Ender’s Game

Ender’s Game Chapter 13 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The chapter begins with a conversation between two unnamed government officials. The two officials note that Valentine and Peter Wiggin are Demosthenes and Locke, two highly influential journalists. The officials note that Valentine, ironically the more peaceful and calm of the children, writes as Demosthenes, the inflammatory, hawkish journalist, while Peter writes as Locke in spite of his violent tendencies. The officials toy with the idea of exposing Locke and Demosthenes’ identities, but instead they decide that this isn’t worth it: for now, Peter and Valentine have influence but not power.
It’s not clear why the IF decides to keep Locke and Demosthenes’ identities hidden—just because they’re not immediate opponents of the IF right now doesn’t mean that they couldn’t one day be dangerous to them. It may that the IF still underestimates the Wiggin children because of their age, or they simply want to have some secret information ready to use against Peter and Valentine should the need arise.
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Valentine has been writing as Demosthenes for more than two years now. Her column is reprinted in dozens of “newsnets” (essentially, Internet websites) and she’s beginning to amass a large salary from her writings. Sometimes, she and “Locke” fund political candidates, and they’re often invited to speak on political panels, though they’re always forced to turn down the invitations in order to keep their identities secret. Peter is worried that Demosthenes is becoming more influential than Locke—exactly the opposite of what he’d wanted. But Valentine assures Peter that anti-Russian sentiment (Demosthenes’s trademark) is simply more fun to read than level-headed wisdom—in the long run, however, Locke will be more powerful.
Card was writing at a time when the Internet wasn’t yet widely available (it had only appeared at CERN in Switzerland and on a few college campuses). He’s remarkably prophetic, then, in suggesting that electronic communications will one day allow people to publish their ideas anonymously. We’re also reminded of Peter’s dilemma—he wants to be the moderate, but it’s more fun to be the radical. While Valentine is in danger of outshining Peter on the national stage, she assures him that this is strictly short-term: even if radicals are good at swaying emotion in the moment, the moderates win long-term.
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One day Valentine finds Graff waiting for her at school. He explains that Valentine must come with him to visit Ender, since he’s on leave. Graff explains that Ender cares for Valentine, far more than he cares for the rest of his family. As a result, he’ll only visit with her, not Father, Mother, or Peter. Valentine agrees to come with Graff. In the car, Graff tells Valentine the truth: he knows that she’s Demosthenes. Graff assures Valentine that the IF has no intention of revealing her identity: it’s in their interest to use Locke and Demosthenes—together—to promote stability and balance.
Here, we come to realize the real reason why the IF isn’t exposing Valentine and Peter’s identities. They know that Valentine and Peter want the same things the IF wants: peace and stability. It’s also suggested that Graff is keeping Valentine’s identity a secret so that she’s more likely to cooperate with him and help Ender fight the Buggers. Revealing that he knows about Demosthenes is a savvy way for Graff to pressure Valentine into obeying him.
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Valentine and Graff arrive in Florida, where Graff takes Valentine to a beautiful lake. Valentine runs down to the shores of the lake, and finds Ender paddling in a small boat. He greets Valentine calmly, and mentions that he enjoys swimming since he misses weightlessness. Valentine playfully tickles Ender’s knee, as she did when he was a child. Ender reflexively grabs Valentine’s wrist—a lesson he’s learned from combat class. This dismays Valentine, and she realizes that the IF has turned Ender into an agent of war.
In this sad scene, we’re reminded of how Ender doesn’t really feel at home on Earth anymore—this is why he spends his time in a pool, where he’s weightless, just like in the battleroom. Ender proves that he’s been truly trained to be a warrior when he reflexively grabs Valentine’s wrist—his training in battle overpowering his memories of love and affection.
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Valentine tells Ender why she’s here—undoubtedly she’s supposed to convince Ender to continue with Battle School, just as she did before. Ender nods, and insists that Valentine not mention Peter. Ender mentions that he’s been watching videos of Bugger invasions, and he’s noticed that there’s almost no footage of individual buggers. Valentine finds this very telling: Ender is concerned about understanding his enemies, even when he’s trying to wipe them out. Ender agrees, explaining, “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.” He whispers to Valentine that he’s afraid of losing her love. Valentine touches Ender very gently, and tells him that she’s not afraid. Ender believes her, but mutters, “You should be.”
Here Ender sums up his philosophy as a leader and a warrior. He’s an empathetic person, and this very empathy makes him deadly in battle. He can think like his opponents—to do so is a way of “loving” his opponents. In the end, Ender can use his knowledge of his opponents to defeat them—the more he “loves” them, the closer he can come to defeating them. Ender is still uncomfortable with his role as a killer, though—he is afraid of what he’s done to Bonzo, and what he’s capable of doing in a war with the Buggers. Even Valentine can’t reassure Ender that’s he’s not a killer—this simply isn’t true anymore.
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Valentine can’t help but tell Ender about Peter. She tells him that Peter is writing under an alias, and wants to run the world, beginning with his words. Ender is impressed, and surprised that Peter has become so tactical and methodical in his thinking. Valentine also tells Ender that Peter has “changed”—he has ambitions of running the world and imposing a new global hegemony. While Peter isn’t a kind man, he’s a good politician, and he knows how to balance power—ironically, Peter, who tortured Ender and Valentine for years, could be the calmest and most level-headed leader of Earth.
Here Card lets the irony of leadership sink in. Although we think of statesmen as being peaceful people and of warriors being violent, the truth is often the reverse: there’ s a kind of violence in maintaining constant order over a country. On the other hand, the best warriors, like Ender, are often adept at feeling compassion and empathy for others—this is what makes them such superior fighters. It’s darkly amusing that Ender isn’t more surprised that his older brother is plotting world domination—apparently he’d always suspected that Peter would do something of this kind.
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Ender confesses his deepest secret to Valentine: he can’t beat the Buggers. Even after years of military training, he has no idea how to defeat them. In other words, he’s become a killer, but not a savior. As a result, he’ll always feel weaker than Peter. Valentine tells Ender that the only way he’ll be able to outshine Peter is by defeating the Buggers. Ender shakes his head: he doesn’t want to “beat Peter”—he wants Peter to love him. Valentine doesn’t know what to say, as she doubts Peter loves anyone.
Even Valentine fails to understand what Ender wants, as she assumes that Ender’s relationship with Peter is based only on competition. Ender, however, claims that what he really wants is for Peter to love him. This sounds so heavily idealized that it can’t possibly be true, but Ender seems perfectly sincere.
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Ender and Valentine lie by the lake for hours, silently. After some time, Valentine sits up and tells Ender that she loves him, “more than ever.” With this she walks away, and travels back to Greensboro. Ender leaves the lake, and finds Graff waiting for him. He accuses Graff of using Valentine to manipulate him into returning to Battle School. Graff nods and admits that Ender is right: by exposing Ender to Valentine, Graff has reminded Ender that the world is worth fighting for. Graff explains that he’s been reassigned to stay with Ender at all times: Ender is the future of the human race, and thus of the utmost importance.
Although Valentine hasn’t really convinced Ender of anything, the experience was important for Ender merely because it was an experience with someone he loved here on the Earth. This was Graff’s whole plan—Graff wanted Ender to fall in love with the Earth once again, and to remember that he has people who love him and need to be protected from the Buggers. Ender no longer has any illusions about being manipulated, and so Graff is (relatively) open about his methods and goals.
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Ender and Graff leave the Earth after Ender has been there for three months. Graff informs Ender that he’s headed for an interplanetary satellite, and then to the ISL—the IF Command School. Command School is located on a small planet called Eros. At the interplanetary satellite, Graff finds a pilot and orders him to take them to Eros immediately. Once the pilot has begun the journey, Graff reveals that the pilot will have to spend the foreseeable future living on Eros, since the planet’s location is classified for as long as the Bugger war is going on.
It’s ironic that Ender is being taken to a planet whose name is Greek for “love” in order to better learn how to kill an entire species. This fits, however, with the idea that empathy and compassion may be the best weapons available against one’s enemies. We’re given another example of Graff’s manipulative nature here—he seems to take a sadistic pleasure in telling the pilot that he won’t be allowed to leave Eros for years.
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For the next three months, Ender and Graff travel to Eros on their ship. They spend long chunks of time talking about the Buggers and military strategy. Ender is particularly interested in learning about the Buggers themselves. The Buggers, Graff tells him, are similarly to human beings in many ways: their bodies contain DNA, and they have the same type of vision. It appears that the Buggers can communicate with each other from any distance, instantaneously. The humans have imitated Bugger biology to develop instantaneous communication methods of their own, which they now use for war.
It’s intriguing to finally hear everything that humans know about the Buggers, but it’s also fascinating that Ender hasn’t asked, or been given a chance to ask, these kinds of questions before. It’s only now that Ender is truly considered a “commander” that he is allowed to study the nature of his enemies. Perhaps Graff was also afraid that if Ender came to understand the Buggers too well (before being properly trained), he wouldn’t want to kill them—or perhaps the IF is hiding more information about the Buggers.
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Ender asks Graff other questions about the Buggers. He wants to know if the Buggers are sending a new fleet to destroy human beings. Graff admits that he doesn’t know: all he knows is that human beings are sending a fleet of their own to eliminate the Buggers. Ender points out the obvious: maybe the Buggers have decided not to attack humans anymore. Graff argues that it’s not worth it to assume that the Buggers have moved on—humanity’s best chance is to attack the Buggers. For seventy years, humans have been sending fleets of ships to the Bugger home planet, each fleet more advanced than the last. He adds that the fleets need a commander who can lead them to victory against the Buggers. That commander is Ender.
For the last 200 pages, we haven’t really been told anything about the Bugger invasion that’s supposedly coming for Earth—and now, we learn that it may not be coming at all. It’s entirely possible, then, that the humans are building a fleet to destroy an alien race that doesn’t want to fight anymore. This is one of the central moral dilemmas of the novel, and an echo (on a much vaster scale) of many of Ender’s fights—when is excessive force or a preemptive attack justified? This revelation of the state of things also hints at Dink’s earlier theory. The Buggers might not all be dead as he claimed, but they have been emphasized as a common threat for seventy years, partly as a tool for government manipulation.
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Ender asks Graff, point-blank, why humans are fighting the Buggers. Graff offers various reasons: because the Buggers need new worlds to colonize, because the Buggers have a strange religion, because they don’t regard human beings as intelligent life forms, because they don’t want other intelligent life forms in the universe, etc. He finds it odd that Ender is so interested in his enemies. Ender tells Graff, “I’m in favor of surviving.”
While Ender is still very much on the side of the humans in all this (he only sees the Buggers as enemies) he still wants to know more about his opponents. This reminds us that Ender has always been fascinated with seeing the world from his enemies’ points of view, and empathizing with them in order to defeat them. Even as a child, he tried to imagine the Bugger children playing a game of their own in which humans were the enemy.
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