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Ender's Game | Study Guide

Orson Scott Card

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Ender's Game | Chapter 3 : Graff | Summary



The unidentified voices speak again. They identify Valentine as Ender's "weak link," because he will not want to leave her. One voice plans to persuade Ender to come, even if he has to "tell the truth," which is permissible "in emergencies."

The next day, as his family jokes at the breakfast table, a man in an International Fleet (IF) uniform arrives at the door. The officer speaks to Ender's parents, then Ender is summoned. Mr. and Mrs. Wiggin have just learned about the fight with Stilson, and they criticize him for his actions. The officer asks Ender why he acted as he did. Ender reluctantly admits he was excessively violent to try to "win all the next ones, too. So they'd leave me alone." The officer, Colonel Graff, invites Ender to Battle School. Ender's parents have no say. The choice is Ender's alone. He is reluctant to leave Valentine and doesn't "like fighting ... the strong against the weak ... the smart against the stupid." Graff asks to have a private conversation with Ender.

Graff admits Ender will not see Valentine for years because there are no breaks from Battle School. Although Ender asks about his parents, Graff says he doesn't think Ender will really miss them very much. Ender starts to cry. Graff asks him to understand his parents' actions. Both of them came from "noncomplian[t]" families that were religious and had many children—two things that were against the law. As noncompliant, Ender's parents promised not to have more than two children and to stop practicing their religions. Yet they named their children after saints and secretly baptized the children at home. They feel "ambiguous," Graff says, about their religion and about Ender. Ender's existence as a third child is based on International Fleet (IF) consent, which makes him IF property. Graff says Ender causes tension in the home without meaning to because Peter resents him and his parents are uneasy about him. Only Valentine loves him unreservedly. Graff warns Ender "if it were just ... choosing the ... happiest future for you, I'd tell you ... stay home," but Ender is needed. The last time the buggers attacked, they were defeated only by the brilliance of Mazer Rackham. Now the IF uses Battle School to find the next Mazer. Ender finally decides: "I'm afraid ... but I'll go with you."


In the first chapter, Ender reflects on how untrustworthy adults can be. Card reinforces this at the start of Chapter 3, when two voices—one of them presumably Colonel Graff—talk casually about lying to him, reserving truth for emergencies only. This cynicism is still ringing in the reader's ears when Graff arrives at Ender's family home.

The brief breakfast table scene before Graff's arrival is the most normal, most functional interaction Card ever shows between Ender's family members. With Ender's monitor gone, could the family—particularly Peter—actually adjust and get along? Given their history, it seems unlikely. Still, they'll never have the chance to find out.

Card goes out of his way to make Ender's parents the epitome of normality. They speak to him in a predictably parental manner, disappointed by how he treated Stilson. His father objects because kicking Stilson "wasn't exactly fair." Graff, on the other hand, cares little about "fair." Real battles may not be fair. What matters is why Ender acted as he did.

Ender worries he will be seen as "more monstrous" if he tells the truth. Graff knows Ender pretty well—he tells him later he has been watching the monitor recordings—and he pushes Ender into responding by suggesting he enjoyed the beating. Graff already knows Ender fears being like Peter, who would enjoy it. Ender explains his strategy, which is all Graff needed to hear.

Although Graff talked about lying to recruit students, he doesn't lie to Ender in this chapter. He presents a sales pitch to Ender's parents, emphasizing Ender's potential career possibilities. But to Ender himself, Graff is honest and direct. It is jarring to read the scene and remember Ender is a five-year-old child. Graff's conversation sounds as if he were speaking to an adult. But then Ender is clearly not a typical child. How many five-year-olds would be capable of saying, "I don't want to go ... but I will"?

Card uses Graff to demonstrate to the reader how accurate Ender's perceptions are. Graff calls Peter "a jackal," but he also admits Peter "was the best we'd seen in a long time." He reassures Ender there will be no Peters at Battle School. But he also says there are worse things than Peter, and Battle School is one of those worse things.

Ender is reluctant to go to Battle School, not only because of leaving his family, but because he does not like killing—a strange comment from a kid who beat another boy into unconsciousness just the day before. But he does not really feel as if he has a choice. Graff makes him realize his awkward position in his own family. Ender says, "It's what I was born for, isn't it?" He was designed for this moment, whether he likes it or not.

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