Ender’s Game

Ender’s Game Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The chapter begins with another anonymous conversation, apparently between X and Y. X points out that “the sister” is the weak link, since “the subject” loves her. Y agrees, but says that he’ll be able to convince the subject to leave his sister behind. Y’s first strategy will be to lie to the subject—and if that fails, he’ll tell the truth.
X and Y are mostly amoral and indifferent to the truth: they have one goal (use Ender to fight the Buggers), and they’re willing to use any means to achieve it. Here, they decide to separate Ender from Valentine, the person he loves most—all as a kind of “training.”
Themes
Love, Empathy, and Destruction Theme Icon
Childhood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Control, Manipulation, and Authority Theme Icon
The chapter resumes the morning after the events of the previous chapter. Ender is sitting at breakfast, wondering if he’ll have a tough day at school. Peter enters the room and teases Ender for being “slimy.” As Peter, Ender, Mother, and Father bicker, there is a ring at their front door. Father answers the door and finds a man wearing the military uniform of the International Fleet—“the only military uniform that meant anything anymore.” Father speaks quietly with the man for a few moments. While they talk, Peter whispers that Ender is being taken to jail—as a Third, he has no rights at all. Valentine walks into the room, and notices the military man standing in the hallway. Instinctively, she looks at Ender, not Peter, as she’s always thought that Ender will be recruited for the military one day. Peter notices Valentine’s eye contact—his feelings have clearly been hurt.
After Peter’s declaration of love and sympathy the night before, he is now back to tormenting and belittling Ender. This segues quickly to a description of the society in which Ender and his family live: a society in which Ender, as a “Third,” has no rights to speak of. It’s telling that Valentine assumes that the International Fleet (IF) man is there to recruit Ender for combat—not Peter. It’s equally telling that Peter is sincerely hurt by Valentine’s assumption. Clearly he wanted to be recruited by the IF, but was found lacking (we learn that this is because of his cruel tendencies). The IF is the only military that “matters,” because it is what fights the Buggers, the supposed enemies of all humanity.
Themes
Childhood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Control, Manipulation, and Authority Theme Icon
Father calls Ender to talk to the military man. Mother and Father tell Ender what the man has just told them—Ender seriously hurt Stilson, sending him to the hospital. The man in the uniform tells Ender, very sternly, that he could be severely punished for his act of violence. He demands to know what Ender was thinking. Shyly, Ender admits the truth: he hit Stilson once to win their fight—he kept hitting Stilson to win “all the next fights, too.” The man seems to find this interesting. He introduces himself as Colonel Hyrum Graff, the director of primary training at the Battle School. He explains that he’s come to invite Ender to go to Battle School. Mother and Father find this information horrifying—it’s as if Ender is being rewarded for his brutality. Graff explains that Ender has shown great leadership potential, and as a result, he is now the property of the IF (International Fleet). Mother and Father begin to weep. They point out that it was cruel of the government to remove the monitor, allowing them to think that Ender had failed his tests of military prowess, only to take Ender away in the end.
It’s difficult to gauge what to believe and what not to believe in this section, particularly because at the beginning of the chapter, we were told that and X and Y (one of whom is Graff, we can now assume) said he’d use both truth and lies to try and recruit Ender. We sense that Graff is blackmailing Ender’s family into giving up their son by threatening to send Ender to prison for his crime instead. Graff has no qualms about reminding Mother and Father of the sad truth: Ender was only allowed to be born in the first place because the IF needed him, and now it’s time for the IF to take him away. This is an agonizing decision for Mother and Father, as it is partly an honor for Ender to be taken away—it means he is the best of the best—but it also means losing their son.
Themes
Love, Empathy, and Destruction Theme Icon
Morality and Survival Theme Icon
Childhood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Control, Manipulation, and Authority Theme Icon
Graff turns his attention to Ender, and tells him that Ender has the choice to attend the school or not—a statement that Mother and Father find absurd. Undeterred, Graff tells Ender that he’ll be a great soldier at Battle School, and he’ll become a great commander one day. Ender is reluctant to agree to fight. He’s always hated those like Peter and Stilson who enjoy violence and conflict. Graff proposes that he and Ender speak privately, and adds that there’s nothing Mother and Father can do to stop him.
Graff never comes right out and says that Ender is required to come to Battle School, but he also strongly implies that the IF has total control over his life. Ender’s first instinct is to refuse Battle School, since he despises violence of any kind—but as in the fight with Stilson, we also know that Ender is willing to use violence, as long as it seems logical and effective.
Themes
Morality and Survival Theme Icon
Leadership Theme Icon
Childhood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Control, Manipulation, and Authority Theme Icon
Get the entire Ender’s Game LitChart as a printable PDF.
Ender s game.pdf.medium
Ender and Graff speak privately outside Ender’s house. Graff explains the truth: if Ender goes to Battle School, he’ll be far from home for at least six years, and probably more. When he returns to Earth, his family will be different—even his beloved sister, Valentine. Graff adds that he knows Ender very well—in other words, he knows that Ender will miss Valentine, but won’t miss Mother and Father. Graff explains that Father was born Catholic, and had eight siblings—something that Ender finds appalling. At this time, the government was trying to use economic sanctions to compel people to have fewer children. Because Father wasn’t the oldest child in his family, he wasn’t given a good education. As an adult, he vowed to never have more than the legal two children, as he didn’t want his offspring to go through the same shame and persecution that he experienced growing up. Graff adds that Mother, who was raised in a large Mormon family, has similarly mixed feelings about Ender. Mother and Father love Ender, but feel ashamed of having more than two children—even though they only had a third child at the government’s request. In this way, Mother and Father, both of whom are still deeply religious, are proud of their Third, but also secretly want him out of the house.
In this long, important section, we get a good sense for what life in the future might be like, according to Card. It’s implied that the world’s governments have put strong controls on population growth because they’re worried about food shortages. This enforced birth control clashes with the tenets of certain religions, such as Catholicism (and, in some ways, Mormonism). Card, himself a Mormon, recognizes that the government’s aims and those of different religious communities aren’t always in harmony. It’s not clear, however, if what Graff says about Father and Mother is true, or if Graff is making it up to convince Ender to go to Battle School. It’s this type of ambiguity in Graff’s argument that makes him such an untrustworthy character: he’s hell-bent on making Ender a great soldier (even if it’s for the “greater good” of all humanity), and he seems willing to use any means necessary to achieve this.
Themes
Love, Empathy, and Destruction Theme Icon
Morality and Survival Theme Icon
Childhood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Control, Manipulation, and Authority Theme Icon
Ender and Graff continue talking. Graff explains that Valentine loves Ender with all her heart. He also explains that Ender will be exposed to new information at Battle School: strategy, military history, etc. He’ll play war games in a structure called the battleroom. Most of the students at Battle School are boys, with a handful of exceptions. Graff explains that Peter was in serious consideration for Battle School, but ultimately, the IF decided that he was too brutal and sadistic. The same was true of Valentine, except that the IF ultimately rejected her for being too kind and peaceful.
It seems that Graff is telling the truth here: Valentine is the greatest love of Ender’s life, while Peter is his greatest rival. It is then an important aspect of the novel that these seemingly ordinary relationships between young siblings will actually be played out on a global stage, as all three of the children use their intelligence and skill to affect millions of lives. Graff is also honest about his manipulations when it comes to Peter, and why Peter failed to be recruited—he’s brilliant, and could have been a talented commander at Battle School, but his cruelty would have been made those he commanded less loyal to him. We get the sense, once again, that Ender is an “average” of his two older siblings: he has Peter’s drive and potential for violence, but with Valentine’s calmness and empathy.
Themes
Love, Empathy, and Destruction Theme Icon
Leadership Theme Icon
Control, Manipulation, and Authority Theme Icon
Ender and Graff continue talking. Graff tells Ender that the human race needs another military commander who’s capable of destroying the Buggers once and for all. Ender thinks about the footage of Bugger invasions he’s seen in history classes. The Buggers invaded Earth years ago, destroying large chunks of the world’s population. It was only because of the brilliant Mazer Rackham, Ender has been told, that humans were able to destroy the Buggers’ powerful enemy ships. As Ender thinks about all this, he whispers to Graff, “I’ll go with you.”
In this expository section, Card fills in some of the pieces of his futuristic vision. An alien race called the Buggers has previously invaded Earth, causing enormous damage. Earth was saved thanks to the brilliance of a commander named Mazer Rackham, who was able to command a fleet of ships that defeated the much larger Bugger fleet, at least for the time being. In the end, it seems to be the fear of another Bugger invasion that convinces Ender to go to Battle School—as much as he loves Valentine, the fate of humanity (of which she is a part, after all) is more important.
Themes
Love, Empathy, and Destruction Theme Icon
Morality and Survival Theme Icon
Control, Manipulation, and Authority Theme Icon
Ender walks back into the house and says a quick goodbye to his family. He hugs his Father and Mother (who cries), and shakes hands with Peter. Valentine cries and kisses Ender. With this, Graff takes Ender to his car, and drives him away. As they drive away, Ender looks at his house. He sees Valentine run out and shout, “I love you forever!”
Here we’re reminded of the strong connection between Ender and Valentine—in other words, how difficult it must have been for Ender to agree to go with Graff. The siblings’ love for each other will now be tested by both separation and the manipulations of global politics.
Themes
Love, Empathy, and Destruction Theme Icon
Morality and Survival Theme Icon
Childhood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Control, Manipulation, and Authority Theme Icon