The final chapter begins with a conversation between Graff and Anderson. Graff has recently been court-martialed for his manipulations of Ender. The court showed a jury videos of Ender killing Bonzo Madrid, suggesting that Graff is guilty of negligent homicide. Graff’s defense, which eventually cleared him of all charges, was that his efforts paid off when Ender defeated the Buggers: to court-martial Graff would be tantamount to court-martialing Ender himself. Anderson congratulates Graff for his acquittal, and reminds Graff that while they disagreed in the past, he’s come to agree that Graff’s manipulations were justified. Graff tells Anderson that he’s planning to become the new Minister of Colonization. He’ll spend the rest of his life controlling humans’ exploration of the universe.
In the beginning to this chapter, we learn that Graff’s defense—that the ends justify the means—has paid off. More surprisingly, we find that Graff—an agent of war—has become the Minister of Colonization—an agent for growth and exploration. We must hope, then, that his new kind of “colonization” will not be of the violent and oppressive kind experienced on Earth—or that which Graff himself previously advocated in attacking the Buggers’ home planet.
Graff and Anderson talk about Ender’s future. Graff tells Anderson that Locke and Demosthenes have arranged for Ender never to return to Earth. Anderson asks Graff how he knows this, but Graff refuses to say. Graff maintains that Ender is safe as long as he’s kept away from Earth. Back on Earth he’d be a puppet, to be controlled by corrupt politicians looking to add legitimacy to their regimes. Graff doesn’t know exactly what will become of Ender.
One small, final sign of Graff’s decency as a human being is that he keeps Locke and Demosthenes’ identities hidden. Previously, we’d wondered if he was only using this as blackmail for Valentine because he needed her help. Now, we see that he has at least some genuine loyalty to the Wiggin family.
It has now been a year since Ender defeated the Buggers, and he still hasn’t been brought back to Earth. Ender has watched videos of Graff’s court-martial—this means that he saw videos of Stilson and Bonzo’s deaths, of which he’d previously been unaware. One by one, Ender’s friends say goodbye to him and leave Eros for Earth. Ender has no more friends on Eros, and yet Eros itself is now full of people. Earth has sent its people to colonize Eros. The new colonists worship Ender—a fact that Ender resents.
Now, as ever, Ender is isolated from his friends. They all fought together, but Ender bears responsibility for launching the Dr. Device that won the war for humanity. He hates the worship he receives from other people—both because it further alienates him from other people who might otherwise be his friends or peers, and because to him, it feels like he has done something horrible, not praiseworthy.
One day, Ender is amazed to see Valentine on Eros. Valentine tells Ender that she’s planning on traveling to the Bugger galaxy to colonize new worlds. Because of relativity, it will take fifty years for her to arrive—but this period of time will only feel like two years to her. Valentine wants Ender to come with her. Valentine explains to Ender that Peter is consolidating power using his Locke persona. He’s gained prestige for himself with the “Locke Treaty,” and plans to control the world as a statesman. She also tells Ender, for the first time, that she is Demosthenes—she’s been influencing Earth in her own ways for years.
In this reconciliation scene, Ender reunites with the one person whom he’s been missing all these years, and the one person capable of loving and understanding him outside of his fame. Valentine senses that Ender can never return to Earth, as Ender has become a new kind of person, one totally divorced from the realities of life on Earth, so that the planet isn’t his real “home” anymore. It’s also implied that there just isn’t enough space on Earth for both Ender and Peter, his brother, without there being some major conflicts.
Valentine insists that Ender can never return to Earth—if he does, then he’ll be Peter’s pawn. Valentine pressured Peter into arguing that Ender should be kept from returning to Earth. She convinced Peter to do this by showing him videos she’d taken of Peter torturing his brother and skinning live squirrels. As a result, Peter used his influence to ensure that Ender could become the governor of the new human colony in the Bugger world—far from Earth, and far from Peter’s manipulation. Ender nods and agrees to travel with Valentine to the new colony. He claims that he’s doing so because he knows the Buggers better than anyone in the world.
Valentine knows that Peter is as manipulative as ever—so she wants to take Ender far away, where Peter can’t get at him. Curiously, Ender agrees to stay away from Earth, but not because he’s afraid of Peter. Rather, he wants to find out as much information as he can about the Buggers—the civilization he destroyed—and honor their memory. This scene echoes the earlier scene between Ender and Valentine, in which Ender claimed that he didn’t want to defeat Peter—he wanted to love Peter. It’s as if by killing the Buggers Ender has moved past his childhood disputes with Peter, and now wants to love and understand his “enemies,” the Buggers themselves.
Valentine and Ender proceed on their journey to the new colony. The journey lasts two years (from their perspective). During this time Valentine writes her first history of the Bugger Wars, publishing it under the name Demosthenes, and sends it back to Earth. Ender earns the loyalty of the passengers on his ship, and by the time they land on their new home Ender is unquestionably their leader. In the colony, Ender learns about Bugger life. He learns that Buggers loved their children, even if they didn’t understand the concept of individuality. In the coming years, Valentine writes more about the history of the Bugger Wars.
Ender follows through on his promise to understand the Buggers in all their complexities. There is no practical purpose in understanding something that’s already long dead, but Ender does so anyway, largely to cope with his own sense of loss and guilt at having wiped out an entire civilization. Valentine, for her part, participates in a similar act of historical reconstruction and understanding, writing books that deal with the Bugger War’s history.
Years pass. One day, Ender travels by helicopter to explore new areas of the former Bugger planet. He is shocked to see a large, open plain, on which there’s an enormous skeleton, and an old, rusty playground—details from Ender’s old elementary school, as well as from the Giant game that Ender played at Battle School. Ender realizes the truth: the Buggers built this place for him, though he doesn’t understand why. He wonders if the Buggers are trying to get revenge on him, or if they’re merely trying to communicate. Not caring if he’s in danger, Ender walks into a building near the playground—the castle that he used to explore in the Giant game.
Ender reaches this surreal, dreamlike place, and comes to realize that the Buggers have been watching him for years. When he played the Giant’s game, the Buggers were watching, using their ESP (which Graff described to Ender in the previous chapter) and affecting the game itself—and thus Ender’s psychology as well. This explains how the Battle School computer accessed new images of Peter Wiggin’s face for the mirror in the game. We now understand that the Buggers procured these images and sent them to the Battle School computer.
Inside the castle, Ender finds the mirror in which he once saw Peter’s face. Behind the mirror, Ender finds a large silky pupa. Ender intuits that this is the pupa of a queen bugger, ready to lay thousands and thousands of eggs. As he imagines this, Ender starts to see his final battle with the Buggers, but from the perspective of the queen Bugger. Ender realizes that he’s communicating with the new queen, who is asleep in her pupa. The new queen greets Ender and begs him to help her colonize a new world of Buggers. Ender is frightened—he knows that if he helps the queen grow again, then the humans will only kill the Buggers for a second time.
Ender’s understanding and empathy make him ideally suited to communicate with this hive-queen—supposedly his sworn enemy. It’s thus ultimately suggested that the original Bugger queen knew Ender would be the one to destroy her people, and so she influenced him through the Giant game so that he would also be a figure suited to help rebuild the Bugger race. Ender comes to realize that humans were deeply wrong to destroy the Buggers—who had indeed stopped thinking of humans as enemies. It’s also important that Ender has these realizations as he cradles a pupa—it’s as if Ender is being symbolically reborn in the moment when he looks back with regret for his acts of violence.
In the coming days, Ender takes care of the pupa. He also writes a book, collaborating with the Bugger queen herself. The book describes the Bugger War from the Buggers’ perspective: how the Buggers never intended to hurt the humans, and how they tried and failed to make peace with the human race. As he finishes his book, Ender signs it, “Speaker for the dead.” He sends his book to Earth, and soon after it’s published, it becomes extremely popular and beloved. Slowly, over time, a new religion rises up: the religion of the Speaker for the Dead. Whenever a new human dies, a speaker is elected to talk about the life of the deceased—to talk honestly and openly.
Ender now uses his influence to speak for those who are no longer alive. His notion of looking at the world grow so popular that it becomes the dominant religion of the new colonies (and “Speaker for the Dead” is the name of Card’s sequel to the book as well). The ethos of the speaker for the dead is that it is valuable to try to understand those who are unlike oneself. This is the very philosophy Ender has followed his entire life, except now he uses his empathy for peace, not war.
More time passes. Ender and Valentine are in their early twenties, but back on Earth, Peter—now the leader of the Earth—is 77 years old, and dying of heart disease. He sends Valentine a message: “I know who wrote it. If he can speak for the Buggers, surely he can speak for me.” Ender agrees to write the story of Peter’s life, in exquisite, honest detail. Together, Ender’s books are known as The Hive-Queen and The Hegemon. They become “holy writ.”
Here, after a lifetime of hating Ender and competing with him, Peter reaches out to his brother, seemingly desperate for reconciliation. Ender, for his part, feels that he needs to reconcile with his brother, the source of so much of his anger and self-hatred. Ender has been trying to overcome his destructive tendencies ever since leaving with Valentine, and now finds that he can treat his brother’s life with honesty and respect. Throughout his life, Ender has fought battles while secretly thinking he’s like Peter. It’s only appropriate that now, giving up battle forever, Ender comes to understand who Peter really is—both the good and the bad. Of course, all this information is explained rather quickly and vaguely here, but it will also be material for Card’s multiple sequels.
Ender and Valentine decide to leave their new home, confident that it will be peaceful and stable for years to come. Ender and Valentine travel to new planets, where Ender always introduces himself as Andrew Wiggin, speak for the dead. Throughout their journeys, Ender carries his pupa and looks for a new home where the hive-queen can live in peace. The book ends, “He looked a long time.”
In this optimistic ending, Card implies that healing isn’t an event so much as it is an ongoing process. Thus, Ender can be said to “atone” for the crime of destroying the Buggers insofar as he searches for a new home for the pupa he’s carrying, and seeks to give the Buggers new life as a species. Card doesn’t give us any information about this search (that’s a story for several more novels) but the final sentence implies that after many years of searching, Ender’s quest does come to an end.