Summary of Chapter 4: Launch
Graff, still on earth, talks to Major Anderson at the Battle School in space. He explains in more detail his plan for Ender. In order for Ender to be creative, he’ll need to be isolated, but at the same time, he needs to lead others. It will be a delicate balance. He will begin by separating him from the rest of the children, even before they reach the Battle School. Anderson accuses Graff of enjoying breaking down the children. Graff admits there is an art to it.
There are nineteen boys at the launch. Ender is aware the officers are watching him and the others. The other boys are laughing, but he is afraid. He imagines himself being interviewed on TV and speaking for the other boys. They are being taped by men moving among them with cameras.
On the shuttle, Ender becomes disoriented because floors and walls are carpeted, and there are no windows. He uses his imagination to reorient himself in null gravity. After the launch, the other boys are disoriented and sick, but Ender is having a private game with gravity. He imagines Graff on his head, upside down, and laughs.
Graff speaks to him gruffly asking what is so funny? Ender tells him, and then Graff speaks to all the boys accusing them of being stupid. Only one boy figured out that gravity directions in space are whatever you want them to be. He singles Ender out as the only one with any brains. Ender realizes now he will have no friends. Graff continues to chew out the other boys like an army sergeant. The boys begin to hit Ender, and he knows Graff set him up.
Ender grabs the wrist of one of the boys and throws him into the weightless atmosphere until he hits the side of the ship. The boy has a broken arm and is attended by officers. Again, Ender feels that he is violent like Peter and hates himself. Graff tells the boys they are soldiers now and should not mess with Ender. After all, boys have died in Battle School.
Ender confronts Graff, saying he thought they were friends. Graff says his job is not to be friends but to produce soldiers. They need a Napoleon or Caesar. The buggers are out there, and Ender will only make friends if he is the best. They must all be the tools for humankind to survive.
Commentary on Chapter 4: Launch
This is Ender’s transition to a ruthless and merciless military world where he will become a soldier. Graff makes all the other boys his enemy in one stroke by singling him out as the genius. Ender is a genius, but the author always keeps us aware he is also a little boy. He is afraid and thinks Graff will be a surrogate father. Ender cries; he wants love and protection, like any child. Instead, he is used as a tool to fight the enemy. Even Major Anderson, a fellow officer, thinks Graff is jaded and cruel because he knows how to break down the boys. Graff is mostly after Ender and knows his mind so well he can manipulate him.
On the other hand, the reader knows Ender’s sensitive point of view and realizes how conscious Ender is of what Graff and the officers are doing. Ender knows they are filming and analyzing the boys’ behavior and thinks, “Everything we do means something” (p. 28). He may be a genius, but he is also a joyful child when he discovers the implications of null gravity and uses his imagination to play games with it. This is the quality that Graff wants to foster and thinks Ender will only remain a genius if he is isolated, instead of making friends and blending in with the other boys. Whenever Ender confronts Graff about his goals, Graff tells the truth, or part of the truth, appealing to Ender’s reason and self-sacrificing nature. The boy is a child but doing the work of a man. This book is now read as a Young Adult classic, perhaps appealing to the plight of any children who are forced into an adult world violently and prematurely.
At the end of this chapter, a quick exchange between Graff and Anderson, one of the teachers at the Battle School, reveals that Graff really does care about Ender. They speak of what will happen to the poor boy, but Anderson reminds Graff they will make him “the best military commander in history” (p. 36).
Summary of Chapter 5: Games
Graff and Anderson discuss the incident of the student getting a broken arm on the shuttle. Anderson says it was a master stroke, but Graff says it was an accident and could screw up the training, because the boy with the broken arm might look like a hero for standing up to Ender. Ender did not call to an adult for help, and they want to make sure it stays that way. He must never think he will get any help. He has to solve his own problems.
In the dorm room, the other students have chosen their bunks and left the worst one for Ender. His locker is opened by his palm print. There are uniforms like jumpsuits and a small desk (a computer). An officer named Dap gives these newcomers that he calls “Launchies” an introduction. Dap warns the boys to stay away from the bigger boys. Injuring others is against the rules, but it can still get rough. If you break the rules, you “ice out” or get sent home (p. 41).
Ender wants to go home. He is without friends and afraid. No one sits with him in the mess hall where there is a large scoreboard announcing the team standings in the battle games. The younger boys wear plain blue uniforms, but older boys have different colors according to their teams. An older boy named Mick talks to Ender and tells him the teachers are not very nice. He himself is something of a failure because he is not a leader, and he probably won’t get sent to Tactical School. He advises Ender to be a leader and make friends. Ender decides he will not end up like Mick, and he will not fit in with the teachers’ plans. He will not be iced.
He knows now he will find no compassion, so he cannot show weakness. But in the night, he hears the boys crying in their pillows, and he does too. When Dap comes to check on them, Ender composes himself, having been trained by Peter to hide his feelings.
The boys start school, learning history, seeing videos of battles in space, and playing the battle games they live for. The game room is above the living decks and includes video games for younger boys and holographic ones for older boys. Ender keeps hanging out around the older boys, watching their movements. He challenges an older boy, who is contemptuous of him. Ender learns the controls of the machine quickly and wins the second time he plays. Ender used new movements the boys had never seen. He begins to feel confidence.
The boy whose arm he broke, however, named Bernard, begins to lead the other boys against Ender. Bernard, like Peter, is a tormentor. Ender watches how he tries to control the group, and how he persecutes a little boy named Shen. Ender goes to his desk and sets up a fake computer account for a student he calls “God” and while he is sending out a message to all the other students, he makes sure Shen sees what he is doing. The message is, “Cover your butt. Bernard is watching.—God.”
Bernard is angry when his authority begins to crumble. Ender figures out how to send a message with Bernard’s name on it and keeps sending fake messages that make the boys laugh. Dap comes in and says he knows who is doing this but does not punish Ender. Ender realizes the system security is run by the teachers. Bernard’s power is broken, however. Ender makes friends with Shen who admires his skill, and Ender’s isolation is over.
Commentary on Chapter 5: Games
Did Graff or Ender win round one? Ender broke the isolation Graff tried to impose on him and is finding friends. He forces an adult (Dap) to intervene and help him, if only indirectly. Yet perhaps Graff’s strategy does work so far. The more obstacles put in Ender’s path, the more he determines to find a way out. Being introduced to the loser student, Mick, does not intimidate him but makes him into a rebel. He will not do what the teachers want him to do. He will not be a Mick or sent home. The bully Bernard is easily outwitted, and Ender congratulates himself that he did not use violence to defeat him this time. It is starting to be evident to all the Launchies and to the older boys as well that Ender is special. He has great powers of observation and quick analysis. He can hack into the computer and reprogram it. Even now, he begins to suspect that the teachers are manipulating some things, but for the moment Ender is happy at his success and at winning some friendship. He starts to feel at home, but that will be short-lived.