Ender's Game | Study Guide

Orson Scott Card

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Ender's Game | Chapter 14 : Ender's Teacher | Summary

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Summary

Colonel Graff and Admiral Chamrajnagar discuss plans for Ender's continuing education at Command School. Graff suggests they teach Ender about the fleet's weapons systems. When Graff asks about the other students, Chamrajnagar makes clear they are moving beyond Graff "into the mysteries of the fleet." For the admiral, the interstellar fleet is "a god" and "a religion." Graff finds this distasteful. He tells the admiral, "I came here for Ender. And neither of us came here for you."

Command School is located in an asteroid called Eros. Ender hates it from the moment he arrives; it is uncomfortable and gives him vertigo. He spends a year training almost entirely alone, learning to control everything from a single fighter to a fleet. One morning he finds an old man in his room when he wakes up. Ender is locked in, and the man will not speak. Ender begins doing exercises, but the man knocks him down. He is Ender's new teacher, Mazer Rackham: "I am your enemy, the first one you've ever had who was smarter than you."

From then on, Mazer is always with Ender. They study footage of bugger battles. Mazer explains his theory: Buggers are like bees or ants, with a queen to lead them. He destroyed the queen ship and ended the war. Ender, like Mazer, is able to identify queen ships in bugger formations. Humans captured Eros from the buggers and learned the buggers' technological "tricks." Humans have also developed a weapon called Dr. Device—a pun on its real name: M.D. (Molecular Detachment) Device.

In the simulator Ender is given a headset so he can direct squadron leaders. His leaders include many old friends: Alai, Bean, Petra, Dink, and more. They practice for a few weeks before Mazer begins programming simulations for them. The simulations get progressively harder. Ender's squadron leaders begin to struggle. Ender dreams about the buggers at night and barely eats during the day. One day he passes out during a drill and is sick for three days. Another time he dreams he hears Graff and Mazer worrying about his health, talking about how well he fought, and saying they love him.

One morning Ender arrives in the simulator room to find it full of people. Mazer explains his final exam will involve a simulation near a planet. Ender wonders what happens if he fails the test. The final exam is unfair—old, slow ships, vastly outnumbered. Ender thinks of his last Dragon Army battle—the one against two armies. He adopts the same I don't care attitude. His fleet suffers horrific losses, but he gets his ships close enough to blow up the planet with the Dr. Device, wiping out all enemy ships as well. Everyone in the room bursts into cheers. Graff hugs him, and Mazer congratulates him, saying he "made the hard choice .... It's all over." Ender is confused. Mazer explains it was not a game. Ender was controlling the real fleet, and he just destroyed the bugger home world.

The next day Graff and Mazer come to see him. Ender is furious that he was manipulated into destroying the bugger home world. He is responsible for innumerable deaths of IF soldiers and buggers, but he had no idea. Graff and Mazer explain it was intentional. Only a child playing a game could be as creative and as ruthless. They needed someone with enough compassion to understand the buggers, but someone that compassionate would not kill, so they made it a game. Ender is a hero now, but war has broken out on Earth, and the Russians want Ender dead. Ender doesn't care. He sleeps for multiple days. When he wakes up, Alai and his squadron leaders join him. The war on Earth is over, ended by something called the Locke Proposal. Ender is a hero. Everyone looks up to him, but he sees—and accepts—himself as a killer.

Analysis

Throughout Ender's Game Ender is often compared to Mazer Rackham, hero of the bugger wars. Rackham is described as half-Maori. The Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand, known as fierce warriors with unique weapons and fighting styles. Mazer's combative attitude and expressed belief of the importance of survival and duty fits with the warlike Maori culture. Maoris had regular periods for tribal warfare during the year and were known to eat their dead opponents after battles. Compared to those traditions, Ender's training with Mazer is pretty straightforward.

The previously intensive training schedules are only accelerated now, and Ender and his whole team suffer as a result of it. Any coach or teacher who worked children this hard would be charged with child abuse, but who can lay charges against Mazer or Graff? Who could Ender complain to, if he ever thought to complain? Mazer and Graff have both emphasized what is at stake, making it difficult for the children to say anything.

This chapter includes the big revelation, the truth which has been concealed from Ender the whole time: he has been commanding the fleet. He has gotten soldiers killed and has destroyed the buggers. When he is finally able to confront Mazer and Graff, he shouts, "I didn't want to kill anybody! I'm not a killer ... you tricked me into it." One of them responds, "We aimed you. We're responsible. If there was something wrong, we did it." But Ender doesn't accept that. As he has ever since fighting Stilson at age five, he blames himself for the violence he has inflicted.

Card may have wanted this revelation to shock the reader as it shocks Ender, but he also uses foreshadowing to prepare the reader for it. Ender recognizes adults' capacity for lying at the start of the book. He is warned repeatedly by Petra, Dink, and eventually Mazer himself: the teacher is the enemy; the adults cannot be trusted. In the adults' conversations at the beginning of each chapter, Card builds tension through regular warnings of the imminent war, phrased to suggest the buggers will attack Earth. Of course in Chapter 13 Graff explains the humans are heading to the bugger home world. For some readers Card's foreshadowing makes the ending predictable. If Ender is so smart, they argue, why doesn't he realize what's happening? There are several possible explanations. In general, humans tend to look for simpler explanations rather than thinking everything they have been told for years is a giant lie. Ender might also have been willfully deceiving himself. He persisted in believing the adults would save him long after they made it clear they wouldn't help. If he wondered about these simulations, he might have chosen not to speculate—and who could blame him?

The question that bothers Ender in this chapter is whether the end justifies the means. Ender abhors violence and blames himself again and again for injuring Stilson and, especially, Bonzo. While the adults have hidden those deaths from Ender, in his dreams Ender realizes he killed Bonzo. He knows Bonzo wanted to kill him but doesn't believe this excuses him for killing the older boy. The final battle with the buggers is still worse because it is impossible to know whether the buggers would ever have attacked Earth again, so destroying their race cannot definitively be explained as self-defense. But in Chapter 14 Ender at least resolves his personal dilemma by accepting he is "a killer" and would "rather be alive than dead."

This same question troubles Graff. However, his concern is for Ender. He worries that Mazer's training regime is destroying the boy, whom he truly loves. But Mazer, who has personally fought the buggers, seems to have a clearer view of the end goal. He also recognizes Ender's strength of character and reassures Graff Ender will survive the training and save humanity. For him, the end clearly justifies the means.

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