Summary of Chapter 6: The Giant’s Drink
Graff and Anderson argue over Ender and whether he is trying to ice out purposely within the first six months. Anderson is worried because Ender is stuck on the video mind game of the Giant. Another student, Pinual, had gotten stuck there too and killed himself. Anderson thinks the new Launchies are being spoiled in their training, and it is because of Ender who has divided the group. They are supposed to bond. Anderson orders Graff to leave Ender where he is for now to see how he handles the other boys. He thinks Ender could be either a military genius or a monster, and they need to observe.
The boys go into the null gravity battle room for the first time, trying to grab the handholds on the wall and manipulate their suits. Ender decides to thrust himself into the chamber to learn how to move. At first he tumbles in disorientation, and then, he makes himself change his point of view and see the nearest wall as “down.” Using his legs to push off, he begins to control movement and teach the others how to do it. Bernard and his best friend Alai are the ones who try it first. Bernard is clumsy, but Alai is good and Ender is drawn to him. Others get stuck floating.
Ender pushes off towards Alai, and Alai gives him a hand to arrest his flight. Ender and Alai begin practicing moves together though Alai, as Bernard’s friend, ought not to be associating with Ender. The two boys have fun, and Ender shows Alai what he has discovered about their guns with two buttons. They decide to shoot each other in the foot to see what the pistols can do. The guns freeze their limbs into place. They decide to freeze everyone, and soon everyone but Ender, Bernard, Alai, and Shen are completely frozen. Dap comes in and unfreezes them.
Because Ender and Alai had mastered techniques together, they become friends and are considered to be leaders. Ender and Bernard are now part of Alai’s group, with Bernard sulking at his lost power. Alai becomes the new leader of the Launchies, and they are no longer divided.
During Free Play, Ender gets on the computer to play the Giant’s game at which he can never win. He had mastered all the others. He ends up in the Giant’s house, and the Giant asks him to play a guessing game. There are two glasses of liquids. If he chooses the right one he goes to Fairyland. If he chooses wrong, he dies. He always chooses wrong and dies or dissolves. He wants so much to beat the Giant. Finally, he decides not to choose either glass but to attack the Giant. He digs into his eye and hollows out his skull until the Giant falls. A bat tells him, “Welcome to Fairyland!” He signs off, disturbed that he is a killer, even in games.
Commentary on Chapter 6: The Giant’s Drink
The author explores mythic territory in the computer games he describes. Card is also a fantasy writer and includes a fantasy scenario here within the science fiction framework, as the hero-player tries to get to Fairyland by defeating the giant. Anderson spoke of the Giant’s game as a mind game. It is not a mechanical game of skill. The player is obviously exploring aspects of his or her own mind in the virtual scenes. In the game, Ender is usually small or helpless, always a mouse, a little boy, a fish, once a bear, and if he goes to the Giant’s castle and plays the guessing game, he loses. The game seems rigged so the player will always choose wrong and not get into Fairyland.
In this scene, Ender displays his personality. The Giant, like all the adult authority figures he has met in the Battle School, seems to cheat and thwart Ender instead of helping him to get to his goal. He is determined to win and to get around this obstacle. The boy Pinual had killed himself because he could not win the game and get to Fairyland, but Ender decides to kill the Giant. In many fairytales, the boy who can kill a giant is a hero, but Ender feels guilty, like a murderer.
The incident also reveals that Ender is willing to break rules to win. It is not clear whether this is a good or bad trait at this point. He found a solution outside the game scenario, inventing a new path and a new choice. It is a creative act, yet it cost him self-respect since he had to destroy the Giant to get to his goal. Card is interested in the moment of moral choice and dramatizes his characters finding their way through difficult situations. The officers are watching Ender’s play with the Giant to see what kind of a military commander he will be. Anderson had predicted Ender could be a genius or monster. Ender himself feels it is confirmed now that he is a monster like Peter. The mind game has shown him his worst fears about himself.
Summary of Chapter 7: Salamander
Graff is excited that Ender won an impossible game, but Anderson thinks the whole game itself is sick, and that Ender’s attacking the Giant’s eye was perverted. Graff also is quite satisfied with how Ender handled Bernard. Anderson feels sorry that the boys do not seem like children or have any time off. He asks Graff not to hurt the boys any more than he needs to.
Alai quizzes Ender as they eat dinner about how he managed to send a message with Bernard’s name attached to it. Ender refuses to acknowledge that he did it. He wants to know how Ender created his own security system. Ender agrees to set up a system for him. When Ender gets to the barracks, however, there is a message transferring him to Salamander Army, commanded by Bonzo Madrid.
Alai and Ender are puzzled. It is way too early to go into an army. He begins to cry at the unfairness. Ender hugs Alai and wants to go home. Alai tells him he got the promotion because he is the best. He kisses Ender on the cheek and says “Salaam.” Ender knows it is a sacred blessing as his mother once prayed over him. They vow to be eternal friends.
Ender goes to the game room and signs on to Fairyland. The Giant is dead now, and its corpse is decayed. He goes to a nearby children’s playground where the children laugh at him and turn into wolves with human faces and tear Ender to pieces. In the next game, Ender tricks and kills the child werewolves. In a cave he comes to a door with the words, “The End of the World.” He opens the door and sees a scene of beauty below in a valley and forgets the game. He jumps from the ledge, is caught by a cloud and carried to a castle tower. The rug becomes a long snake that tells him, “Death is your only escape” (p. 73). The game is interrupted by a command to join his army.
Ender is very small in Salamander Army, composed of older trained boys. The Commander, Bonzo Madrid, is a handsome boy from Spain, who is upset that he is sent such a small, inexperienced soldier when his army is just emerging from obscurity in the battle games. Bonzo says he will not use Ender in the battles but trade him away as fast as he can. Bonzo slaps Petra Arkanian, the only girl in the army, as she talks back to him.
Petra befriends Ender and gives him soldier training. Ender worries about this because Petra is an outcast though she is the best sharpshooter. He begins to see that Bonzo rules his army stupidly and rigidly. He learns all he can from Petra as they practice together every day after breakfast. She explains to Ender that the teachers do not tell everything they do; for instance, they control the level of gravity in the battle rooms. From this Ender gets the underlying message that the real enemy is the adults, not the other student armies. Petra teaches him how to aim in null gravity.
During the battle games, Bonzo tells Ender to stay out of the way. Ender just watches Bonzo’s methods and figures out how he would defeat him. Bonzo uses the standard four “toons” or platoons of ten soldiers each. He drills them in precision operations and skills Ender does not have. Ender sees the formations are a mistake, however, because they are predictable.
Ender decides he needs more practice and sets up a regular session with his old group, the Launchies, something never done, but there is no rule against it. He will show them everything he is learning.
Bonzo forbids Ender to practice with the Launchies. Ender speaks to Bonzo privately telling him he is going to continue practice during free play where no orders can be given. He promises not to interfere with Bonzo but needs to think of his own career. He advises Bonzo to publicly rescind his order to save face so Ender will not appear to disobey. Bonzo gives in but hates Ender for besting him. Ender continues to practice with the Launchies or anyone who wants to come.
During a battle, Ender observes how Bonzo’s soldiers negotiate the huge boxes hanging in air, called “Stars,” distributed as obstacles. He sees they do not know how to deal with the stars. Soldiers are disabled in the battles by being frozen with the pistols. Ender reorients himself in the null gravity in order to see the enemy gate is “down” and the object is to get through it. He presents his legs to the enemy, which are flashed frozen, but that becomes his shield as he continues to float, and the enemy ignores him. It takes five soldiers to open the victory gate, and when the opposing army does, Anderson comes through the teacher door. Ender sees that if he had engaged, he could have made the battle into a draw by shooting one of five. Ender had obeyed Bonzo however, and Bonzo is too stubborn to change his ways. Ender ironically now is at the top of the list of soldier efficiency.
Ender continues his own practices, and Alai keeps him on his toes by trying new things. On his seventh birthday, Ender wants to tell Petra, thinking of her as Valentine who always celebrated his birthday, but no one talks of home or gets letters. Ender still misses his family.
In the next battle, Salamander is defeated by Leopard Army. In this situation, Ender decides to act because there is nothing to lose. He freezes the Leopard soldiers so there are not enough to claim victory, and it becomes a draw. Bonzo hates Ender for rescuing the situation. Bonzo trades Ender to Rat Army. Ender tells Petra she should stop practicing with him for her own sake.
Commentary on Chapter 7: Salamander
The author creates a multicultural Battle School with students from different backgrounds. Alai, who becomes Ender’s closest friend, appears to be Muslim, and Ender reflects that the holy kiss and word Alai gives him must be part of a “suppressed religion” (p. 69). Ender’s father is Catholic, and his mother is Mormon. They also pray over and baptize their children, though religion is forbidden in this world. Bernard is French, and Bonzo is Spanish. They are hot-blooded and rash. Petra is a girl who becomes a trusted ally and leader.
Ender continues the video mind game, now killing werewolf children who try to tear him to pieces, a foreshadowing of the children in the armies he must fight. He comes to the “End of the World” and meets death there in the form of a snake. Ender will continue to go back there to learn more about himself.
Ender learns from friends, like Alai and Petra, but he also learns from enemies like Bonzo Madrid. Bonzo teaches him how not to be a leader. Bonzo is stiff and is more interested in appearing to be right than in how to win. Bonzo slaps Petra and Ender in public trying to shame them and frighten the others with his power. Ender sees that he loses respect when he does that. Ender knows he has the power to bring people together, and he demonstrates that once more by organizing a practice group and showing them everything he is learning. Ender does not keep his tricks secret. He wants to share his knowledge and make the others better. This is the quality of a true leader.
Ender signs up for a personal combat course, nevertheless, so he will be able to protect himself from assault. This again highlights the fact that the adults do not interfere to protect the children.
The suppression of personal life, like the suppression of religion, seems to be part of a social discipline for both civilians and soldiers. Ender remembers again that the reason he is here learning to fight the buggers is not for humanity at large, but for the sake of Valentine, so the buggers will not get his beloved sister. Ender will make the best commander because he does not lose his human values or feelings.