one’s legs frozen. All the time, Ender singles out Bean, praising him for his correct answers while also bullying him for his size. Eventually Ender assigns his soldiers to practice at their own pace. He’s fairly pleased: his soldiers aren’t all brilliant, but he can work with them.
Once again, Ender basically validates Graff’s treatment of him (though Ender doesn’t recognize this yet) by repeating Graff’s methods on Bean—who is immediately portrayed as a younger version of Ender himself. Ender has observed the different kinds of leaders he’s had (Graff, Bonzo, Rose, Dink) and can pick and choose among which of their methods he found most effective.
After practice, Ender stays late to help some of the most inexperienced soldiers. At the edge of the battleroom, he notices Bean waiting for him, and goes to talk. Bean begins, “I know what you’re doing, Ender, sir, and I’m warning you … don’t play games with me.” Bean demands a toon for himself, arguing that he could be the best soldier in the army as long as Ender doesn’t belittle him. Ender grins and tells Bean that he’s helping Bean—by singling Bean out, Ender gave Bean a chance to shine. Bean smirks and challenges Ender’s expertise as a commander, mentioning that Bonzo Madrid still calls Ender a “pinprick.” This infuriates Ender, and he grabs Bean and pushes him into a wall. Bean continues to smirk, and Ender walks away, angry with himself for being a bully.
Unlike Ender when he spoke to Graff after the shuttle ride, Bean seems not to have any illusions about what Ender is doing, or why he’s doing it. Ender justifies his behavior by saying that he’s giving Bean an opportunity to shine, but then ruins the effect of his confidence by making a childish threat and shoving Bean into the wall—much as Bonzo shoved him years ago. Ender realizes that he is becoming the thing he hates—a bullying commander. As much as Ender aspires to be a good person, his training virtually forces him to be unkind, and even cruel.
After practice, Ender tries to understand why he was hard on Bean. He realizes that Graff used the same strategy on him before he’d even arrived in Battle School—by singling out Ender on the shuttle, he forced Ender to fend for himself, and ultimately made Ender a better soldier. While he recognizes that Graff made him tougher, Ender decides that he can’t end up like Graff—cynical and manipulative. He spends the rest of his afternoon writing down his impressions of each new soldier in Dragon and thinking about ways to improve their abilities.
It takes Ender some time to realize what we’ve already recognized: he’s imitating Graff. It’s as if Ender acts out of instinct (instinct that’s been instilled in him over three years at Battle School), and only later realizes that he was wrong to behave this way. Ender still has the capacity to do the right thing, but it takes him longer to arrive at such a conclusion than it would have a few years ago.
After writing his thoughts, Ender goes to free practice in the battleroom, as usual. There, he finds Major Anderson, who informs him that from now on, he’s only allowed to practice with people in his own army. Ender protests that he needs time and friends to practice with if he’s to make his new troops any good, but Anderson scoffs at this, and tells Ender to start “acting like a commander.”
At the same time that Ender tries to move past his new bullying tendencies, Anderson cuts him off from his friends. It’s as if the IF knows exactly what’s going through Ender’s head, and refuses to let him turn to others for help. Once again he is isolated, and forced to find solutions and strength for himself.
Ender goes to the game room, where he finds Alai waiting for him. Alai tells Ender he’d planned on practicing with him, only to find Major Anderson announcing the new rules. Alai and Ender try to joke with each other—Ender jokes that he taught Alai everything Alai knows, and Alai boasts playfully about being ready for anything. Suddenly, Ender feels a wave of sadness, and he remembers how Alai kissed him and whispered, “Salaam” years ago. He says this word now, and Alai replies, “it is not to be.” Alai explains that “Salaam” means peace. With this, he walks out.
In this moving short scene, Alai tells Ender that peace and friendship are not part of either boy’s destiny. Both the meaning of the word “Salaam” and the sincere sentiment with which it was delivered have now been lost—crushed by the manipulations of Battle School, and the competitive natures of both Alai and Ender. They are still friendly, but Ender is once again isolated from any real intimacy or human connection. He is to be a commander, not anyone’s peer.
The next day, Ender and Alai greet each other in the halls. They’re still friendly and open with each other, but they both know that there’s a wall between them now. Ender fears that Alai is secretly glad to be separated from Ender. He thinks about how IF has manipulated his closest friends and family against him: first Valentine, now Alai. This makes him quietly furious. Ender decides that he can use this fury to fight, and to defeat his enemies.
Once again, Ender turns his rage into ambition. It’s hard to tell if the IF knows that Ender is thinking this way, or if it’s merely trying to focus Ender on winning, and doesn’t care if he’s angry or not. In either case the result is the same, and perhaps this is the point: Graff wants Ender to win whether he hates the IF or not—defeating the Buggers is the only thing that matters.