| Quote #1
“Human beings are free except when humanity needs them.” (4.81)
This is Graff’s take on the limits of human freedom: humans aren’t free, ever, because the species requires individuals to do something. This is pretty early in the book, and Ender pushes back against this idea a little, but how does it affect our reading if one of the book's authority figures declares so early that freedom isn’t totally real?
| Quote #2
Bernard's attempt to be ruler of the room was broken – only a few stayed with him now. […] Still, the tampering with the system had done its work. Bernard was contained, and all the boys who had some quality were free of him. (5.164)
Ender gets a lot of attention in this book, so we can see pretty easily how he’s confined – there’s school, there’s the war, there are bullies, and family. All of those things limit Ender’s freedom. But what about the other characters? We have a good test case with Bernard: in order to preserve his freedom and happiness, Ender has to contain Bernard. It almost sounds as if there’s a limited quantity of freedom – the more Bernard has, the less Ender has; the less Bernard has, the more chance there is for other boys to be “free of him.”
| Quote #3
Galling, and yet he had no choice. No choice about anything. Well it was Bonzo's own fault, for giving Ender an unreasonable order. (7.242)
This is a complex thought here, so let’s break down what’s going on: Bonzo gave Ender an order that he couldn’t give – he tried to tell Ender what to do during free play. But why is that order not allowed? Because the school administrators made it so. So, Bonzo tries to confine Ender, but Bonzo himself is confined by the school rules, which means Ender has to challenge Bonzo’s authority. Also notice how Ender thinks about his action: “he had no choice.” There’s some way in which Ender himself feels constrained here – he’s not free to challenge his commander, but he has to challenge his commander. It’s like no one is free here.