Ender’s Game

Ender’s Game Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The chapter begins with a conversation, this time between two named characters, Anderson and Graff. Anderson objects that Graff isn’t being “fair” enough with Ender, to which Graff replies that fairness “has nothing to do with war.” Graff orders Anderson to devote all his time and resources to challenging Ender via the battleroom. Anderson points out that if it becomes too obvious that the Battle School is manipulating the games, then students won’t take them seriously anymore. Anderson also threatens to report Graff to the Polemarch, the powerful leader of Russia and its satellite states. Graff calmly accepts Anderson’s threat, stressing that he’s doing this for Ender, and for humanity.
In what we’ve come to recognize as the dynamic of every chapter prologue, Anderson and Graff argue over how best to educate Ender. Graff favors an aggressive strategy in which Ender’s life is continually endangered, while Anderson is more measured in his thinking—he wants Ender to be safe, even as he’s challenged become a better leader. Graff is so sure of himself that he’s willing to risk being arrested by the highest government authorities. Graff knows that the stakes are incredibly high in “Ender’s game,” but he truly believes he’s doing the right thing for humanity.
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Ender meets his new commanding officer in the Rat Army, a boy named Rose. Rose teases Ender, implying that Ender’s high rankings in the battleroom are a fluke. Ender thinks about all he knows about Rose: Rat Army is in second place in the battleroom standings, and has a reputation for being unbeatable. Rose tells Ender to obey him at all costs, and Ender nods. Rose also tells Ender that he’s forbidden from practicing with his old friends or using his desk. Ender thinks of Rose as childish and immature, and he wonders how anyone so undisciplined could win in the battleroom.
Ender bounces between many different kinds of commanders. Bonzo was too strict and severe, while Rose seems to be not strict enough. Ender, as always, tries to learn from others’ mistakes and find a balance between both extremes—much as he represents a balance between Peter’s aggressiveness and Valentine’s gentleness. Ender accepts Rose’s authority for now, but doesn’t ignore the fact that Rose is a lackluster commander.
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Rose sends Ender to speak to Ender’s new immediate superior, Dink Meeker. Dink seems laconic and uninterested in talking to Ender. However, he gives Ender an important piece of advice: commanders have as much authority as Ender allows them to have. He also tells Ender to expect rigorous training in battleroom shooting and maneuvering: despite his young age, Ender won’t be treated any differently from the other battleroom soldiers.
Dink seems tough but fair—arguably the “average” of Bonzo and Rose. Dink isn’t warm with Ender, but he’s not a bully either. Dink seems genuinely interested in Ender growing into a competent soldier, and this seems to come from his strong sense of honesty and responsibility. He doesn’t have the selfish aspects of competition that many of the students do.
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In the following days, Ender practices with Dink Meeker and Dink’s other “toon” (platoon) of soldiers. Dink trains his troops separately from the rest of the Rat Army. One day, Dink asks Ender to demonstrate the attack position that Ender used in his last battle: moving feet-first. Dink tells his toon to use Ender’s position, although Ender realizes that Dink doesn’t entirely understand what Ender is getting at: he doesn’t understand that Ender is rethinking the orientation of zero gravity. Nevertheless, Dink tells his soldiers to follow Ender’s position. This makes the soldiers dislike Ender.
Even as Ender accepts the help and mentorship of the older boys, he can’t help but note the boys’ intellectual limitations. Just as Bonzo was too focused on pride, Dink is too “Earth-bound” in his thinking—he still thinks in terms of gravity and “up and down.” Dink also inadvertently pits his soldiers against Ender by over-praising him—much as Graff did, but (unlike Graff) completely by accident. This suggests that Dink, at the end of the day, is a second-rate commander, even if he’s a good person.
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In his spare time, Ender decides to continue practicing with Alai and his other friends, disobeying Rose’s authority. He also uses his desk. One day, Rose confronts Ender about disobeying his orders. Ender brushes off Rose’s authority, and Rose is annoyed, but can’t do anything about it. Ender also tells Rose that Bonzo had ordered him never to fire his gun. This further irritates Rose, because it proves that Ender is an insubordinate soldier. He tells Ender that in the next battle, he’ll be sent out into the battleroom by himself, to be shot immediately.
Rose turns out to be like Bonzo at heart: a spiteful, proud commander more concerned with maintaining his own pride than the good of his team. Just as Bonzo childishly insisted on Ender not firing his gun for any reason, simply so that Bonzo could prove a nonsensical point, so Rose insists on Ender sacrificing himself before the battle begins.
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At the next battle, Rose orders Ender to launch himself through the battleroom alone. The order is seemingly suicidal—Rose is sacrificing Ender as a punishment. Ender launches himself through the battleroom, freezing his own legs to form a shield—so he can still shoot with his arms. Because he’s protected, Ender is able to freeze several enemy soldiers before he’s fully frozen. At the end of the battle, Ender finds that he’s still ranked first in the standings, even though he was sent into the battle to be frozen immediately. In the following weeks, Ender’s success changes battleroom strategy: soldiers move through the room immediately instead of taking half a minute to crawl ahead.
Much to Rose’s surprise, Ender doesn’t immediately get shot when he runs through the battleroom—instead, his maneuvers change the rules of the game forever. Ender isn’t above feeling proud of himself for his accomplishments in the battleroom—he’s ambitious, and wants to be an important soldier in the Battle School. We also see that Ender’s novel ways of thinking give him a huge advantage—because he can quickly reorient himself and isn’t attached to ideas of “up” or “down,” he can attack feet-first, thus becoming harder to shoot.
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One day, Ender is practicing in his toon, led by Dink Meeker. Ender wonders aloud why Dink, a talented soldier, hasn’t been promoted to command an army. Dink tells Ender that he’s actually been promoted twice—and he refused both times. The IF, Dink explains, manipulates its children into fighting with each other, something that Dink finds repulsive. Nevertheless, he loves the battleroom too much to give up on Battle School altogether. Dink reminisces about “normal children”—children who aren’t forced to command others, or worry about their standings. In Battle School, there are dozens of children who are insane by most definitions—they love fighting to the point where they want to kill their opponents. Dink ends his conversation with a disturbing possibility: it’s likely that the Buggers are already dead, killed by Mazer Rackham long ago. The governments of the world then manipulate their people using fear propaganda—in this way, they maintain power. Privately, Ender disagrees: as an American, he recognizes that it would be impossible for such a major lie to last for so long. Even so, he’s moved by Dink’s observations about the Battle School.
In this important section, Dink expresses the tiredness of an experienced Battle School student who’s lost all interest in fighting. Dink represents the kind of student that Ender is in danger of becoming—intelligent and talented, but also disillusioned with the way the IF and the school system works. Dink also raises the disturbing possibility that the Bugger War is a myth designed to help the IF control the world. While Ender ultimately dismisses the possibility, Dink makes a good point: the IF isn’t as noble as it sometimes likes to pretend—it’s made up of petty, selfish, and even cruel people who bully and manipulate children for reasons that are often unclear, or even nonexistent. In a sense, Ender is tempted to become Dink, but refuses to do so—he’ll continue to allow the IF to manipulate him, as he still believes that defeating the Buggers is the ultimate good.
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Shortly after Ender’s conversation with Dink, he goes to practice battleroom maneuvers with Alai and some other friends. Bernard isn’t present—word has gotten out that any new recruits caught practicing with Ender won’t be assigned to armies. In the coming days, Ender begins hearing stories of younger boys being bullied for practicing with Ender. Although Ender believes that he should call off his practices for a few days, Alai insists that they continue.
By this point in his time at Battle School, Ender is well-known for his performances in the battleroom, as well as his insubordination to his various commanders. As a result, he’s built up a loyal group of followers who respect him too much to abandon ship when older students begin threatening him.
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One day, Ender and Alai are practicing with new students. A group of older boys from other armies (including Salamander) enter the battleroom and see Ender practicing. They jump toward Ender’s group, preparing to fight. Ender commands his students to work together—and because they’ve been practicing for months, this is easy. The older boys are disorganized, while Ender’s students skillfully move around them. One older boy grabs Ender and tries to punch him, but this is difficult—in zero gravity, a punch propels the puncher backwards with the same force that hits his victim. A boy grabs Ender’s leg, and so Ender kicks the boy in the ear, drawing blood. Two other boys try to grab Ender as he drifts toward the door of the battleroom, where the rest of his friends are waiting for him. Ender is able to kick onto the boys’ helmets, again drawing blood, and then drift out of the battleroom. The next day, Ender notices that four boys have been sent to the hospital, supposedly for “accidental collision in null g.” Ender is horrified with himself for hurting other boys, and with the IF for brushing off the violence as an accident.
Here Ender puts his battleroom skills to use in a “real world” situation. Thus far, Ender has seriously hurt at least two children, and here he defensively hurts several more. As always, Ender hates himself for being such a talented fighter, but by this point, it’s also clear to us that Ender is starting to enjoy the thrills of Battle School—the thrills of planning maneuvers, forming rivalries, and improving as a military commander. This isn’t to say that Ender doesn’t secretly long for the peace and gentleness represented by his sister, Valentine—rather, it means that Ender is caught between two worlds: the world of Valentine, and the world of Peter. For the time being, the “Peter” side of his personality seems to be getting stronger. It becomes increasingly obvious that the IF has no concerns for its students’ health or well-being—everything exists in service to military purposes.
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A few days after his fight, Ender plays the Giant game again. In the game, he confronts a monster with the body of a snake and the face of his brother, Peter. Without thinking, Ender shouts, turning the heads of the other boys in the game room. After that, Ender begins having nightmares about Peter’s face. He begins to realize that he’s a brutal killer at heart, just like Peter.
In this final scene of the chapter, Card confirms what we’d already suspected: Ender still sees Peter as the primary antagonist of his life, and he’s still afraid of him. Tellingly, Ender is also afraid that he is becoming Peter (as Battle School seems to be pushing him to).
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