Ender's Game | Study Guide

Orson Scott Card

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Ender's Game | Chapter 5 : Games | Summary

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Summary

Two unidentified voices—presumably Colonel Graff and another person—discuss Ender. Graff did not intend for the broken arm to happen. He worries the boy with the broken arm will cause problems in the launch group. The two voices agree Ender must continue to believe no one can help him. Just in case, they will also make a list of potential replacements if Ender fails.

Ender and his fellow "Launchies" (new arrivals) are greeted by Dap, who says he is their "mom"—the person responsible for managing their group. Dap tells them the rules, saying they should be prepared to stand up for themselves, but serious injury or murder will get them "iced out," or kicked out of school. Ender is already resented and Bernard, whose arm Ender broke, begins recruiting Launchies to harass Ender. When Bernard begins harassing a boy named Shen, Ender uses the opportunity. He creates a fake account in the computer system and uses it to send messages humiliating Bernard. He then hacks into Bernard's account and sends more embarrassing messages, which appear to come from Bernard. Bernard is embarrassed, his hold on the others is weakened, and a bond begins to grow between Ender and Shen.

Ender spends his free time watching the bigger kids play in the game room. He figures out the game's strategy. Then, speaking in the student slang they all use, challenges an older student to play "two out of three." The older student beats Ender once, but Ender wins the next two times. Ender knows now he can handle these games, just as he always did at home.

Analysis

The broken arm makes Bernard a hero to some in the launch squad. This wasn't Graff's plan, but he will not intervene to help Ender. In battle, things don't always go as expected, and a commander will have to adjust. Their list of replacements for Ender emphasizes the calculated nature of what they are doing. Ender is a piece to be used when possible and discarded when he ceases to be useful.

For the first time, Card shows evidence of Ender's ability to work with people. He figures out how to disable Bernard without any further violence on his part. He knows what will hurt Bernard the most—making him look ridiculous—and he does it. Ender never officially takes credit for it. Yet Bernard knows, and Shen knows, and probably even Dap, their "mom," knows. Ender has reset the launch squad and weakened Bernard's influence.

Card also reinforces Ender's strategic genius in this chapter, as Ender is able to defeat a much older boy on one of the game room games. "Within an hour," the narrator says, Ender feels confident he can defeat the older boys who "each tried to emulate the computer." This may be why Graff is isolating Ender: He wants to prevent Ender from falling into the same patterns of thinking the other boys use. Ender defeats the boy in two out of three games. In the previous chapter, Graff advised Ender to earn respect by being better than everyone else. Ender is off to a good start.

Ender also adopts the students' slang when talking to an older boy. The slang is an interesting choice on Card's part: it is almost its own dialect, a patois of grammatically incorrect phrasing and colorful insults. In Battle School, with its us versus them and student versus teacher mentality, the slang becomes an identifier, a way to mark whose side you are on. Students use slang. Teachers and other leaders, like Dap, do not. Ender picks up the slang quickly, but does not stick with it. Linguistically, Card reminds the reader: Ender is not really part of this group—at least not yet.

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