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Ender's Game | Study Guide

Orson Scott Card

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Ender's Game | Plot Summary

See Plot Diagram


Unidentified voices talk about a child who may be able to save the world: Andrew "Ender" Wiggin, age five. He has always worn a "monitor," a device strapped to his body which allows people to observe his life. The monitor is removed from Ender, and he assumes he failed to impress the watchers. Now that he is not monitored, the class bully, Stilson, tries to beat him up. But instead Ender beats Stilson severely.

At home Ender's sister, Valentine, comforts him, but his abusive older brother, Peter, treats him no differently. The next morning an International Fleet officer, Colonel Graff, arrives at Ender's house. They approve of how Ender defended himself without his monitor. They recruit him to Battle School to learn how to fight "buggers," enemy aliens. Ender will miss Valentine, but he agrees to go.

Battle School

On the way to Battle School, Graff praises Ender in front of the other students. They begin to harass Ender. He retaliates and breaks another student's arm. Once at school he is able to bond with some students, though he is clearly far superior to his peers at strategy. He is placed in an army early, earning the resentment of his commander, Bonzo Madrid. Bonzo refuses to train Ender, but another soldier, Petra, teaches Ender the basics. Ender also organizes his own training sessions with his friends from his launch squad. His only break is when he plays a game called Giant's Drink.

Bonzo trades Ender to another army, where Ender's toon (platoon) leader, Dink, appreciates Ender's unique abilities. Ender continues to train with his friends on his own time. In the Giant's Drink game, Ender finds himself confronted by images of his brother Peter, and the soldiers controlling the game say Ender has found himself in areas of the game no one ever designed.

Back on Earth Peter confronts Valentine, who is thinking of Ender. Peter shows her evidence of a potential war brewing on Earth. He suggests the two of them might be able to shape public opinion by writing "on the nets" under pseudonyms. Valentine writes as Demosthenes and Peter writes as Locke. Both become popular.

Ender's Army and Bonzo

Ender is rapidly promoted to command his own army. One of his best soldiers is a very young, very small boy named Bean, who reminds Ender of himself. Ender's army faces a strenuous battle schedule, fighting at least once a day. They never lose. The teachers set up battles that are unfair to Ender's army to give other commanders a chance. In one battle Ender humiliates Bonzo; however, Ender is really angry at the teachers and not at the opposing army.

One day Bonzo and a group of other students corner Ender in the shower. Ender and Bonzo fight, and Ender knocks out Bonzo. Then Ender begins to cry, saying he didn't want to hurt anyone. That night Ender's army is given a battle against two other armies. Exhausted and depressed, he arranges a trick that allows his army to win without really fighting. After the battle Ender is informed all his subordinates are being given their own armies. He is sent to Command School.

Command School

Ender is given a vacation at a controlled location on Earth, but he refuses to go to Command School after beating Bonzo and Stilson to death after an attack. Colonel Graff gets Ender's sister Valentine to persuade him to keep going. As Ender and Graff travel to Command School, Ender asks about the buggers. Graff explains buggers and humans cannot communicate with each other. The buggers attacked Earth 70 years ago and have not attacked again, but the International Fleet has sent ships to find the bugger home world. Ender wonders if the buggers might let humanity live in peace, but Graff says attacking their home is the only way to ensure humanity's survival.

Ender experiences harsh training under Mazer Rackham, the greatest hero of the last bugger war. Ender now commands squadrons, and he discovers his squadron leaders are many of his old friends: Bean, Petra, and others. Their simulations get progressively harder, and Ender and his squadron leaders all suffer psychologically.

One day Ender is presented with his "final examination," a simulation of battle near a planet. Many people have gathered to watch him work. Ender wins the battle by blowing up the planet, suffering devastating losses. Everyone cheers, and Mazer tells Ender the truth: it was a real battle. Even though he never knew what he was doing, Ender destroyed the bugger home world and won the war.

After the Bugger War

Ender is horrified. Mazer and Colonel Graff explain this was the only way to win: to find a child who could think like the buggers. They had to tell the child it was a game so the child would play without thought for the loss of life. Ender is a hero now, but a war has broken out on Earth. Mazer and Colonel Graff want to protect Ender, but he no longer cares about his own life and refuses protection.

Ender sleeps for multiple days, and when he awakens, the war is over. Peace has been restored on Earth, thanks to Ender's brother Peter and his sister Valentine. After some time, Valentine comes looking for Ender and asks him to join her on a far-off colony. Ender agrees.

Years later, Ender is exploring the planet now called "Ender's World." He discovers an area that looks just like the Giant's Drink game. He finds a bugger queen pupa and is able to read her thoughts. He learns the buggers wanted to communicate with him, so they built this area to look like the game. They knew he was not trying to kill them, and they ask his help in transporting the queen pupa to a place where she can create a new bugger colony. He hesitates but carries the pupa with him. He anonymously writes a book called Speaker for the Dead, in which he tells the human world what the buggers really intended. Ender asks Valentine to travel with him, and they visit other planets. Ender calls himself Andrew again, and everywhere he travels, he brings the queen's pupa, searching for a new home for the buggers.

Ender's Game Plot Diagram

Falling ActionRising ActionResolutionClimax123456789101112Introduction


1 Ender fights with Stilson.

Rising Action

2 Ender is recruited to Battle School.

3 Alai and Ender become friends.

4 Ender fights in his first battle.

5 Ender takes command of Dragon Army.

6 Dragon Army stays undefeated.

7 Bonzo and Ender fight.

8 Mazer Rackham trains Ender.


9 Ender's final examination is an attack on the bugger home world.

Falling Action

10 Watching Graff's trial, Ender learns what Graff has done.

11 Valentine and Ender travel together.


12 Inspired by the buggers, Ender becomes Speaker for the Dead.

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