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Ender's Game | Study Guide

Orson Scott Card

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Ender's Game | Quotes


Sometimes lies were more dependable than the truth.

Narrator, Chapter 1

These words establish Ender's character: an extremely perceptive child who has been repeatedly misled by adults. It also serves as foreshadowing: Ender will be lied to by adults throughout the book.


Ender knew the unspoken rules of manly warfare, even though he was only six.

Narrator, Chapter 1

The narrator draws on the reader's preconceived notions about fighting with the phrase "manly warfare." Ender is aware of these "unspoken" rules, like "Don't hit someone who is down," but he deliberately defies them. This appeals to Colonel Graff: Ender ignores convention in order to win.


We're the wicked witch. We promise gingerbread, but we eat the little bastards alive.

Colonel Graff, Chapter 2

Colonel Graff is blunt and darkly comedic about his role in recruiting children into the International Fleet. Here he alludes to the fairy-tale "Hansel and Gretel," in which a witch tempts children with a house full of gingerbread so she can eat them. Graff tempts children with glamorous stories about International Fleet, but their experience is traumatic, and their lives are changed forever. However, Graff does not lie to or tempt Ender. He is honest about the challenges of Battle School.


We might both do despicable things, Ender, but if humankind survives ... we were good tools.

Colonel Graff, Chapter 4

Graff tells Ender their suffering may ensure humanity's survival. This may be his honest perception of the risks, but he is also manipulating Ender. If Graff is talking about humanity's survival, Ender can hardly complain about loneliness.


Adults are the enemy, not the other armies. They do not tell us the truth.

Narrator, Chapter 7

Petra tells Ender the teachers keep secrets from the students. Ender interprets this as a warning: adults are the real enemy. This line also foreshadows later events when adults lie to Ender.


I've got a pretty good idea what children are, and we're not children.

Dink, Chapter 8

Dink, Ender's toon leader, is a teenager, but he sounds like an old man. He identifies the worst part of Battle School: Training child soldiers ruins their lives. They no longer behave like children. Their lives are full of pressure and violence.


If you can't kill then you are always subject to those who can.

Narrator, Chapter 12

After the fight with Bonzo, Ender comes to this conclusion. He learned this from Peter: be able to kill or you will get killed. This mentality is what the International Fleet officers want in Ender. It is later echoed by Graff when he justifies humanity's war against the buggers.


So the whole war is because we can't talk to each other.

Ender, Chapter 13

This is how Ender interprets Graff's explanation of the war against the buggers. Ender's simple statement is, on some level, an accurate description of many wars in human history: When the two sides cannot communicate effectively any longer, war occurs.


There is no teacher but the enemy.

Mazer Rackham, Chapter 14

Mazer Rackham, hero of the previous bugger war and Ender's new teacher, gives Ender this warning. The enemy is the one who can best teach Ender. This is an interesting variation of Ender's theory that adults are the enemy. Mazer says a teacher must be an enemy for a student to learn.


Humanity does not ask us to be happy ... Survival first ... happiness as we can manage.

Mazer Rackham, Chapter 14

Mazer sacrificed his own happiness and life with his family to train Ender. He says this is what was required to ensure humanity's survival. This also means Ender cannot complain. There is no room for complaints if survival comes before happiness.


I won't let you beat me unfairly—I'll beat you unfairly first.

Ender, Chapter 14

Ender sees his "final examination" as an unfair battle just like his last Battle School battle. He decides to play recklessly as he did then. He has no idea he is fighting an actual battle and his "unfair" play will get humans and buggers killed.


Any decent person who knows what warfare is can never go into battle with a whole heart.

Mazer Rackham, Chapter 14

Mazer and Graff explain why they tricked Ender into fighting. They made it look like a game so Ender would take chances a "decent" person would not take in a real battle. They couldn't allow themselves to consider what it would do to Ender.


All his crimes weighed heavy on him ... Stilson and Bonzo no heavier ... than the rest.

Narrator, Chapter 15

While most of humanity thinks these two human deaths are particularly horrifying, Ender sees them as less terrible than the deaths of the entire bugger population. Most humans don't care about bugger deaths, but Ender does.


Nobody controls his own life, Ender.

Valentine, Chapter 15

Ender resists having anyone control his life. Valentine argues all people can do is decide whether to fulfill what other people ask of them, particularly people who love them as Valentine loves Ender.


What we cannot do, you are now our hands to do for us.

Hive-Queen, Chapter 15

When Ender finds the queen bugger pupa, he sees her thoughts. The buggers forgive humanity and give their planets to the humans, telling Ender the humans will take responsibility for their home now. This remarkable forgiveness and generosity inspire Ender to write Speaker for the Dead and give his life new purpose.

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