Study Guide

Ender's Game Friendship

By Orson Scott Card


Chapter 1

Not enemies, not friends, but brothers – able to live in the same house. (1.16)

We first meet Ender as a kid who doesn’t have friends. Heck, his first wish is that his brother will simply allow him to live. That’s a pretty poor wish – he can’t even let himself hope that his brother might be his friend. All of this drives home the idea that Ender and friends don’t mix – like dogs and chocolate. Or something.

Chapter 4
Colonel Hyrum Graff

“Nowhere in that does it say I have to make friends with children.” (4.75)

Graff will pretty soon reverse himself on this statement and tell Anderson that he is Ender’s friend (4.98). But as far as Ender knows, this is it – Graff isn’t his bud and, frankly, none of the kids are either. (Especially after Ender broke that one kid’s arm.) But here’s one thing that we know that Ender doesn’t, which is that Graff really is his friend. So, while Ender thinks he’s all alone in the world, we know that he secretly has support.

Chapter 7
Ender Wiggin

"They don't want to teach me everything," Ender said. "I wanted to learn what it was like to have a friend."

Alai nodded soberly. "Always my friend, always the best of my friends," he said. (7.55-56)

Going along with our last quote, we can see that Ender’s friendships are still complicated: Graff may be his friend (in some way), yet he can’t, you know, go out and see a movie with him. Meanwhile, Alai may be Ender’s friend for ever, but they’re still separated here. So even when Ender has friends, those friendships are complicated.

Chapter 9

But with <em>his</em> old friends there was no laughter, no remembering. Just work. Just intelligence and excitement about the game, but nothing beyond that. (9.179)

Something like this comes up a few times in <em>Ender’s Game</em> – see 9.182, 11.62, and 14.237. In all of these cases, Ender’s friends are never very friendly with him. (Or vice versa – let’s not blame anyone yet.) In all these cases, people focus on the game and on Ender’s responsibility as commander. In some ways, Ender’s position as commander gets in the way of his potential as a friend. Which raises some questions: does friendship require some sort of equality? Is there any way that Ender can be both a commander and a friend?

Chapter 10

But I'll be watching you, more compassionately than you know, and when the time is right you'll find that I'm your friend, and you are the soldier you want to be. (10.150)

This is Ender’s thought on what he’s doing to Bean. (As he says just before this, he’s hurting Bean in order to make him a better soldier.) But does that make Ender into Bean’s friend? (Whatever we say here probably goes for Graff and Ender’s relationship as well.) This is an interesting moment because Ender declares himself to be Bean’s secret friend, which seems to be an unusual type of friendship. (Again, this isn’t going to be one of those friendships where they can go catch a movie together.) Maybe unusual friendships are the only types of friendships we find in <em>Ender’s Game</em>. Are there any simple, “normal” friendships here?

Chapter 11
Ender Wiggin

"It's good to know I have a friend here." But Ender wasn't sure Dink was his friend anymore. Neither was Dink. (11.81)

Ender has basically this same moment with Dink, with Alai (10.175), and with Petra (11.104). In all these cases, Ender’s old friendship is damaged by the game and Battle School. This reminds us of how Ender’s friendships are complicated – by which we mean that Ender feels like he doesn’t have any friends. That's a bummer, no matter how smart Ender is. Now, all these kids do show up at Command School and Ender seems happy to see them. But since he lost these friends once, couldn't he could lose them again?

Ender was human and Bean had been allowed to see. (11.213)

Now, we know that Ender thinks that he’s Bean’s secret friend.  But the end of Chapter 11 is the first time that Bean realizes that he’s Ender’s friend. What makes Bean realize this is that Ender shows his, ahem, softer side – that he’s not just an invulnerable commander, but he’s really a vulnerable kid. Also, they have a sleepover, which drives home the point that they’re friends. This is a bit odd, because Ender can’t be friends with any of this other soldiers, so why can he be friends with Bean? Why can he show Bean that he’s vulnerable?

Chapter 13

They both laughed, and Ender had to remind himself that Graff was only acting like a friend, that everything he did was a lie or a cheat calculated to turn Ender into an efficient fighting machine. (13.272)

How do you feel about this? We’ve heard (from Graff) that he really is Ender’s friend. When Ender isn’t in the room, Graff just won’t shut up about how great Ender is. But all this time, Ender has only seen Graff as a manipulative guy. (Why? Because Graff <em>is</em> a manipulative guy.) This seems like one of those rare moments when Ender realizes that Graff is also his friend. But notice that Ender doesn’t totally believe it. We could compare this to the quote above: Bean gets the idea that he and Ender are friends pretty quickly, but Ender resists the idea that he’s friends with Graff. Why?

Chapter 14

Ender imagined what it would be like to have his friends there with him, cheering or laughing or gasping with apprehension; sometimes he thought it would be a great distraction, but other times he wished for it with all his heart. Even when he had spent his days lying out in the sunlight on a raft in a lake, he had not been so lonely. Mazer Rackham was his companion, was his teacher, but was not his friend. (14.233)

Like Graff, Mazer loves Ender (see 14.308), but doesn’t shows it until the end. And so Ender is surrounded by friends, he just doesn't know it. Which is one of those funny moments: Ender knows that he’s Bean’s secret friend, but he doesn’t understand that other people might be his secret friend too.

Chapter 15
Ender Wiggin

"I'll carry you," said Ender, "I'll go from world to world until I find a time and a place where you can come awake in safety. And I'll tell your story to my people, so that perhaps in time they can forgive you, too. The way that you've forgiven me." (15.176)

After Ender’s relationship with Val (which is probably his most important), Ender’s fullest friendship might be his relationship with the species that he nearly drove to extinction. (Wow, and you thought his relationships with Dink and Petra were complex.) Although it only comes up in the last five pages, this relationship seems totally open. Ender and the bugger's relationship gives us an interesting model for friendship: the idea of one friend carrying the other. Is that a good model for friendship?

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