Ender's Game | Study Guide

Orson Scott Card

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Ender's Game | Chapter 9 : Locke and Demosthenes | Summary

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Summary

Colonel Graff demands to know how Peter's photo got in the game. Ender has apparently gone past the programmed section of the game into areas which should not exist. The computer is creating the game just for Ender now and even inserted Peter's photograph. Graff worries about how Peter's photo affects Ender, saying Peter is "one of the most ruthless and unreliable human beings we've laid hands on."

Back on Earth, Ender's family lives in North Carolina now, where Peter wanders the woods. Valentine knows he tortures small animals, but his parents believe he is happier and less violent in their new home. Peter finds Valentine as she lights a fire to celebrate Ender's eighth birthday. Peter thinks the bugger war will end soon and will be followed by a war on Earth. He wants Valentine to help him use this chaos as an opportunity. They can present themselves "on the nets" as adults and shape world events. He claims he will create a "Pax Americana through the whole world." But he needs Valentine's help because she can prevent him from becoming a monster. Valentine agrees although she does not fully trust him. They work together to create online identities: Valentine as Demosthenes, Peter as Locke. Their identities are the opposite of their true natures. Demosthenes is aggressive and fear-mongering, while Locke is moderate and understanding. This forces them to work together to write under both identities. They quickly become popular, contributing regular columns to publications, and Valentine is particularly disturbed when her father quotes Demosthenes.

A year has passed. Nine-year-old Ender is a toon leader in Petra's Phoenix Army. Alai is a toon leader in a different army, and Dink is a commander. Ender's nighttime practice sessions are now an elite tradition and everyone, even the adults, treats Ender with great respect. But Ender is lonely. His friends treat him more like an adult than a fellow student. Even the Giant's Drink game no longer interests him. There, he gets killed in the room with Peter's face, no matter what he does.

Colonel Graff visits Valentine at school to ask for help with Ender. He wants to know about Ender and Peter. Valentine insists Ender is nothing like Peter. Graff asks her to write a letter to Ender to encourage him to keep going at school. She does, but she feels she has sold him out. As Demosthenes she writes a screed against population laws and honoring Thirds as a private tribute to her beloved baby brother.

Ender is surprised to receive her letter. Valentine clearly wrote it, but Ender knows the teachers must have allowed it to be transmitted. Even his relationship with Valentine is being manipulated now. Ender begins to cry. He goes to the Giant's Drink game, grabs the snake, and kisses it. He expects it to kill him, but it turns into Valentine. Ender passes through to the next part of the game world.

Analysis

Peter and Valentine use "the nets" to build their new identities. In 1977 when Ender's Game was first published as a short story, personal computers were only just beginning to arrive in homes, and the Internet was still in development. Card was aware of the development of the Internet but anticipated its potential use for worldwide communication and the shaping of public opinion.

Valentine adopts the name Demosthenes. Demosthenes was a Greek orator famous for his passionate arguments encouraging Athens to stand against Phillip of Macedonia and his son, Alexander (later known as Alexander the Great). Demosthenes was partially responsible for planning the defense of Athens and even fought in battle. The name suits an anonymous writer who warns about potential military conflict, but it is an odd name for the loving Valentine. Of course, Peter picked the pseudonyms. Given Peter's affinity for Alexander the Great, it is interesting he chose an opponent of Alexander for Valentine's pseudonym.

In contrast, Peter's pseudonym, Locke, comes from John Locke, a British philosopher who helped inspire the Enlightenment in Europe and influenced the US Constitution. Locke would seem to be a better pseudonym for Valentine than for the potentially psychotic Peter. Yet on the nets Locke is a voice of reason, calmer than Demosthenes.

Reaching out to Valentine is clearly a last resort for Graff. Ender is depressed and, in the game, suicidal. (He probably would have no chance to commit suicide in real life.) But even the letter from Valentine does not help. Ender feels manipulated by those around him. Peter and Valentine also talk about their own lack of control. Children are rarely allowed to be fully in control of their own lives, but for children like the Wiggins it must be insulting to be so tightly managed. Maybe that is why Valentine agrees to write with Peter—it gives them both power. Certainly Ender would like some power over his own life—or even a sense he could trust what he hears from others.

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