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At Shmoop, we like to imagine Ender’s older brother Peter and Ender’s older sister Valentine as the Devil and Angel on Ender’s shoulders, with one of them tempting him to do evil and the other pushing him to do good. Except…which one is which?
The obvious answer is that Peter is the Devil, tempting Ender with evil, since Peter seems to be, to put it gently, psychopathic with a touch of crazy sauce. But then again, Ender isn’t at all tempted by Peter. In fact, the example of Peter the Crazy is one thing that Ender uses to measure his own evil by. Whenever he starts to beat kids up, Ender worries if he’ll turn into Peter. So, looked at that way, Peter inadvertently helps to keep Ender on the straight and narrow (i.e., not beating up little kids).
And at first glance, Val seems to clearly be the kind Angel, helping Ender choose the right things. Except Val’s the one who convinces Ender (twice!) to keep fighting and help wipe out the buggers (which may or may not be a good thing). Val is also the one who keeps telling Ender that she’ll always love him no matter what he does. That’s a very nice sentiment, but since he doesn’t have to worry about pissing off his beloved sister, Ender loses at least one reason to act like a nice guy. That is, Ender could pull the legs off ants and Val would still adore her little brother.
That’s all a long way of saying that Peter and Valentine are very interesting characters by themselves (and each of them becomes more important in other books that Card wrote); but they’re here mainly just to give Ender something to react to and be compared to. This book is basically The Ender Show, and the rest of his family is like the band that always plays, but that isn’t very interesting otherwise.
So Peter is a model for what Ender shouldn’t be because Peter lacks Ender’s great ability to care about the feelings of others. That might make Peter a fine soldier, but not a great leader.
And Val is, in some ways, a model for what Ender can’t afford to be – she’s the incredibly caring and loving one. She might make a fine leader, but she wouldn’t be a leader in a war. Which is all kind of hinted in her name: after all, Valentine is a name associated with love. (And chocolates for some reason.)
But if Peter and Val are really so different, why do they work so well together when they try to take over the world?
The fact that Peter is a jackal (13.18) and Val is caring makes their switcheroo of online identities ironic. Yes, they surprise us all when Peter takes on the role of Locke, the moderate conciliator, while Valentine writes as Demosthenes, the rabid nationalist (at first). (This switcheroo is super interesting. Check out “Symbolism: Perspective” for some thoughts on that.)
It’s time for a quick bit of history: the names Peter chooses for their online identities are chosen for their historical importance. The quick version is that John Locke (1632-1704) – not the guy from Lost, but the guy he’s named after – was an English philosopher interested in rational political organization. By contrast, Demosthenes (385-322 B.C.) was an Athenian politician most notable for really strongly opposing Macedonia (which is to say, Alexander the Great and his family). In Ender's Game, Locke is the guy who thinks we all can talk out our political differences, while Demosthenes is the one who calls for war between the countries. End of history digression.
Now, if you’re interested in how to take over the world via blogs, Locke and Demosthenes give a pretty good lesson:
So, the lesson here is – lie? Hmm, per Peter and Val's example, that’s apparently how to get ahead on the Internet. (But don’t worry – Shmoop got ahead on the Internet without lying at all.)
Peter and Val are rejected by the army for opposite reasons (he’s too mean, she’s too nice), so we might say that Peter and Val work so well together because of those big differences. But then Val spends the middle part of this novel worrying that she’s a lot like Peter after all. So couldn’t we say that Peter and Val work so well together because they’re actually kind of the same too? They’re definitely both genius manipulators.
At the very least, we should recognize that Peter ends up doing something that seems very out of character for a jackal: he ends up saving millions of lives by limiting the League war (the war between humans after the buggers are eliminated). Although there are reasons why Peter might want to do that (Peter loves power), it’s much nicer than, you know, threatening to kill your siblings (15.86). So has Peter changed? Were we wrong about him at the start of the novel? (And notice how Card keeps this uncertainty by never letting us hear what Peter thinks.)
Meanwhile, Val uses her manipulative skills to make sure Ender can never go home to Earth. As she explains it (15.100), she’s still protecting Ender from Peter, but she’s doing so in a very manipulative way, swaying people the way she used to as Demosthenes.