Ender's Game | Study Guide

Orson Scott Card

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Ender's Game | Chapter 7 : Salamander | Summary

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Summary

Unidentified voices discuss Ender and the Giant's Drink. One voice is disturbed by Ender's violent response, while the other is satisfied: "He won the game that couldn't be won." The voices agree he solved the Bernard situation well. One voice wonders about how the children are treated because they don't act "normal," but the other dismisses the concern because of the war.

Ender, not yet seven, has been transferred to Salamander Army, under the command of Bonzo Madrid. Ender is disappointed to leave Alai. Alai promises they will always be friends. Alai kisses Ender on the cheek and whispers, "Salaam" in his ear, then leaves. Ender wonders what it means, but understands Alai has shared something very personal—a vulnerability—with him. Instead of going to his new commander, Ender explores a new area of the Giant's Drink game. He finds a playground full of mean children and some woods full of killer wolves, then a cavern labeled "The End of the World." Ender passes the end of the world and gets trapped in a castle. A serpent appears and tells him, "Death is your only escape." Before Ender can fight the serpent, his game is shut off because he is late in reporting to his new commander. He leaves, wondering if he can kill the serpent and just go to a quiet place in the game "with nothing to kill and nothing to kill me, just living there."

In his new barracks, he meets a girl soldier, sharpshooter Petra Arkanian. The commander, Bonzo (pronounced bone-so), resents Ender and plans to trade Ender to another army. In the meantime, Bonzo instructs Ender to stay out of their way in a battle and never even draw his weapon. Petra trains Ender to shoot during their free time. He also observes Bonzo's drills with the rest of the army. Ender knows he is not ready for battle yet, but he also recognizes Bonzo's weaknesses as a commander. He relies on pre-planned maneuvers and keeps too much control over his soldiers. Ender wants to improve, so he practices with his Launchie friends. Bonzo forbids it. In a private conversation, Ender points out Bonzo cannot stop him practicing in his free time. He suggests what Bonzo could say publicly so it doesn't look like Ender defied him. Bonzo is furious, but does as Ender suggested.

In his first battle, Ender observes, as Bonzo ordered, even though following orders costs Salamander the win. Other Salamander soldiers begin talking about Bonzo's bad decision, but Bonzo won't change his mind. During his fourth battle, Ender defies Bonzo's orders and prevents the other team from winning. After the battle, Bonzo announces Ender has been traded to Rat Army. He also strikes Ender in the face for being disobedient. Ender hears the other soldiers reacting, and he knows Bonzo has weakened his position as leader. Ender signs up for a personal combat class so he is prepared if anyone hits him again.

Analysis

Card asks a question in this chapter that will return throughout the book: Does the war justify treating children in this way? How damaged are the children by what they experience? One speaker says the children aren't "normal," but a child like Ender would never have been normal. The stressful and violent environment of Battle School, however, may exacerbate these children's issues.

In a school full of unusual children, Ender is the most unusual. He is promoted far sooner, and he is not happy about it. "I wanted to learn what it was like to have a friend," he says to Alai when he realizes the two will be separated. Ender thinks his life in his launch squad "was finally getting livable." He is a six-year-old child and is being separated from his first and only friend. No wonder the kids in Battle School aren't normal.

Ender's goodbye moment with Alai is significant—so significant Ender cannot even fully find the words for it. Alai whispers, "Salaam," an Arabic word meaning peace often used as a greeting in Arab countries. Ender doesn't know what the word means but suspects it may have a religious connotation. He perceives Alai as having "uncovered himself for Ender," an interesting choice of words. Ender sees an affectionate gesture as leaving oneself open to attack. This conveys a great deal about Ender's childhood.

Ender revisits the Giant's Drink game. Past "the End of the World" he finds a peaceful place. The narrator says Ender didn't worry about "what the game of this place might be ... seeing it was its own reward." Ender longs for a place where he doesn't have to play games. After he is kicked out of the game and ordered to find his commander, he thinks about the game. The narrator says, "He could not imagine what 'just living' might actually be. He had never done it." This is a comment about Ender's entire life experience. He has been in Battle School for a month or two out of his six years of life, yet he has never just lived. For most of us, our childhood is the time we remember "just living" without worries about classes or jobs or anything else. But at age six Ender already sounds burned out.

Ender is assigned to Bonzo's army for a reason though Card never states it explicitly. Ender decides Bonzo can teach him how not to be a commander. Bonzo reacts based on emotion. When they argue, "Ender's anger was cold ... he could use it. Bonzo's was hot ... it used him." Ender already understands a commander cannot make hasty decisions out of anger. However, Bonzo repeatedly does exactly this—even though he may regret those decisions. He forbids Ender to practice with the Launchies during his free time, a command Bonzo is not allowed to give. Ender points this out to him and suggests how Bonzo can save face with his army. Bonzo resents Ender for making the suggestion but follows it because it will allow him to continue to appear completely in charge. Bonzo values others' acknowledgement of his position of leadership above everything else, even victory. Bonzo loses battles because of his orders to Ender to stay out of the action and never fire his gun, but he never reconsiders those orders. When Ender defies them and prevents a total loss for Salamander Army, Bonzo is angry at the slight to his authority and seems to gain no insight into his own leadership style. The Salamander soldiers resent losing because Bonzo won't change his mind. The biggest lesson Ender learns from Bonzo is "soldiers can sometimes make decisions that are smarter than the orders they've been given."

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