Ender's Game | Study Guide

Orson Scott Card

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Ender's Game | Chapter 2 : Peter | Summary

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Summary

Two unidentified voices, soldiers, discuss Ender. They praise his violence against Stilson and compare him to someone named Mazer Rackham. However, they are waiting to see what happens when he faces his brother. They express a certain black humor about the likelihood they will get Ender damaged or killed.

At home, Ender's sister, Valentine, says she's sorry his monitor is gone. Peter, the eldest, walks in during the conversation. Adults see Peter as "beautiful ... with ... a face that could have belonged to Alexander the Great," but all Ender sees is a possible beating. Peter is delighted Ender's "guardian angels" aren't listening any more. He wants to play "buggers and astronauts" and makes Ender be the "bugger." Valentine protests, but with their parents away Peter insists he is in charge. Ender tries to think like a bugger—apparently some alien humanity has fought or is preparing to fight. Peter knocks Ender down and threatens to kill both Ender and Valentine. He only stops when Valentine announces she has a letter on file which will prove Peter's guilt if either she or Ender dies unexpectedly. She admits it may not save their lives, but it will prevent Peter from attaining his goal of becoming a world leader. Peter lunges at Valentine, then laughs and claims it was all a joke. Ender wishes he could do to Peter what he did to Stilson.

When Mr. and Mrs. Wiggin come home, they sympathize with Ender about losing his monitor but they also try to sound cheerful about it. Their conversation suggests Ender would have been taken away from them if he had "passed." Ender doesn't believe their cheer and thinks they are embarrassed to have three children with "no obvious explanation." He lies in bed thinking about it. He hears Peter approach his bed and wonders if Peter will kill him, but instead Peter says he is sorry for Ender and he loves him. Peter falls asleep, and Ender cries.

Analysis

One of the ongoing themes in this book is adults versus children. In Chapter 1, Ender expresses his belief that adults always lie, and the adults in this chapter help the reader understand Ender's distrust of authority figures. The unidentified soldiers at the start of the chapter know they are likely to get Ender hurt or killed. One says, "We're the wicked witch. We promise gingerbread, but we eat the little bastards alive." They don't exactly seem happy about it, but they have confronted this unpleasant fact, and it hasn't stopped them. The other adults in this chapter are Peter's parents. They are absent for most of the chapter and ineffectual when they are home. Ender is only six, but he observes his parents with a detachment and cynicism one more commonly expects in adolescents. Like clueless parents throughout literature and pop culture, they say the things they think they should say but have no idea of Ender's real feelings. They seem to be outmatched by the collective intellect of their children.

When Peter first appears in this chapter, Ender notes the difference between how adults view Peter and how he does. Adults associate Peter with Alexander the Great, an interesting comparison. Alexander the Great is famous for ruling much of the known world of his day at a young age. He was a conqueror, but he was also intelligent, having been tutored by Aristotle. He was seen as a military genius, and he often maintained his empire through threats, intimidation, and violence. He rose to power at age 19 and died when he was 32. Ender, on the other hand, only watches Peter to get a sense of how dangerous he is.

Card has already established Peter as a threat, almost a bogeyman for Ender. In this chapter Card makes it clear Peter has a genuine problem. In clinical terms Peter would probably be diagnosed as a psychopath—someone with an antisocial personality disorder. A psychopath tends to ignore rules and disregard the rights and preferences of others. Psychopaths have a definite tendency toward violence and a lack of remorse, but they are also often able to manufacture the expected emotional response. Peter's threats toward Ender and Valentine only stop when Valentine tells him it will serve his own self-interest to keep them alive—and even then he continues to taunt them. When Peter approaches Ender at the end of the chapter and speaks kindly to him, Ender cannot even respond. With Peter, one can never be sure what is a trap. But once Peter is asleep, Ender allows himself to cry. He wants Peter to love him, but Peter may never be capable of it.

Valentine is the only source of love in Ender's life, and she loves him devotedly. But she is hardly a typical child either. Few typical children manage their tyrannical older siblings by resorting to sealed letters left to be opened in case they are murdered. Valentine is far gentler than Peter, but all three children exhibit a tendency for large-scale planning and a calculating intelligence.

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