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Ender's Game | Study Guide

Orson Scott Card

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Ender's Game | Chapter 12 : Bonzo | Summary



Dap, Ender's old "mom" from his Launchie days, reports Bonzo is organizing a group of students to attack Ender. When asked by General Pace to intervene, Colonel Graff refuses. Ender is warned, first by Petra, then Dink: Bonzo is out to get him, and he must never go out alone. His toon leaders begin protecting him, but Ender comforts himself with the belief the teachers will not let him get hurt.

Ender's army has fought a battle every day for a month and never lost, even when the teachers change the rules to help his opponents. One day, exhausted after a morning battle, Ender dozes off unexpectedly and must shower alone at lunchtime. Bonzo and his cronies corner Ender in the shower. Dink tries to break up the fight, arguing Ender is too valuable against the buggers, but Bonzo grabs Ender. Ender uses his head to smash Bonzo's nose. Bonzo collapses, unconscious. Dink helps Ender escape. He tells Ender it was Bonzo's fault, but Ender begins to cry: "I didn't want to hurt him ... Why didn't he just leave me alone!" Ender thinks Peter is right: "the only power that matters, the power to kill and destroy," is what keeps you safe. Later that day Ender's army is assigned another battle against two armies at once. Ender doesn't want to play anymore and decides to send a message to the teachers. His soldiers perform the victory ritual and end the game without ever really fighting.

Ender shouts at Major Anderson about how unfair his battles have been. One of the other commanders says a battle will never be equal if Ender is on one side. Soldiers begin cheering for Ender, but he walks out. Bean follows to tell Ender all his toon leaders and assistant leaders have been transferred to serve as commanders of other armies. Colonel Graff and newly promoted Colonel Anderson arrive with orders for Ender to skip pre-command training and go straight to Command School. He cannot even say goodbye to his army. Bean goes back to his own room and grieves because he may never see Ender again.

As they leave Battle School together, Graff tells Ender he will have a brief "landside leave." They are joined on the shuttle by the head of the military police, General Pace. Ender is afraid to ask to see his family. He notices General Pace studying him. When they land on Earth, Ender feels uneasy. He misses Battle School, "the only place in the universe where he belonged." Back at the school, Anderson reveals Ender killed Bonzo and actually killed Stilson years earlier—though Ender does not know of either death. Anderson ponders what they've done to Ender, but he also wonders if even Ender can be ready for the approaching bugger war.


Ender feels isolated, but many people try to protect him. His old "mom" Dap, Petra, Dink, and his toon leaders all try to make sure Bonzo cannot hurt him. Alai is not mentioned. Card does not explain whether Alai is simply not present or is no longer Ender's friend. In spite of this support, Ender feels alone. He may wonder if people care about him or only about his value as a commander. When Dink tries to stop the fight, he argues Ender is needed to defeat the buggers. This is a purely practical argument Dink hopes will work with Bonzo. Still, Ender must wonder what would happen if he wasn't the great hope for the future.

The fight with Bonzo recalls the fight with Stilson from years earlier. Ender never initiates the fight, but once someone starts it, Ender finishes it. Colonel Graff wants Ender to believe no one will help him, and after the fight with Bonzo, Ender believes it. The grief he feels must be overwhelming when he is forced to conclude Peter was right after all: The power to kill makes you safe. This twisted and unhealthy view of the world is what Graff has—albeit with a heavy heart—worked to create.

Card uses a form of dramatic irony in this chapter. Dramatic irony, more commonly identified in plays, occurs when the audience (or reader) knows more than a principal character. In this chapter, the reader learns both Stilson and Bonzo died after their fights with Ender, something Ender does not know (though he suspects Bonzo is dead).

Ender's training has been discussed throughout the book, and in this chapter it becomes clear Ender can handle unfair battles and rushed training. Ender literally cannot be beaten at Battle School—even the other commanders say so. In addition to being an excellent commander himself, Ender develops a whole cadre of new commanders in his image. Just as Ender graduates, Bean and the rest of Ender's best soldiers are given their own armies to command. Ender's unique battle style may be disseminated through the rest of Battle School before long, but Ender won't be there to see it. He is being sent to Command School—not pre-command, as Bean notes.

Up until this point, Ender has been promoted quickly, but he experienced everything another Battle School student might experience: He was a Launchie, a regular army soldier, a toon leader, and then a commander. Now, however, he will skip a three-year Pre-command program and go straight to Command School. This could be an indication of Ender's brilliance, or it could be, as Anderson suggests, a sign another bugger war is imminent.

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